29 answers

8 Year Old Acting Out at School

My son has been acting out at school, punching other kids, kicking other kids, even puncturing balls with pencils and so on. He has already had 2 or 3 in school suspensions and a couple where he has been sent home. He currently lives with his father and step-mother with his sister and two step-siblings. There is quite an array of interesting history there, but too long for this request. My concern is that the situation is not getting better. Each time that I attempt to have my two children come back to live with me, their step-mother makes life more unbearable than it already is dealing with her now. Their father is not taking an active role in discipline and my son has voiced to me on multiple occassions that he does not want to live with them any longer. Actually, that he never did. We have left the kids with their father because my daughter loves her school and her friends and doesn't want to leave it. She has told me that she doesn't want to live there either, but doesn't want to leave her friends or the school, so she's "alright for now." Her wish would be that I move to the town they are in so she can live with me, and not have to leave school or friends. That is not an available option right now, so I feel stuck. I don't know how to go forward with my son and the problems he's having, especially since his father refuses to seperate them, and I don't really want to seperate them if I don't absolutely have to.

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Update...talked to my son on the phone and asked him to answer a yes or no question for me (since I never know if his father and step-mother are right next to him). That question, "Are you trying to get out of Daddy's house?" "Yes" "Are you trying to get to Mommy's house?" "Yes" I let him know that the acting out wasn't the best way for that to happen and had a potential to have him pulled from both houses if he wasn't careful, but that I was working to get him to Mommy's house. His father, step-mother, principal, counselor at school, his teacher and one of the recess teachers scheduled an appointment to all discuss how to move forward at least through the end of the school year and then they would re-evaluate for next year. They were supposed to call me and have me on speakerphone and "conveniently" my ex "forgot." And, when I tried to call, I was told the principal so I could be on speakerphone through the school, I was told that he was in a meeting. I told the office person that I was the mother of the person they were talking about and she said, "hold please, let me check to see what I can do." I was on hold for a few seconds and then all of the sudden the call ended. Tried to call back and got the same thing. Since I was having to step away from the training I was doing for one of our new girls to make the call, I decided to wait and just see what his father had to say when I called him at lunch. They are going to start doing a behavior chart daily with him (something that he had to do before at another school) and they are going to test him to see if his classes are too hard for him or too easy for him and that's why he's "distracted." So, at this time, we'll see...

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The bottom line here is you are the mom and they are in an emotionally unhealthy situation. It sounds as though you have the ability to remove them from it so just do it. It is what is best for them. They are young they will make new friends. No one ever said that being a mom was easy only whorth it. Summer is coming soon so do it then. Which will give you plenty of time to get them registered for school for the next school year. And they will have all summer to get to know the kids in the neighborhood and make new friends before school.

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You have your own answer in your request for help. They don't want to stay with their father or stepmother any longer. That is probably why your son is now acting out at school. He is not happy with his home life as it is. Your daughter has also said that she isn't happy with her home life either.

You have to be their advocate and protector here, they can't do it. Step up to their father and say that they need to come live with you, that they aren't happy with him. As for the stepmother, SHE is not their mother, YOU are. Don't let her words intimidate you. She didn't give birth to them. She didn't soothe them at 2 am when they had a nightmare. All she is is Dad's new wife. They may call her mom, I don't know, but you are and will always be Mommy.

I don't mean to sound harsh, and I don't know the whole history, but it sounds like you really need to get your kids out of their father's house and into yours. It will be hard for your daughter to leave her friends, but maybe you could have the occasional weekend sleepover for her?

Hope this helps,

6 moms found this helpful

From my experience working with at-risk kids, Melissa, Marda, and Katy are right on point. Your son's behavior shows that he is confused and desperate for loving parental guidance, and apparently not getting enough of it.

Marda has set out some hoops for you to jump through. They look challenging. But the situation will get harder and sadder if you don't try to make a difference now. You obviously love your children. You have invested a lot of yourself to get them to this stage of their lives. Please don't throw up your hands and surrender now.

