5 year old impulse issues..help!


New Member
Hello everyone! I think I may have posted in the wrong place the first time..so I am re-posting here.
I'm so glad I found this board! I'm mom to three wonderful children (a daughter-15 and two boys- 11 and 5). I am also living with my wonderful significant other who has two children that stay with us part time..both boys 8 and 4 1/2. My kids, I'm proud to say, are wonderful for the most part..just typical kids who mind most of the time and are admittedly a bit spoiled. My significant other's youngest son, however, has what seems to me to be serious impulse control issues. When he is with us he rarely does what he is told. His father will give consequences and his son will eventually give in, but the second his dad turns his back he will do something to "win". For example...if he is told to stop kicking the cat (he loves tormenting my pets) he will stop..but when he is no longer being watched his will start poking him..until someone notices..and he will stop again..and then when we stop watching he will just swat him one more time..almost like he HAS to do it to feel like dad didn't quite win. Now I know that some of that is normal but this child does it with EVERYTHING. He climbed up a dresser after being told 3 times not to and finally fell off and broke his collarbone. A week after the cast came off he did it AGAIN ..this time pulling a 25 inch tv down with the dresser and nearly killing my 5 year old. Lately he has taken to tormenting my 5 year old to the point that my son hates having him around and has begun to act a bit like like when he is here...not listening..whining..etc. I keep hoping his daycare will step up and mention that he has a problem but they always say how cute his is and although he "tests boundaries constantly"..they stop short of saying they think he has a problem. I am at my wits end. I love this little boy but it has gotten to the point where I dread when he is with us. We can't take him anywhere because he runs off. We lost him in the mall for an hour last week and when we finally found him he didn't even care that he was by himself..it was like nothing happened. His latest is that he's taken to peeing his bed. Mind you, not because he has a problem with it.. but simply because he is testing his father. If we threaten him with taking away something he enjoys he will go days without doing it..and then at some point he will decide that whatever we've threatened is no big deal (and he will tell us that) and he will pee again that night...we're running out of things to threaten with!
Now this brings me to the biggest issue. His father apparently also had these problems when he was a child to the point that he changed schools numerous times and got into quite a bit of trouble. Yet in his eyes he turned out just fine (though he still does have many impulse issues himself)..so he almost acts like he's proud of his son for being so "strong-willed".. and really doesn't address the behavior. At times I really think he prefers the child over his older son who is very laid back and eager to please. I'm at a loss..I have no clue where to turn and I refuse to let it keep effecting my own children. Any suggestions would be great! Thanks in advance


Active Member
Welcome, I'm glad you found us.

I would love nothing more than to tell you something to encourage you but after seeing loads of people in situations similar to yours (either SO's or subsequent marriages) I'm hesitant to give you any hope for making a difference unless your SO's attitude changes. Bringing two families together is difficult enough but bringing them together when one child has issues as significant as this one clearly does is a 200% guarantee for very troubled waters. Most parents here who have been down this road counsel the SO/new spouse to lay low and let the biological parent handle the tough issues with the difficult child and it doesn't sound as if you're SO is yet in a position to do that. I would think that the fact that he was forced to change schools numerous times and got into a lot of trouble would give him the mindset that he'd want something different for his son, despite how he turned out.

I'm sure that is discouraging to hear but I'm not going to sugar coat it for you.

What is the homelife like for this boy when he's not with you? It sounds like there's more going on than just serious impulse control issues.

What's the biological family history like? Any mental health issues that you know of?


New Member
Thanks for not sugar coating..I need facts and wasn't coming here to try to feel better. Your help is much appreciated!
I honestly don't know what his home life is like with his mother. I know that she has issues with being able to control him and has been at her wits end several times where she has called my SO to help. I believe she has her own serious issues with some form of manic-depressive disorder but I have only seen her in situations where she is dealing with my SO and they have a very bad relationship. She will have absolutely nothing to do with me so I can't ask her. If I had to guess I would say that this little guy is dumped on babysitters alot and his older brother is asked to deal with him most of the time but that comes from bits and pieces of what the boys say when they are here. I know that my SO is very good at keeping a routine and doesn't tolerate alot of his behavior, yet his punishments are rarely followed through and half the time they do no good because, as I said before, he really doesn't care what we do to him..or take away..etc. I will say that my SO has some pretty serious impulse control issues himself to this day (which started when he was younger with torturing animals and his younger brother)and to him it's just not really that big a deal..what he does..or what his son does. He thinks it's normal and he will grow out of it. I, on the other hand, have serious issues with a child who can look at a 4 week old kitten and think "it'd be cool to dunk that thing in the toilet and watch it struggle"..or who will go to a pumpkin patch and put his foot through the pumpkins.."why?!".. "because I felt like it"..ugh! All of our other children are caring individuals (his older son included) who would never wish harm on another living creature. I'm a paramedic and I spend my time helping others. None of us can understand their way of thinking.
Are there any good books out that I could leave lying around maybe? Should we be bothering to punish him or is positive reinforcement the only way? How do I handle it when he is walking around behind my 5 year old copying every move and noise he makes simply because he knows it will make my son cry? For the most part I stay in the background. I never discipline him unless he is in danger of hurting someone else.. but I'm not sure how to help and I don't want to pretend it's not happening. Any suggestions are welcomed more than you know..even the non-sugar coated kind!
Thanks again!


Active Member
I'm going to give you the same general information we would give any parent coming through here. Truthfully you can't make any of this happen but it will give you an idea of how far you are now from what ideally should happen for a child like this.

