Conduct Disorder with my grandson

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

My daughter is going thru a divorce. She is/was married 4 years and has a 3 yr old son. The dad decided he wanted to go out with other women and moved out and is staying at his girlfriend’s apartment. Not legally divorced yet. My daughter and grandson are living with us her parents at our house until such time that daughter feels comfortable about going back to the house. He came back to the house when she was at work and took everything he wanted.

My grandson has these fairly consistent outbursts of what seems like anger. “Do you want some milk?” NO! “Do you want some anything? NO!!!! It’s the violent tone and he has even slapped his Mom when she was holding him in here arms. Also he goes into crying/wining spurts where I don’t want to’s. These go on everyday at least one time, at least. Other times he is happy go lucky and wants to help make food or carries on a very nice conversation. Then the tantrums start. I think he needs more discipline but of course that’s coming from me. I don’t interrupt much but just seems like the tantrums (quantity and intensity) is over the top and not right.

I’m not sure what to tell my daughter and I’m not sure how to handle myself. His Dad I’m pretty sure let’s him do anything he wants including eating way too much candy and has him 3 days a week not including sleeping overnight. They sleep at our house 7 days a week and spend parts of the other 4 days here. Daughter goes to work M-F and he stays with a daycare sitter person W-F. I need some direction. Thanks!

A: What a difficult time for your family. A divorce can be rough on children at any age, but with a 3-year-old the issue is more difficult. He doesn’t have the words for his feelings, and may not even understand what these feelings are. He just feels pain, and you are the safest, closest person for him to express this pain to.

Your grandson would likely profit from some play therapy, or creative art therapy. If you need help in this regard your grandson’s pediatrician should be able to help with local referrals.

Ask your daughter what the best way is you can help. She needs to be making the decisions and you’ll want to involve her right from the beginning.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Nov 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Conduct Disorder with my grandson. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/11/21/conduct-disorder-with-my-grandson/