I don't know what you mean by the stepmother making life more unbearable – for whom and in what ways? You might do well to investigate how to communicate with her and your ex clearly and calmly, and make your legitimate needs known. One particularly useful approach is called Non-Violent Communication, and you can get a one-page primer on it at http://www.masterfacilitatorjournal.com/archives/skill127... – scroll down the page a little ways to "The Point" and "Application."

Your family will be in my prayers. I hope you will write in a few weeks about "what happened." I'll bet lots of mamas out here will be rooting for you.

3 moms found this helpful

I think that your son's behavior could be a serious behavior that will only increase. He is angry and doesn't have a healthy way to express it. This sort of behavior that starts when one is youg can be the beginning of teen rebellion with drugs, alcohol, running away, etc.

Does their father have a court order giving him custody? If not then you must step in a get your son some help. Start out with an evaluation. Talk with the school and get their suggestions. If they think it's a good idea take him to see a psychiatrist to get his viewpoint. If he thinks that your son should needs help, see that he gets it.

If your ex doesn't have court ordered custody I'd suggest bringing both children back home with you. Because your ex is unlikely to agree with this talk with an attorney first so that you can do it in the manner that will most likely give you the results that you want.

How old is your daughter? I can understand wanting to stay in same area and same school but is she mature enough to make that decision herself? If she's not in high school I would seriously question allowing her to make the decision since both kids are having difficulty with living with their father. I would question the decision, thinking about whether or not it's really the right thing to do even if she is in high school. Again, I'd get some professional help. I'd also talk with teachers at her school to see how well she is actually doing. It's quite possible that she's not doing well but she is hesitant to tell you for a variety of possible reasons.

It is the responsibility fo adults to make these decisions. Input from the kids should be considered but reality may tell you that what they want is not best for them.

Consider that courts listen to kids expecially when children are saying in words and deed that this is not a good place for them.

Could you be too concerned about keeping the step-mother and father satisfied? Your kids need you to stand up for them. Talk with an attorney to find out what you can do!!!!!!!

Why is separating the kids not an available option? Perhaps it's the one that needs to be fought for.

And what does "alright for now" mean. That phrase intimates that there may be difficulty down the line. It's better to prevent difficulty especially with children. Their experiences now will affect them the rest of their lives.

I'm very glad that you've asked this question. It's good to get our opinions but you most need the opinions of professionals who work with troubled kids. Your son is definitely troubled in a serious way.

3 moms found this helpful

Move your kids home to live with you. 50 miles is not that far for your daughter to keep up her relationship with her friends at her school. She'll also make new friends in your town. Your son's life & healthy development depends on it! Good luck!

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Dear L.,

You say moving their is not an option right now. The actual fact is staying where you are is an the option. Those are your children! They are living in anotherhome watching their father care for and love another womans children. Think of how your kids feel. You have very few chances in life to do the right thing. You must move to where your children are and provide for them, nurture them daily, be their suppport. Their is nothing in your life more important than your children. Your son is acting out.....wow go figure, I wonder why. His mother is an hour away and he lives with another womans children. I know this sounds harsh. But shame on you for not making the choice to be with your children. YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE.


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Your kids are "worth" moving closer to be with them. They should be the first priority. Their chaotic, unhappy life is not their choosing, and is being done to them by circumstances beyond their control. They deserve better. Your son isn't going to be better until his situation is better. I also recommend John Rosemond's Six Point Plan for Raising Happy Healthy Children (a book). Good luck!

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Hello L., My opinion is that you need to do what's in the best interest for your children. It's not about what your daughter wants, it's about what is best for both of them. And it looks like it's best if they are removed from the environment that they are in and that your son receive some counseling. Something is going on that is causing him to act out this way. Go with your gut and your heart. Your children are resilient and will recover as long as they are in a safe and loving environment. Keep us posted.

