Troublesome Child

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Hello, I have several phobias, and am slight OCD, Bi-Polar. My husband is loving but a militant parent. We try to parent as a single force, but my two kids know he’s stricter. My son who is 7, and rebellious since 3, continues to surprise us with great/genius mind to devious/possibly kill us accidentally behaviors. I took him to a therapist for a couple of months, diagnosed him as oppositional defiant disorder. Lately he’s been bullying kids, and an angel to his teacher, while stealing the ‘good food’ in the house, like lunchables. I’m at my wits end, anytime he can change between a ‘can do, hero’ to ‘destructive and burn’ attitude. I don’t know what’s going on, or how to deal with it! We can’t afford weekly therapy. I’m confused on the approach we should take.

A: Sometimes kids are like smoke detectors. They go off because something is wrong in the house. Of course, it’s possible he’s a disturbed little guy. But it’s more likely that he is responding to the tension between you and your husband. He knows his parents aren’t on the same page. Most kids in such a situation don’t feel entirely safe and secure so they provoke until the adults get their act together. My best suggestion is that you and your husband – together – seek out a family therapist to help you get to a genuine agreement about how to handle your son. You’ll learn both some new methods for handling this bright little boy and for negotiating with each other. If you can both tolerate the initial discomfort of dealing with the underlying conflict between you, your marriage will grow stronger and you’ll both be better able to guide your son.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Dec 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Troublesome Child. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/12/27/how-do-i-deal-with-my-7-year-old/