35 answers

6 Year Old Son Has Bad Attitude

My 6 year old son just started 1st grade last week. Now I know that it takes time to adjust from being home all summer to getting up early and being in school all day. But he seems to cry over EVERYTHING and it's a battle to have him do his homework, bathing, anything! My husband and I are at our wits end about this. We try to talk to him, but his response is always, "I know" and he's staring to talk back to us. We've done time outs, taken away TV, everything. I know yelling doesn't solve anything, but it's getting to the point where raising my voice is the only way to get him to listen.
If anyone has any advice on this matter, please let me know. I don't know what else to do!

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hi A., I have a question for you. When you son was in Kindergarten was he in the morning or afternoon session? If he was in the afternoon session and now he is going to school earlier that could be a problem. What time does he go to bed? My kids have always stayed up late. They don't sleep much but when they need it, I know. Their behavior really reflects it. Also, did you change schools? Are there different kids that are new to him? My 2nd grader just changed schools and decided that he would act up daily and be the class clown. I sat down and talked to him and found out that he wanted to be bad so that he can get expelled and go back to his old school. Hmmmm, not happening!! Some of the strangest things go through their heads. Just talk to him and see what's up.

Hi A.!
He is under tremendous stress. Try to feel sorry for him. And instead of yelling, establish the eye contact and whisper.
Good luck.

It seems to me that all kids go through a grouchy phase around that age. My son is just getting over it at 8 years old. The crying for me was the hardest because it got to the point where I no longer felt bad for him, because he cried for everything. I have many girlfriends who have also said they went through the same thing. What worked for us (his older brother and I) was to let him know that we couldn't understand him when he cried and that he needed to get over being upset before we could help him. Mostly we would let him get over the anger or sadness before we even tried to help him deal with whatever was upsetting him. Good Luck!

More Answers

In addition to what Maria said... um, you said you have tried talking to him.. .and that his response is always "I know" and then he talks back. So... my thinking is that your son is being talked "at"... NOT talked "with."

Perhaps, talk WITH him.... see what his thoughts are, his feelings, his stresses, his frustrations. Then listen with an open ear, and do NOT judge him or correct him. Let him free talk, openly and with comfort and safety. THIS is what children need. Children NEED to feel validated... that they know they are being "heard" and listened to... and knowing that they can TRUST their Parent in telling them anything, good or bad.

THIS will provide a foundation for later, in his teens, when you will want him to communicate with you, and share his life with you.

Children need to know that they can go to their parents for anything. Encourage communication.... instead of that they "cannot" communicate with you.

Your son is obviously stressed and/or frustrated about lot of things. Provide him with a means and the tools to convey that to you... encourage him... listen to him.... let him know it's okay to be grumpy... but to talk about it. Heck, even adults get grumpy and angry... and all WE want is for the other person for "help" us, right? Not, chastize us or ridicule us or punish us.

For us and our 5 yr. old... she is sassy too... but mostly when she feels we are not there for her or not TRULY listening to her in our busy days. Then, when we actually sit WITH her and let her chat away... she then feels more connected to us, safer, secure, and "happy." We always let her know that she can come to us for ANYTHING under the sun.... and we will respect her thoughts... and talk about it together. That we are a family and a team. We don't go around punishing her for any little feeling she has that "we" don't like...rather... we try to see what is bothering her, and try to problem solve that, together. Kids need this. Kids are so often just talked "at" and scolded or punished or disregarded.... that constitutes most of their day. Not fun for them.

When/if my girl turns "sassy".... I will sometimes just stop, and ask her "why are you being so sassy... is there a reason you are so unhappy now?" And then I LET HER explain.... and I don't yell or scold her for it. THEN it becomes much clearer and then we can BOTH trouble shoot the issue. Sometimes she is just tired from a long day and fussy, sometimes she says she just needs to wind-down and not be rushed... sometimes she is just feeling grumpy (which is fine... as parents we get grumpy too, and it's not just OUR "privilege" to feel that way), and sometimes it's just she is hungry or sometimes there is no reason at all. But we handle it Together.