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I was a first grade teacher, as well as having a step son that had some problems. My suggestion--if you live in a state that has a program that will appoint someone to represent your son and only your son. Since you have been divorce and most likely have a parenting agreement this should be relatively easy.

In the mean time, keep listening to your son. Even if it means calling him every day. Cell phones are great. Tell him he is acting out because he is angry at home, but that is not an excuse for acting out at school.

Reinforce the fact that he is a good kid and you love him very much. Talk to his teacher frequently so you know what he is studying and you can talking about it. Talk about history, science, geography-- the fun stuff of school.

Develop a hobby for him that he can look forward to when he comes to your house. Get a magazine subscription for him that he can take to his father's home.

I hope some of these ideas help. Good luck. W.

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Dear L. P.,

You need Dr. Phil!! I can't even imagine how to help you except to give you big hugs and send your son hugs. His life has been so disrupted and he is so angry and doesn't know how to handle what has happened to his little young life that is supposed to be full of fun and fishing trips with his dad, flying kites, throwing balls and doing wood projects with his dad.

You are too far away and busy with what life has offered you to handle. To save your son where he is, his dad has to do it by asking for help from the school counselors and being very involved with his son by himself - listening to him and going places with him alone.

I feel for you and send my love. Actually the only thing that will work for your son right now is lots and lots of love. M. Barb - Grandmother of seven and Mother of 4

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If there is one thing I have learned men often take a back seat in parenting!!
Plus ANY advice you have will probably fall on deaf ears...your "the ex" that means the person no longer involved...the new mom is probably taking all the pressure with no support from either of you..the childs parents!!!

Why do you live 50 miles away? What could possibly be important than your children? Unless you are in rehab?!?!

Boys are usually rougher than girls,sports is a great outlet,he is probably angry,too.He needs direction.Teams provide a great physical outlet and a feeling of belonging.
Stereo types still exsist "the jocks" "the smart geeks" or "the druggies" where does he fit?

Of course the kids are afraid to change schools..they've already lost their mom..loose their freinds,too!

Get involved in your children's lives...pull up your big girl panties and be a parent!!

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You have to do what you have to do. The kids have to come first. I'm guessing the relationhip between you and your ex isn't fabulous. Does he have total custody? What is the arrangement. I don't know your situation, and I will pray for you. You need to do what is best for your children. I think he's screaming for attention. You may have to get tough with your daughter and tell her too bad, so sad about leaving her friends; family is more important. It's about the long run. Blessings.

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Good Morning L.,
I would like to say that I have no idea what it's like to be a single mother or to go through a divorce. However, my sister and I have different fathers because our mother divorced her father before meeting mine. Being adults now, all three of us have discussed how it affected them both growing up and in a way, me too. My mother often let my sister have her way or be manipulated by her because she felt guilty. My sister, all though growing out of it with the help of a Life Coach (she's 40), still carries these problems as an adult. It has affected her success, her relationships with men and even her weight. Not because she was abused. Not because she wasn't loved. Because her mother didn't know how to take back control.

So why am I telling you this? Probably because my Mom also thought that my sister was "fine for now". But L. - NOW is all you have. NOW will affect TOMORROW.

Your son is acting out in public ways because of this problem. And be thankful for it. Older girls are more complex. Girls do things like cutting themselves or bulimia. Things you don't see or know about. I'm not saying that's what yours is doing. But just don't accept FINE.

Your son is asking to live with you. Why doesn't he have a say in what will make him happy and healthy? He's not asking to go to Disneyland on a train with a bunch of hobos. He's asking to live with his mother. He probably feels out of control that what he wants isn't being heard.

Your daughter will get over being mad and make new friends. But if she knows her brother is leaving, she may want to go herself.

Be a hero L.. You can do it.


