How to make sure my child isn’t a jerk?

Hi BPN community, I am hoping someone can offer advice. We are open to anything from therapy, counseling, parenting seminars, etc. Please only constructive advice as it is the season of kindness :)

My child is almost 8 and exhibits a lot of less than desirable traits. They have tantrums on a daily basis over many things (mainly when they don’t get their way) and become completely unhinged (think baby Jack Jack becoming bursting into flames). They also do not seem to have an understanding of gratitude or remorse which is frustrating as that’s not how we have been raising them, although will admit to overindulgence at times, especially during COVID. 

We aren’t sure whether this is normal for this age, but their sibling does not behave this way. While nature vs nurture certainly has a greater impact than I ever believed before having children, we definitely feel that they need stronger guidance as this behavior will not be tolerated in the long run. They only act this way at home, not in public or with friends. 

Thank you!

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Hi call mom I have a very intense child who is now 18 and was recently diagnosed with ASD. Around eight years old I was worried about his behaviors and then we ended up doing lots of different kinds therapy, some of which helped, but I wish I had taken him to a developmental pediatrician at that age and really gotten a clear picture of what was going on. Your child may have anxiety, sensory issues, ASD, or something else. I really wish I had known about the ASD when my kid was young. 
I would have had a lot more compassion and been able to seek out strategies that really worked. I’m not saying your kid has ASD but just that the daily tantrums are showing that something is really not working for your kid and it’s worth it to find out what it is so that your child can be happy. I wish you and your family well. 

I hear you and my heart goes out to you. Sounds like your child is "discharging" and emotionally "dysregulated" -- we unsuccessfully worked on this for years with my son before getting a diagnosis of autism spectrum. It's really hard to live in the neurotypical world as a person with ASD (I've heard it described as feeling like the only sober person in a room full of people who are drunk) and it's really hard to parent a child with ASD: intuition doesn't work. We thought our son was a complete jerk most of the time, because we didn't get it. But there are so many excellent (and COMPASSIONATE) resources to learn how to raise a child w ASD. I recommend getting a neuropsych eval: it has changed our entire approach to parenting our son.

First off, you're a great parent to notice this and be concerned. While the temperaments of 8 year old's vary greatly, the lack of remorse or gratitude (which by the sounds of it you likely demonstrate with them) would also be concerning to me. Lack of remorse implies a lack of empathy. My kids were also born with very different personalities but they developed empathy pretty early on (as toddlers). I'd suggest an evaluation by a competent child psychologist to see what challenges your little one may be working with, and then proceed to help them. Good luck to you!!

Hi! Are we parenting the same kids and don’t know it?! I have an 8year that behaves in very similarly. Defiant and entitled is how I’d describe mine. It has been suggested to me to keep clear expectations, follow through with consequences and not to reward tantrums w attention. We’re working on it. Not surprising he reserves this behavior for you. I’ve heard kids behave the worse for their parents because they know that no matter what, you’ll always love them. See...silver lining, they’re confident in your love for them. Good luck! And hey, if it doesn’t work out...our kids can hang out and be jerks together!

Hi there. I’m not a professional, but that behavior at that frequency doesn’t sound typical for that age to me. For sure kids that age are sometimes ungrateful self-centered pains in the rear and can throw huge tantrums, but it really shouldn’t be a daily thing.

During COVID both of our kids (close in age to yours) have started showing undesirable and concerning behaviors though not quite as extreme. Hands down the most helpful thing we have done is put them into a daily after school camp with other kids. This addressed a large part of their unmet needs that were clearly driving the behavior. We also have one of our children seeing the school therapist over Zoom at the recommendation of that child’s teacher. It is free since it’s through the school, but I don’t think we would have been able to utilize the service if that child wasn’t disruptive during class and causing problems for the teacher during distance learning. The therapy has also been helpful, but not as helpful as making sure they have regular interaction with peers.

It’s certainly worth asking the school for assistance and recommendations. If they can’t assist, look into a therapist for the child and a family therapist for yourselves. Sometimes it’s not you, it’s the child. But a family therapist can help you better understand how you can support the child with the problem and provide recommendations for how to react that can improve the situation rather than reinforce the bad behavior.

I hear you. This post resonated with me. My almost 8-year-old behaves this way too once in a while. We have made it a point to give them advance warning if things are not going to go their way for something. Whenever there is a surprise sprung on them which is against what they wished/hoped for, there are more chances of a meltdown. So we tag team and tend to drop hints/clues early itself. Looking forward to the discussion on this.

We’ve run into similar issues. Check out “The Explosive Child,” “Siblings without Rivalry,” and “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline” in that order. I also love the Aha parenting blog. We’ve been using the principles from these resources over the past month and have seen a big improvement for our 5 year old.

My heart just skipped several beats. I posted this very same cry for help about 11 years ago, when my son was almost 8. By that time the behaviors and my concerns had been going on for several years. My son is now 19 and it has been a very long difficult journey, and we continue to have bumps in the path to maturity . Knowing what I know now, I could have done so much more to help my son and my family.  Please get in touch with my via the moderator if you would like to talk. 

Best wishes.

I don’t know if its normal, but my kid is a lot like this, too! He’s 14 and we’ve been talked to him about his behavior until we’re blue in the face and it hasn’t helped much. Therapy seemed mildly helpful and maturity has helped the most. However, he remains certain that things should go his way, he will argue and push and absolutely exhaust us to get his way. And he might explode if they don’t. (That Jack Jack reference is so apt.. he gets a wild, unhinged look in his eyes when he blows). He doesn’t blow up as often and he can calm down and apologize more quickly as he gets older. He’s an intense person all around - anger, love, excitement, sadness.. it’s all big. His sibling is very different. He’s a tough kid to parent. I wish u all the best.

My son has ADHD.  In his case it made it harder to make connections with other kids.  Which was disheartening and confusing to him.  Big feelings.  Still becomes unhinged at times, well, in ways that I can't say are normal as compared to other kids.  He is a kind, caring person.  But the world gave him harsh lessons.  One example is that I would yell at him for losing yet another jacket (he lost about 4 in one year), but later he had a neuropsychologist assessment, and she said that is a thing ADHD kids do, along with him not finishing his meals and eating them bit by bit later.  So in his case, he did not need stronger guidance, but more understanding and strategies to cope with the ADHD symptoms.  I just wanted to mention about my son, as a possibility, but it could be totally something different.  Good luck.

Your son sounds a lot like my oldest son when he was 8 years old.  For so many years, my husband and I wondered what happened because our second child is so different.  Have you ever heard of the term "spirited child"?  I'm not saying your son is spirited, but first I'd recommend reading "Raising Your Spirited Child" by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka (or listen to the audio book) to give you some background information.  Then I'd recommend working with Rebecah Freeling of Wits End Parenting in Berkeley,  When my son was 8, we started working with her, and Rebecah helped our entire family set a foundation of how to communicate and work together when you have a spirited child in your home.  Chores and buy-in to family chores were also key when we worked with Rebecah.  I'm not going to say parenting my spirited child now is a walk in the park, but I understand him better and try to be more empathetic to his intensity.  He is also a very picky eater and we recently transitioned him to a gluten-free and dairy-free diet which has helped immensely.  Good luck and stay strong, mama!