May 22, 2008,
J.T. asks from Trinidad, CO on May 20, 2008
Troubled 7 Year Old
You have all been so wonderful in the past. I thankyou all very much for all of that. Now I need your help one more time. My 7 year old is out of control. In the last couple of months his behavior has gone from good to ok to bad to unbeliveable. He sneaks in to my room and steals money( change mostly occassionally a few dollars) from my husbands night stand. When he is in time out, he destroys his room, by means of causing actual damage to the walls and furniture. Just recently when I was making his bed I found my undergarmets under his matteress. He has put on my nail polish too. His behavior at school went from good to horrible basically overnight, He comes home and tells me that everyone hates him. When I was finally able to get him to talk about it, it was because a girl likes him and all his friends are teasing him about it. The new problems have been lying to the point he doesnt know the truth anymore and yesterday he was at the pharmacy and stole a pack of gum. All of these things he does because he wanted to or he was bored. I have tried grounding, taking things away,etc.. It just seems like he doesn't care. He know the difference between right and wrong but always chooses to do what he wants which as of late is seldom the right choice.
Any advice on what to do would be great.
So What Happened?™
Thankyou everyone for your great advice. We did call a professional and our first appointment is Friday. Thankyou so much.
D.M. answers from San Diego on May 21, 2008
Family therapy would be good, both you and your husband with your son. It may take a while, but the therapist might be able to get to the root of the problem.
L.M. answers from San Diego on May 21, 2008
I have a 10 year old boy (also 5 year old boy and 1 year old girl), and we had our most difficult year with him at age 7. He had a lot of pent up anger that would come out at home (mostly yelling at us, slamming doors, but also said "I wish I was dead"), and the issues mostly were the social issues at school. He was bullied for being different: he doesn't like sports, he has friends that are girls, and he is smart. He just hasn't always identified with kids his own age. He didn't know how to stand up for himself. Another school issue, was that he was bored. He just couldn't stand doing school/homework that he already knew ("this is stupid"). The other issue, was he was very jealous of his 2 year old brother at the time. He never physically hurt him, but he would say he hated him or he was stupid, etc (also, because he was being picked on at school, he picked on his brother). We ended up taking him to a psychologist during that summer. He helped give our son some tools to redirect his anger. It also helped us to change some of our behaviors (i.e. not reacting to his fits of anger). I don't know if these are any of your son's issues. Just to let you know, he has a fantastic teacher this year (someone who finally "gets" him) and he is starting to feel comfortable with himself. He was bullied at the beginning of the school year and for the first time he yelled at the kid "leave me alone!"He hasn't been picked on by that kid again. He has and a great year at school and at home. I remember thinking when he was 7 , if he's like this now, what are we going to do when he is a teenager! Not to say we're out of the woods yet, but he is turning into an amazing kid. One of the tools we used was a reward chart, he never cared if we took things away, and time-out never worked. He had to earn TV, computer, video games (the things that were important to him). We made things like "I had a good attitude doing my homework", "I was nice to my brother today", and easy chores like "throwing my clothes in the hamper". They were all things that he could easily accomplish each day. He had to earn a certain # of stickers to get his reward. Sometimes he could earn a reward of "a special date with mom or dad". We really try to talk with him a lot. He knows he can come to us. For a long time he would say "I don't want to tell you what's going on", But now, I think he's beginning to feel safe opening up to us. And, he hasn't really had an anger, yelling fit since last August. It all takes a lot of work, but its' so worth putting in the time now, when he's still young and you have still have some control over him. I hope some of this helped. I definitely would look into seeing a psychologist, ask your pediatrician or another parent for a good one. I think our son only saw him 6-8 visits. Summer is a nice time, because the school pressure is gone. You can e-mail me if you want any more advice. Good Luck!
H.S. answers from San Diego on May 21, 2008
I have been in your shoes and I know this is a very hard time for all involved. First off you need to have a talk with his teacher to make sure the teasing at school stops. That should help with the behavior at school a little bit.
Next time you find out he has been stealing take him back to the store with the stolen item and make him give it back to the manager along with an apology. If he has already used the item then you still do the same thing (just with the wrapper) and have him pay for it. At this age money is something that is starting to be very important to him.
To get him to stop stealing from you, you need to be consistant and vigilant as well as imaginative. When you notice money is missing tell him (this gives him a chance to think about what could happen if you find out that he is the thief). When you find the money and other things in his room put them in a pile in middle of his room. This makes him face the reality that he can not lie to you about his theft. Next, make a list of the chores around the house that he will be doing for each offence. Stealing money= weeding the lawn or cleaning the bathroom. Stealing your undergarments= laundry (washing, drying, folding, and putting away in its proper place). Whatever you do, do not help him until he asks for help. I found this to be one of the most powerful steps toward helping all 4 of my kids to stop stealing (they all want to be independant but they do not know how to deal with stuff when they can not be independant). When a chore is done make sure to have him make it off the list and show him what he would have earned if he had not tried to steal it. This step is a must ( they will not make the connection otherwise).
Time-outs have never worked for my kids. As an allturnative my husband started having the kids seperate all the different bird seeds in a bag of wild bird food (it keeps their hands and minds busy while still being tedious). If he throws it all on the ground make sure he pick up every seed (do not allow him to throw a fit that gets you upset).
Finally, at his age he should be in charge of cleaning his room. That includes making his bead, throwing away his garbage, and bring the laundry to the laundry room (or putting it in the hamper at least). He needs more responsibility so he can take pride in his abilities. Right now he is at the age where he hates to admit he needs help in any given area, so having something he can do by himself will enable him to see that he will not always have to ask for that help. To make sure he takes all of these lessons to heart always, always, always say "thank you for your help" or "thank you for telling me the truth".
I hope this helps. Hang in there.
H. Stanley Mother and teacher to 3 sons and 1 daughter.
J.F. answers from San Diego on May 21, 2008
I am so sorry to hear about your son. You said that this behavior just began in the last couple of months and that concerns me greatly. Since it is not typical for him to behave this way you should consider having a professional help him. I fear that something may have happened or is happening to him that needs to be uncovered. My thoughts are with you and your family, especially your sweet 7 year old boy.
C.S. answers from San Diego on May 22, 2008
Boy that is a concern!
I suggest you get a Police Officer to speak to your son.
Put the fear of God into im!! Don't hesitate to do something,
time is of the essence! If he is permitted to go too long
without a real awakening, you may have rael problems in the future.