Son Says He Wishes He Were Dead

Updated on March 27, 2019
B.A. asks from Ann Arbor, MI
12 answers

My 7-year-old son was being very aggressive towards his baby brother and I yelled at him and told him to go to his room. Later, I noticed that he had written "I wish I were dead" not thinking that I would see it. I told him I was very concerned and he said he feels like he always makes bad choices. We talked about impulse control and managing frustration. He is a great kid and just got a stellar report card from his first grade teacher. He has lots of friends and is generally pretty happy, albeit very intense and dramatic. Thoughts?

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So What Happened?

I emailed my therapist and she said this can be normal when kids are experiencing big emotions. My husband and I talked about it with him at length and my son has said that what he really meant was, "I wish I could start over." He expressed regret over being overly physical with his brother. I should clarify that his brother is 18-months-old and very active, so not a tiny baby. When I said aggressive I meant more like overly affectionate (big hugs that result in a tackle, ten kisses when he could've given one, etc) not aggressive with the intent to harm. If this happens again I will definitely seek some outside help.

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answers from Miami on

Sounds to me like he is having trouble coping with and expressing his feelings and emotions, so it comes out as anger and frustration, in the form of dramatic, negative, concerning words. As to how he is towards his baby brother, perhaps it's a result of not knowing how to behave around a younger child. He is only 7, and no one is born knowing how to handle babies. He may not mean to tackle and be rough to his brother, he may be trying to show him affection and instead he is getting punished for showing his brother love, and he gets angry and frustrated and says such things. I think you all, as a family, should talk about his behaviors, how to properly cope with anger and frustration, and how to play and be attentive to his little brother in a safe way that won't harm him, or cause either of his parents to yell at him or ground him.

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answers from Norfolk on

Get a baby sitter for the baby or have dad look after him while you have more one on one time with your 7 yr old.
Dad should have some one on one time with him too.
Take some time to just enjoy him - have some fun with him - he needs to know you love him.

It must be pretty rough for him with an attention stealing baby brother to deal with.
With the differences in ages a 7 yr old probably doesn't need to do much or anything with a toddler - toddlers don't play well with others - try to separate them as much as possible.
The 7 yr old needs play dates with kids his own age.
Having siblings is not always easy.
He might be old enough to start an after school activity.

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answers from Phoenix on

Give him a little time and some one on one attention. 7 is a tough age to find out you aren’t the center of the universe. I also might ask him where he heard someone say something like that.
If things don’t improve run it by your doctor.

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answers from Washington DC on

sounds like he needs help managing some pretty complex emotions.

being aggressive with a baby needs to be stopped immediately. i think that's a time when yelling and banishing are a pretty good response.

but it can't stop there. he needs some serious one-on-one time with you, and probably his dad too if his dad is in the picture.

and plenty of opportunity to be allowed to share his feelings and confusions in an atmosphere of safety and acceptance, ie you're not trying to pry anything out of him, nor to *fix* his feelings if he expresses pain, anger or negativity.

he's probably just being dramatic in the moment, but you don't want to dismiss this either. boundaries are vital, but so is the freedom to share what's going on in his head. if it's more than you can untangle, don't be ashamed. it happens. get help, for you and for him.

ETA, well, your SWH indicates that you as well as he are very imprecise with your words. there's a world of difference between being 'very aggressive' and kissing too many times. i'm not concerned about yelling to make a kid stop being aggressive to a baby, but a kid being overly affectionate to a toddler is a whole different matter.

sounds like there's an awful lot of drama and flapping over everyday matters that require a quiet word and possibly a gentle quelling hand on a shoulder in this household.


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answers from Denver on

Being a great kid with good grades and friends does not equal emotional well-being. Many people who are depressed, or angry, or who don't know how to handle emotions or feelings have plenty of friends and seem to be coping well in life.

Your son needs to be evaluated right away by a therapist or psychologist who specializes in treating children. He doesn't necessarily need medication, so don't assume that is the direction you're being steered in. But he needs help in dealing with anger, or jealousy, or help in developing self control.

And you may also need some professional help with dealing with a dramatic, intense, aggressive child. It's not a weakness. Parenting any child can be challenging, and when a child is aggressive or has problems handling life situations, a wise parent reaches out for advice from a professional.

Most importantly, when your son is aggressive, don't yell at him. That escalates the situation. Calm yourself down, and demonstrate the proper way to interact with a baby. Say calming words like "be gentle". And remove your older child from the baby firmly but calmly.

If your son actually wrote "I wish I were dead", find out how he knows how to properly use the subjunctive mood. Most 7 year olds would say something much simpler. He may be repeating something someone has said.

Get him and you some immediate help. Don't underestimate his anger, but stay calm and in control.

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answers from Boston on

ETA: I've read your "So What Happened" and now it appears that a) the baby isn't a baby, b) the aggressive child isn't aggressive, and the child who wishes he were dead actually doesn't. I'm not sure what to do about this new info but apparently you aren't all that concerned after all.

Interesting that he said "I wish I were dead" since most kids wouldn't know the proper English and would say "I wish I WAS..." It might be worth finding out if he heard this phrase elsewhere.

Stellar (or even just good or average) report cards are not indicators of depression. You don't know if he's "pretty happy" - you just see behaviors that indicate that, some of the time, he is. But he's also aggressive toward a baby, upset with his choices, intense and dramatic. None of us is capable of diagnosing different forms of depression, let alone jealousy perhaps over a baby brother. But given his aggression and his clear cry for help, I would not yell at him again or tell him you are very concerned - he needs to know that you are going to protect him and advocate for him.