We suggest that every child showing signs of issues like this have a multidisciplinary evaluation at a facility like a university clinic or Children's Hospital. This would need to be arranged by referal through the child's pediatrician. Typically if a parent were to approach their pediatrician with concerns about a child with this profile they would be referred to a child psychiatrist and/or child psychiatrist but we highly recommend getting "the works" done in the form of an outpatient evaluation that covers a number of developmental areas. Again, I know you're not in a position to make this happen but for future knowledge this would be the best route to go to get at the bottom of what could be going on here. Kids who continue down this path very often find themselves in a psychiatrist's or counselor's office somewhere along the way.

If he is having meltdowns and tantrums, there is a book that has helped many of us called "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. It shows us how to change our parenting style to be more successful with a kid who overreacts to authority. It almost sounds though as if he doesn't overreact to authority but more like he doesn't acknowledge it at all. Is that more accurate?

If I were in your shoes I would seriously want to know what is going on with both father and son, if indeed it's the same thing. Most of the disorders that bring parents here have a strong genetic component so I would strongly suggest doing some research to see if you can get some grasp on what that might be. This could be difficult because many of the disorders have overlapping symptoms but it would be worth trying. I would take seriously because although things sound like for the most part they are going well except for this child, circumstances do change and it's not uncommon to be faced with things like having the difficult child come to live with the dad because mom can no longer handle them. You need to know what you are dealing with because it could have some very serious implications down the road for you and your children. Giving the okay on torturing animals isn't exactly what most of us consider typical, acceptable thinking so it sounds like there might be some unusual processing going on there.

The kind of impulsivity that you are describing often gets an initial diagnosis of ADHD Impulsive type along with Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Frequently parents find that's not the whole picture. I'm going to give you links for two disorders--Higher functioning Autism and Bipolar (formerly called manic depressive)--that often slip under the radar and look like bad behavioral problems in kids.



New Member
Short and simple questions for your SO:
What are his goals for his son?
What does he hope his future looks like?
Is the child developing the skills (problem solving, getting along with others, conflict resolution) that will help him to reach these goals?
Finally, what can he (the dad) do to help him develop these skills?


New Member
I think you have got some good ideas, another thought is to reward time that he isn't doing these things. You can even set up situations where he can't fail to get along well with you 5 yo for example and then reward the behavior. Maybe play dough is exciting for him and he could play cooperatively with that, maybe it is something else but it would be good to have him see and feel the right behavior. It seems to me that he is an angry little boy, some of which is coming from a chaotic enviorment and some from the unknown condition you need to find out more about. I thing it is great that you are trying to reach out to him and help him and hope your husband gets on board and values your help. Take care of yourself.


Well-Known Member
Has this child ever been evaluated? It won't get better if it's not treated, whatever it is. And it could be a big factor in the life of your five year old. I'd strongly urge him to have him evaluated by a team of experts, called a Multidisciplinary Evaluation. If he stays in denial, think about whether you and your kids can live with this child a big part of your lives.


New Member
dunno how much weight this holds, and whether or not it'd remotely apply to your own situation or not, but my son has a few issues I'm still investigating, but my ex (yes, EX) had a son who was autistic. We were living together for a while, but to be the one in charge of everything and trying to hold down the fort when things were let go too often by his father, was really rough. I was in charge of taking him to the park (along with my own 2), trying to control a hyperactive 4 year old (my own) and one who would randomly run off and start following strangers out into the street, etc., while trying to drag my stroller with my one year old behind me to try to catch him and keep it from tipping at the same time, lol, as well as every other activity (dinner, bedtime, bathtime, cleaning, coloring, etc.... just everything you think of when you think of 2 parents doing it), of course-indoor ones were my favorite... less running room, lol. So not same situation, but same idea roughly.

It was very very very rough, and his father did NOT want to believe there was anything wrong. It wasn't until after we were together for a year and his son was looking at a photo album with him, that he called me in and was pointing at pictures... "who's this?" he'd ask, and his son would say "that's Liz" (me). Then it didn't matter who was in the other pictures, they were all "cousin" to him. Even his own father's picture, he called cousin. This was when he realized he wasn't spending enough time, wasn't involved enough in the situation, and it finally dawned on him that he needed to get him to a pro to have it checked out.

Well, though the realization came through, better routine was set up in the house by him, but that's all that happened... he was still never home, and when he was, was pre-occupied with all kinds of stuff never spending one-on-one with his son.

I finally had to leave due to violent behaviors (by the father), so we moved... but before I left, I managed to find his doctor's number and set up an appointment. Turned out he had severe autism... sadly, from my knowledge, still nothing is being done-the parents just can carry around a card now that says that he is, but as far as one on one, this kid needs a lot more :frown:

...and last I heard, him bullying other children, taking toys, and everything has escalated, being condoned and approved by both parents 'cuz if he does it they just say "he's autistic" and expect other parents to understand without a problem, so he's not even getting one on one when working on discipline. His verbal has also worsened since :frown:

I wish you much luck in your situation, and not meaning to be a downer at all on the subject at hand... but in my situation, there was no other way.


New Member
Has this child ever been tested for ODD? My five year old was a lot like you described. I thought he was ADHD but when I took him to the phsyciatrist, they said that it was ODD. Once I started researching it on the internet i realized he fit it perfectly. After 10 months of trying everthing, the doctor put him on Risperadol. What a difference it made. He is a calm, well behaved little boy. He used to be destructive, torture people, throw things to actually hit people, break things on purpose. He also used to pee on things, his bed, my bed, just to see what would happen. We tried taking his toys away, spanking, grounding but he just laughed at his dad and me. The medication is wonderful and he has had no side effects. He has been on it almost one month. It was getting to the point where I didnt even like my own son but he is now so lovable, well mannered. I actually had to ask myself "where's MY son"because the change in him was so dramatic. I don't like to think that medications for a 5 yr old are ok but when it made that much of a difference in my life and my sons life I must say it is well worth it. Good luck, charlene