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I completely understand what you are going thru.
My son is 7 soon to be 8 and in second grade at a great school. My ex and I just got a divorce a year ago. My son has been having temper trantrums at random times when things dont go his way for a few years and we (myself, exhubbie, school, sitters) just thought it was a faze he was going thru. Well, things got worse...so to condense it: he was hitting at school, yelling at the top of his lungs screaming for simple injustices to him, getting angry for little issues like a child taking a pencil out of his hand, being defiant and mean to the teacher, throwing paper and pencils and chairs around the room. He received two in school suspensions and finally got expelled. I was shocked and angry and confused and scared. My child? HOW? So a thousand doctors apts and meetings later he was diagnosed ADHD...well...it helped, and your son may very well NOT BE ADHD. The thing is is that ADHD children do not usually get very angry or resort to violence. My son continued his outbursts...on his way from getting FOREVER expelled from the whole school district if he had one more outburst! My breakthrough was talking to the behavioral specialist. Her name is Nancy Grimes. She is fantastic. Just reliving the experience thru the words I am typing makes me tear up. We talked for an hour and cam to the conclusion that my son might have "anxiety disorder". Oh my gosh! Exactly! I felt it in my gut. That was three weeks ago...we have been dealing with his "outbursts" for over three years, not knowing how to "fix" him. So he has been on anti-depressant medicine for three weeks now. And guess what? Amazing, fabulous, I am extatic I could just cry. He feels better, He feels in more control, HE IS HAPPIER!!
Please, please talk to a behavior specialist and a reputable medical psychiatrist...not a psychologist.
I truely feel for you and I hope something I have shared with you helps you in your journey to find your son peace for his inner self.


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I know how hard this must be for you, but those kids do need you. Especially your son. Acting out is age-old. Before he gets much older and really feels the world is against him, is there any way you can get a job closer? Sometimes the things we have to sacrifice now means a stronger self image for the child as they grow.
Otherwise, can they stay with dad four nights a week and you drop them off monday am at school and pick them up friday after school?

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The bottom line here is you are the mom and they are in an emotionally unhealthy situation. It sounds as though you have the ability to remove them from it so just do it. It is what is best for them. They are young they will make new friends. No one ever said that being a mom was easy only whorth it. Summer is coming soon so do it then. Which will give you plenty of time to get them registered for school for the next school year. And they will have all summer to get to know the kids in the neighborhood and make new friends before school.

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I wouldn't make any decisions based on a child's friends. Kids make friends no matter where they go... if we don't teach them to live and learn, what are we teaching them?

In my opinion, the well being of family is the most important thing. You need to figure out what is best for your children in the long run... their home environment is going to effect their lives WAY more than friends.

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While your daughter doesn't want to leave her school and friends, it sounds like your son is going to be asked to leave his school if his behavior continues. I would talk with a guardian ad liem, have one appointed, to be your son's voice in legal proceedings and work towards having him live with you. You can't allow this to continue. His behavior is unacceptable at school and you need to find out why is acting out. Bad attention is attention, and it sounds like he needs and wants someone to notice what's happening with him. Counseling for him is needed. There are times when the needs of kids out weigh their wants and desires, as well as outweighing what parents want to do. I would look at other employment or a relocation with the same employer so I could be the custodial parent. It could be that your son is playing both ends against the middle. Counseling and intervention for him and the custodial family. Now, not later. His and your choices will be severely limited if his behavior continues.

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L., my youngest son is also 8 and having those same problems of fighting at school. I have found with him that he actually is not wanting to be violent. He's just got so much love and enthusiasm for other people that he's not sure how to express it. His peers are not sure how to handle his brand of attention. We have gotten him to calm down at school by setting aside time everyday for him to have our full attention. Give him a forum that is just his. Tell him this is his time to say and do what he wants. If he wants to just hop in place and tell you his exciting news. Also if you are living that far from your kids, he could be taking his frustrations out on his classmates. It is my opinion that 8 seems to be the age that they want to break free from Mommy, but if Mommy's not there to pull from, he may do the oposite. He's a good kid, and you know that. Show him more often that you know it. Positive reinforcement is a good tool, just don't use candy and food, (leads to eating disorders). Since we have given our son his time, things are settling out at school. Good luck!

