Son is having night tantrums

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: My 8 year old son has been having “fits” whenever I leave the room when he is in the bathtub,or whenever I sit with his dad and not with him. He recently said that we hated him, he didn’t deserve parents, he deserved to die, he was bad, we were going to leave him, cried for an hour until we let him sleep on the floor in our room. He is a model student at school but pushes every button of mine he can. He is fine when he is alone with his dad but not when he is with me or with both of us. I don’t know what to do anymore. I am worried he is going to hurt himself with these thoughts of wanting to die.

A: I’m worried too. This is not normal behavior in an 8 year old. I can’t tell from a letter whether he is tantruming to get his way or because he is terrified. Sometimes kids act up with one parent and not the other because they accurately perceive that one will respond, the other won’t. But that doesn’t explain your son’s very distressing statements.

Please take your son to an experienced child psychologist for an evaluation. You need to know what you are dealing with and how best to respond. Waiting won’t help. In fact, it could make things worse because you may be inadvertently reinforcing his fears.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 May 2008

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2008). Son is having night tantrums. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/05/10/son-is-having-night-tantrums/