Also, he is transitioning to another grade level and school expectations and responsibilities... THIS is stressful for a child. We cannot expect them to just move on without any concern. As a child, I myself was often "nervous" about entering each new grade level... kids have their own kind of stresses too. Remember that. Kids are not exempt from stress or problems. What is real to them, may be nothing to us. But they need attention regardless, and comforting. This helps our girl at least. As a child... they really love to just talk about their "new" class, their classmates, the teacher, their thoughts, how they feel etc. It's all so new and exciting or stressful for them... as a child, that is what I remember it feeling like. And for our girl, she always likes to chat afterschool, just rambling about her day and what she went through big or small. It's important for a child to do this. It helps them to deflate, to organize their feelings, to bounce ideas off of a parent, to "see" what life is all about... to learn that their feelings are normal AND that it is important. My late Dad did that with me... and it REALLY matters to a child... it forms their experiences and their attitude and provides a "center" for them, and helps confidence in POSITIVE ways.

Since you have a boy... I would REALLY work on nurturing his ability to communicate, to express himself, to be in touch with his feelings... to feel "okay" in doing that. It's so very important... and in the years ahead as he grows up. You do NOT want a pent up, frustrated child who is unable to communicate with you, or a child who feels un-safe in doing so. When a child feels "judged" they will retreat and stop talking... and stop leaning on you for help. They need to feel it's okay to tell their parents anything. That someone is there for them through good or bad.

Also talk with his teacher... see what is going on there.. .or with the other kids, socially etc.

All the best,

3 moms found this helpful

Last year my hubby made "to do" charts for kids ages 6 (a boy like you) and 9 (girl). It has helped our son so much. Excpectatons for the morning (brush teeth, make bed, eat breakfast, pack backpack, etc) and afternoon (finish homework, walk dog, clean up room, etc.) are on it. No extras in the morning if items aren't done and loss of playtime in the PM until things are done. We stayed calm and matter-of-fact about it. We stopped screaming and just checked the chart.

After a week they got the hang of it and were excited to show everything done. About a month ago we took them down since they have done so well. Now on occasions they ask for me to make up lists on the whiteboard. I think it helps them realize their accomplishments when items are marked off. Sometimes they try to race each other.

I found that yelling at my son just flared the situation, it was better for me to step back and talk to him calmy. He is big enough to start taking some of the responsiblity. If you make a chart, have hime come up with items to put on it.

An alarm clock also helped my son get going in the morning. You can set it in the PM too for when things need to be completed.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi, A.. Have you tried talking to his teacher? It is a good (not always fool-proof) way to find out if there are any underlying issues with other students or even the teacher. If there are issues, or you are uncomfortable with the teacher, or don't get good responses, or don't like something that's going on, be sure to say something. Offer suggestions and insights on your son's personality and see if that makes a difference.
The other suggestions you've gotten are great too - rewarding him, the sticker chart.
I would suggest that instead of getting frustrated and yelling at him, you do encourage him and talk to him to address his anxieties. You don't want him to dread school and homework because both of you are frustrated or because he thinks you are angry at him. 1st grade was a huge transition from kindergarten and it's taken him a month to adjust and even though he didn't have any issues with the teachers, I have met with them and now get a copy of their weekly lesson plans so I know exactly what he's doing and what's expected for homework. It was very frustrating for him to try to convey what he needed to be doing or what he was learning, and this has made a big difference.
Good luck and keep hanging in there!

1 mom found this helpful


I can totally relate! I have gone through the same issues with my middle son at several times (he's now 11). I have over a decade of child care experience and this was a challenge for even me! I found time and time again, that when his behavior starts to follow that trend, he is in need of attention. For a multitude of reasons: too sleepy, too hungry, insecure, nervous... For him he needs plenty of reinforcement. If he's not able to get the attention he needs in a positive form, he will lash out and get it another way (negatively). Over several occasions I have come to realize that some children jut need more affirmations then others (he is the "typical" middle child, my other 2 never really go through this). Give him goals, set up charts, or a quarter jar, or sticker charts, ANYTHING that will give him a positive outlook. Be extra sensitive that he in insecure about something (sometimes it is easy to identify, others you'll never really figure out), and needs his parents support! He will "snap out of it" when he is comfortable again. But keep up the positive reinforcement! Don't' fall into the trap of only using it when problems occur, let him know he is ALWAYS worthy of the attention, not just when he's misbehaving.