You need to go to court and get that kid out fast in order to get him some serious therapy and behavioral intervention. I am saying this as an ex-public school teacher who taught junior and senior high school. Your son is crying out for help but he needs other ways to express his needs and be empowered. If his father is so clueless, that kid will end up in the juvenile justice system in his early teens if not sooner. He will also go nowhere fast in the school system because the next step in the system from where he is right now is to refer him to an EBD program (Emotionally Behaviorally Disturbed) where he will be in a room all day with other kids with serious behavioral problems so they will all be basically babysat to keep the other kids safe while they fall further and further behind academically. By the time they are junior high most of these kids, perfectly bright and able, are able to read at only the 2nd and 3rd grade levels and they don't get better. The aides that are hired for this room are hired on braun instead of any skill in tutoring academic anything.

Early and effective intervention is the only hope for these kids. Every week, every month and every year that these problems go unresolved makes it that much harder to do anything constructive for them.


Clearly, your son is asking for help, and something has to be done or the possibility exists that he will sprial into such behaviors as drugs, alcohol, or even crime to get somebodies attention. Now is the time. He needs to come live with you, however you can make it happen.

Your daughter may be "alright for now" but your son is not. If you can not reach an agreeable solution with his father. (step mom has no legal ground, your discussions need only be with the father) then a mediator (state provided) is the next step.

I would schedule a meeting with the father, a school counselor, the boy & you.
If no resolution:
Then contact a state mediator. What you decide in their office is legally binding. They will also have the courage to tell you husband that he is being unreasonable, where the school counselor may not. If this does not bring a solution:

You may need a lawyer, & an child study..parenting evaluation.... I can't remember what they are called.

You said moving 50 miles is not an option, it may become necessary. There is value in keeping the kids in the same school, it will provide consistency, & as they grow their peers become more important (in their minds) than parents. It may be a huge sacrifice for you, but you only get one shot at raising the kids, and in this case your son is asking for PROTECTION. However it puts all of you closer to the step mom, which may have a detrimental impact, but being in the same town obviously eases the visitation issue.

Splitting them up may not be your husbands choice, but when it comes to a kids survival, he is putting his desire over the kids NEED. Your son is the real one caught in the trap. You do have the power to make a change, even if it's not comfortable. There came a time that my son declined visitation on account of the step mom. Loves his dad, but not when he's with her. "She runs the show, & hates men" according to my son. So my daughter is fine with her, but the son is not. He sees his dad only now, once a week, then the family on special occasions, birthdays.

So moving your son in with you, may take state intervention, if dad has legal custody. The step mom you said is the one who makes it miserable. Somebody needs to tell her to back off, & perhaps, in a nice way to "shut up." This may also take state intervention. Don't be afraid of her, your son is at risk, and he needs you to take action.

I can recommend lawyers, and counselors if you are in the Portland area.

This is not an easy road, Co parenting rarely is. Obviously there are REASONS the marriage didn't work, and likely the same reasons you are having difficulty with this now.

May God bless you, and come along side you, & provide a way for you.

A. V

Have your asked your children if they are o.k. with being seperated? Maybe they would be fine with it. The REAL QUESTION: What is in the best interest of your son. Obviosly he his having major problems with his life right now. Have you spoke to him one on one to see if there is something happening either at school or home that he doesnt know how to handle. Those are all "cry of help" signals. Is he being picked on, abused, does he need his mommy. What sre HIS thoughts. What about your daughter, have you spoke to her on e on one to see her side of the story. Can she come up with why your sone is acting the way that he is? I would first start fishing for anwsers. Ther IS a reason for the behavior. It may be something small (but big in his world). The problm will only get worse if he doesn't get help. I don't know the relationship your have with your children, but if they can't openly talk with you or there biological father without feeling as though their problems or concerns are not valid then there will be much more to come.

Keep the communication open and honest. Always remind them they matter to you and that you love them unconditionally and even though your son has been getting in trouble at school REMEMBER there is a reason. He may not know how to express it. JUST BE THERE FOR HIM!!!!!!