Get him help immediately. Do not think that talking to him or punishing him can take away these thoughts. Call the pediatrician and ask for a referral to a mental health professional who works with children and who takes your insurance AND (important) who has appointment availability now, not later. This can be a social worker (LICSW), psychologist (PhD) or psychiatrist (MD). Any one of these people can refer to or consult with another professional, as needed. I'd also let the school psychologist or nurse know what he wrote and said, and that he has displayed aggressive behaviors in the home.

And keep your son away from the baby even if it means you need a sitter for the baby so you can take your son for appointments.

Do this today.

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answers from Dallas on

I'm glad to hear that you feel better about the situation now, but can I ask if he watches a lot of tv or spends a lot of time on the Internet? Does he watch You Tube? I only ask because that could be a slippery slope in terms of this kind of behavior and talk. I know that there is a lot of crazy stuff especially on You Tube, so if you aren't, please make sure you are monitoring time and content on line.

I might consider having him talk to a counselor, even the one at school. It seems like maybe he needs some help in managing his emotions. They could give him a few strategies that might help.

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answers from Washington DC on

Don't ignore his words. He might be using them to get your attention. He might be serious.

Your son needs you too. Make sure he gets one on one time with you.
Acknowledge his grades from school.

Talk with a guidance counselor. I don't think he needs to be admitted to a psych ward, but his words are strong for a 7 year old. I'd make sure he gets to talk with a therapist and ensure that you spend quality time with him and acknowledging him and his accomplishments.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I have a "I hate mom" note my son wrote when I sent him to his room. I kept it for a chuckle.

I wish I were dead is a little melodramatic. You say he's well adjusted and happy otherwise and it's just his personality.

I am a youngest and my older siblings resented me. My older kids resent their youngest sibling. You have a large gap.

Make sure the dynamic is not a baby-pace'd family. It's hard on kids aged 7. That's a big leap developmentally and maturity wise for kids. He may not have made the leap yet.

Don't expect him to love and enjoy his brother. Some don't. My husband never liked his brother and his mother can't accept that to this day. It's just life.

It's better to acknowledge and move on. So long as he can be respectful and kind (no aggression) then that's what you aim for.

It's very hard on some kids when another one comes along years later. You mentioned in previous posts you had some mixed feelings about wanting another - kids pick up on this. Be careful that he's not thinking that he hasn't been 'enough'. Some kiddos process this differently. He may feel he wasn't enough on his own. He may need to see a child psychologist just to let it out.

Make sure he gets one on one time and that the family is going at his pace, not the baby's. The baby won't notice. It needs to be at a big kid's pace and structure. He needs that. He needs to feel important.

But yes - he can't be aggressive towards the baby - and consequences are time apart - but then make time for him.

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answers from Boston on

Therapy now. Call today and make the appointment. A professional can work with him on impulse control and managing his emotions and give you tips on how to make things better at home. You don't want this to escalate and end up with his baby brother being injured

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answers from Chicago on

My thoughts?

The words ‘very agressive towards baby’
‘always makes bad choices’
‘very intense and dramatic’
Are concerning.

Adding the phrase ‘I wish I were dead’ and not knowing his previous behavior history make it a bit more concerning.
It’s good that he has excellent marks at school, but could also frustrate him more because he can’t manage this excellent behavior at home.

It sounds like punishment (yelling, go to your room) is not going to work with this child. Modeling the correct behavior in a calm manner and positive reinforcement is going to work best for him.

I think it might be worth a call to the pediatrician. 7-year olds say this for a reason. Should his intense moods continue or threats in this nature continue you will need to get him help ASAP.

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answers from Springfield on

It might be a good idea for you to reconsider how you are responding to things and whether or not your expectations are appropriate for a 7 year old. Your reaction to him being overly affectionate was to yell at him and send him to his room, when simply saying, "It's so great that you love Joey, but we need to be a little bit more gentle," would have a more helpful way to explain why you didn't like what he was doing. I understand how a hug can turn into a tackle, which does make a mom nervous, but I don't know why 10 kisses is bad. Let the poor child kiss his little brother. Kids showing affection towards their siblings should be encouraged. You don't want that message to get lost.

You said that your son can be "intense and dramatic," but that's exactly how I would describe your actions. Dramatic because you said a baby, when it was really an 18 month old, and you said "very aggressive" and later "overly affectionate." The way you talked to your son was very intense. He's too young to talk about impulse control and managing frustration, and he's definitely too young to be talking about any of this "at length." My kids are 10 & 12, and the only thing I can talk to them at length about is Marvel Movies.

I'm just saying, turn it down a notch. You were concerned about your younger son, and I definitely get that. Sometimes we overreacted. But you have to know to reign it back in and take a deep breath and try again - maybe go to your 7 year old's room, apologize for your overreaction and just say, "I know you were just hugging Joey, but I was worried that he might get hurt. Can we try to be more gentle next time?"

It seemed like rather than take a step back and take a deep breath, you just kept going forward with more intensity and more talk and more drama. The more you can keep things in perspective, the more he will be able to keep things in perspective. That's not something a 7 year old already knows how to do, so you need to model it for him.

1 mom found this helpful
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