And when it seams like the only way to get through to him is yelling, try to remember my all time favorite quotes, it has brought me back from the edge on NUMEROUS occasions!!!

"Trying to control a child by yelling, is as utterly futile as trying to control a car by honking the horn"

Good luck!! I hope this helps.


1 mom found this helpful

Hi A.;
My daughter is going to be 7 in November and is in 1st grade. The shift to full days and the expectations of classrooms can be exhausting for them, mentally and physically.
I don't know if you've already thought about these things, but, here's some ideas that we utilize.
Lunches and snacks are organic and whole foods whenever possible - we don't allow high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or synthetic preservatives in her food. Those types of chemicals cause poor emotional balance and don't give good energy.
No juice or milk - we only send PiMag water in a reusable bottle with her.
After school we stay and play on campus with other families - she and her friends run for most of an hour or so - I think it helps release any pent up energy and clears the mind. There are even studies now that show how essential to learning active play can be.
Another helpful tool - massage. A foot soak and massage after school can be very good for someone who's had a demanding day at school and who isn't coping well with afterschool times.
I hope this is helpful. Contact me with any questions.
Best regards,
S. H.

It must be an age thing. My son just turned 6 and started 1st grade and is acting the same way. I think it is that they are tired. I know I notice a huge difference if I have him rest when he gets home. A short nap. If I have him sit next to me and read him a book or him to me, its relaxing. The T.V. and video games make it worse, he gets mad at the games he's playing. Good luck to both of us.

Hi A.,

Have you tried having your son take a nap in the afternoon when he gets back from school? He might just need more sleep.

Good luck!

School is very demanding these days and they expect a lot from the kids. It sounds like he is overwhelmed and probably needs to get to bed earlier due to this. I wouldn't get mad at him but try to turn it into a positive by: Talking and preparing him for school everyday. LIke a pep talk. Include the conversation to be about new friends and help him make some if he's having trouble. You can help at the school sometimes in the class or on the playground at lunch time.He would look forward to this(You can bring your younger child to the playground with you).Pack a special treat once a week in his lunch. Tell him what a good job he is doing and accept his feeling that it is hard,boring scarey,etc. Acknowledge it briefly then turn it to a positive. Ask him his favorite thing they do in his class.Ask him everyday.(He has to pick one) Explain to him that the both of you are only going to focus on positive things and you're going to help him with this. Make a star board that he can earn stars for not crying when doing his homework or a star for every day he has some good to say about school that day etc. Also he might be a kid who always needs help from you with his homework. Go over it with him and help him begin. He might need that for each question on his homework. That's ok just help him figure out what to do, don't do it for him.(Do dishes or chores in the kitchen while he does his work so your nearby)Also don't make him start on his homework right after school. Give him a break, some fun time first then homework starts at a certain time every day. THis might sound obvious but make sure he eats a good breakfast(protein of some sort)and a good snack and lunch. You'd be surprised how many parents send their kids to school with no lunch.Meet his teacher and let her/him know your child is having a hard time and see what they recommend. See if the teacher needs help of any sort so you and he feel more connected to the teacher/class.Maybe he can help the teacher with something in class in he likes being a helper. Unfortunatley the kids feel pressure if they aren't the top academics in the class.No cause of anything the teacher says or does.It's just there.1st grade they are learning lots of new stuff from scratch. It's a lot to take in their little heads.
My son always needed me to go over his homework with him each day. He's more of a hands on learner and needed that verbal back and forth banter to understand fully what he was suppose to do.He still doesn't love school but is much more independent (6th gr) but still sometimes needs me to go over his homework with him then he tackles it( I stay nearby in the kitchen doing my stuff in case he needs my help to stay on track)It works.Lots of times he's finished before I'm even home from an errand.
Empower him, how capable he his how smart(doesn't have to mean book smart)Sometimes I think school is harder for boys in the sense of maturity,learning styles,english isn't often their fav subject etc. Often they don't know how to turn their neg feeling into pos ones. You can help Don't get discouraged.Good luck D. G

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