Good luck and stay strong for them


I would absolutely separate the siblings. Could be that ONE of the reasons your son is acting out is so that he'd be able to get out of the situation that he's in. Or at least he's hoping that will be the solution. Sounds like he could use some one on one positive affirmation. Go for it!

First of all L., your children are what is most important. Their well being and with them living with their dad and step mother it sounds like this is not in their best interest. If I were you I would pack them up and move them to my house. You didn't say how old your daughter is however; she can make new friends and keep in touch with the old friend via the mail and internet if you have a computer. You can also take her to visit them once in awhile on weekends; that is if you can afford the gas to take her. This is a hard situation and you need to make sure that you are doing what is right for the children. Remember that the step mother has no say what so ever about this!!! Be strong and do the right thing. I will say a prayer for you.

May God Bless and give you the strength that you need in your time of need.

B., mother of two grandmother of seven.

How old is your son?

Relocate, Sometimes the worst steps you make may actually be the best. Try to get closer to your children. At least you know and your children know your trying.

Hi L.,

Something is making your son very angry. There is usually a cause when children act out. When a child shows violent tendancies it means that said child is mad and doesn't know what to do with the anger. Since he can't "POP" his step-mother's head he pops the balls at school instead. The best solution is to bring your kids home! Due to illness I was separated from my girls for a short time when they were children. Although they are successful and seemingly happy adults, we are still working through the trauma. Even though your children are with their father, it sounds as though he leaves the daily family management to his wife.
They need you! I think that you already know this but don't want conflict with the step-witch. oops! Eventually you will find that there is no help for it except to bite the bullet and do the right thing. You are the adult! Summer is coming and that would be the perfect time to move them home. I wish you the best of luck!

T. M

P.S. If you can't dislodge your daughter, bring your son home regardless of what your ex wants. Your son's happiness and wellbeing is more important than your ex's desires.

Divorce is not pleasant any way you put it and is even more delicate when childrens hearts are involved.

I was the child of not one but two divorces. Sometimes if the child feels like they are not being heard they will act out and keep acting out till they are heard. The adults have to be careful that they are not just thinking of themselves and not the kids. If there is a lot of in fighting going on it is affecting the children greatly. I am not there or living your life but can only speak as someone who has been there. Kids tend to blame themselves when there is a lot of in fighting. You have a very sad and confused little boy and may need to get outside help to be sure that he is heard by an unbiased person. Adults should set their egos aside come together and put the kids first they are not a prize to be won. I am not saying that this is going on at all.

Everyone may say that it is discipline and it may be but what I hear is a little boy yelling for help. Someone needs to hear his calls and get him help. He may be so full of anger inside and not know how to express it. He needs to be shown the healthy way out. I have been there as a child but was lucky as my parents saw that I was heading for trouble and got me the help I needed.

You are the real mother of your own children. You will try to do what is best for them, is to take them away from there stepmother, you don't know how the stepmother act toward them. You are listening to your ex-husband what about the children.. obviously your son is not happy and he will grow up hating everyone.. you should take care of your own son atleast and counseling will be good.. your daugther sounds like she is your mother, you have to do what is going to be best for them.. they need to be with you...there own mother.. you gave birth to them and they are your responsibility... I pray that you will do take them with you and love them no matter what. God bless!

Hi L., I empathize with your situation as mine is not too different than yours. My advice is to get them both back into your custody as it sounds like you have the more stable of the two homes. As a young kid friends in school come and go and will change anyhow as they grow older. Just think back to how many "cliques of friends" you went through, especially in grade school and middle school. To a kid that age it is their whole world, but as an adult you can reason that their emotional wellbeing and safety comes before their social lives at school. They can and will make new friends whereever it is they have to move to. I find sanity with all this stuff you're dealing with by going to AlAnon and CoDA meetings and plugging into my relationship with God. Best of luck to you! MH

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