5 year old son with behavior problems


New Member
I have a 5 year old son who has been having behavior problems for about 2 years now. I have consulted my pediatrician about ADHD with no response. Today we went for a second opinion and this doctor seemed quite concerned and referred us to a psychiatrist.

I came home and immediately started reading about this disorder and everything I have read so far has listed parents/family life as the cause for this disorder. We have a pretty good family life. My husband and I are very happily married and life in a nice suburban neighborhood. Still, after reading this I am really second guessing and feeling very guilty.

If anyone has any information please respond. I do not know where to start.


New Member
Conduct Disorder and ADHD are not caused by bad parenting. If they were all my kids would have it. Also, terrible parents would give it to their children and that also does not happen. I have a foster kid here who came from a miserable situation and she has no disorders. This is not your fault!


Well-Known Member
Hi, and welcome.

You may read a dozen descriptions of potential diagnoses and see your kid in all of them - and reality may be something else. It is hard to not try to figure this out ourselves. I'm guilty too.

If you believe there is something going on, start a parent report. (I'm not sure where it is on this version of the site) It will help you capture your thoughts, memories, and other documentation. It is very useful when working with doctors and other professionals.

Five is young. Too many doctors are not prepared to even think about a diagnosis for a kid that young - and yet, there are a number of diagnoses that are critical to catch as early as possible.


Staff member
Welcome @ILoveCupcakes.

This is not your fault. From what I have read ADHD is an organic issue that has something to do with brain function. It may also be hereditary. But, even though it may be hereditary, that does not mean than it is anyone's fault. It just happens.

Here are a couple of links that may be helpful for you as you seek out a diagnosis for your son:

The Parent Report that @InsaneCdn suggested.


Tips for a Successful Evaluation


Well-Known Member
It is probably a very common occurrence. ..a wrong diagnosis. Tell us more about him. Then make an appointment with a neuropsyc. They do great, intensive testing. Most mental heallth professionals dont test and wrong diagnoses abound even with adults. Psychiatry is not an exact science or close. You did not cause this. Some people are born with different wiring in their brains. It is old time thinking that parents cause these things. U did not
Test him. See a neuropsychologist.
ADHD cannot be caused by bad parenting, although children from really severely dysfunctional families may act out in ways that resemble ADHD symptoms because they don't know how to handle their emotions. You would think that by now, the information out there would clearly state it is an organic issue, which it is, but a lot of people take the easy way out and blame the parents. It's a lot more work to try to figure out how to treat a brain wiring issue than it is to dump the responsibility back on the parents.

My son has ADHD which he inherited from his dad (my first husband, who also had it) and he had a very good upbringing. He finished college and is doing very well on his own. He's a very smart, caring young man. My oldest stepson is a typical teen and my youngest stepson has bipolar disorder, ADHD, anxiety, along with some narcissistic traits and some Aspie traits. Same parents and upbringing, but they are completely different kids. I would encourage you to really look into this further. Lots of things have overlapping symptoms with ADHD, but have a different cause. Our Difficult Child was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety when he was 5. He was given stimulants and was extremely violent and aggressive for years. Finally, at age 12 he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had a medication change with a huge improvement. While he is still not always easy to live with, he is no longer violent and dangerous. He had a lot of ADHD symptoms even after the medication changes, so we decided to try neurotherapy and it is noticeably reducing his ADHD symptoms and some other undesirable traits, like bedwetting and severe anxiety.


Active Member
What you have read is not true. ADHD is not caused by bad parenting or a chaotic home life. If it were all of our children would be labeled as "difficult children." Some kids are just wired differently from other kids, and it has nothing to do with how you have parented your son. You have nothing to feel guilty about, and I wish people would stop saying whenever a kid struggles that it's because of bad parenting.

See if you can make an appointment with a neuropsychiatrist. Sometimes you have to wait a while to get in, but they do very comprehensive testing and will be able to give you a good idea what is going on. Good luck.


New Member
The doctor yesterday said that it was conduct disorder and I almost fell off my chair. We have thought since he was about three, (and still not sleeping through the night, eating dogfood for the 100th time, and removing his hands from the toilet bowl for the 300th time. Discipline had no affect) that he had ADHD. I have done ALOT of reading about it and he exhibits almost all of the symptoms. He keeps telling me when he does something that he is not supposed to do "my head wants me to do it".

My son has actually been cruel to animals, like throwing his guinea pig down the stairs and wrapping my moms cat in a blanket and trying to strangle it. He has also exhibited sexual behavior with other small children that is not appropriate for his age (we have seen abuse counselors for this and they have not been able to determine that he had ever been abused). The strange thing is, is that the behaviors are very hard to track, he can be great for weeks and the all of a sudden he turns on you. The sexual behaviors ONLY happen in the summer months. My husband and I (grasping at straws) think that maybe it has something to do with riding a bike. He is not overly aggressive with friends, but can be a little with his younger brothers. His main thing is he is SOOOOOO easily frustrated with the simplest tasks.

Over all he is a very good kid, and the good days for the most part outnumber the bad. But the bad ones can get pretty bad. He just throws alot of fits. He has never hit his friends...only siblings. He doesn't lie,...he always tells me the truth... and he does not steal. He loves to cuddle and read books. He loves going to grandmas, and we have alot of family outings. I am torn on whether to see this psychiatrist or not...the doctor says he is obsessed with blood and killing...I don't know if this is normal for five or not, but I do not see obsession...I just see him playing. I don't know weather it is normal or not for a five year old to like guns. He told me he wanted to buy sandals with guts on them. Is this weird or is he a normal active boy. He loves riding bikes and plays great outside with his brothers. The main fits are caused when he can't accomplish a task or his cloths don't look right or feel funny, or his underwear are to tight. Does this sound like conduct disorder??? I know I am rambling but, I am so confused. He was three when he threw the guinea pig. THREE, i don't know if he is supposed to know better at that age or what, and he strangled the cat because he wanted to pet it and it kept running away. FRUSTRATION...ADHD. HELP. He and his brother can play in the bedroom for hours, and I keep checking on them to make sure that they are still alive. But you throw any other children in the mix and it is one fight after another. When we go places alone...HE IS A DIFFERENT CHILD...able to carry on a pleasant conversation and reason with you. Isn't that also typical of ADHD. Do I need a third opinion??? Please help.
Conduct disorder isn't exactly a diagnosis like ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorder, etc. It just means there are serious behavior problems - but it doesn't explain WHY. It's usually used for older children and teens, not 5 year olds. In order to get help for your son, you need to know what's behind this. What sort of doctor gave this diagnosis? He should be diagnosed by a child psychiatrist and also see a neuropsychiatrist to get a better idea of what's going on.

The preoccupation with blood and violent, inappropriate sexuality and low frustration tolerance are often associated with childhood bipolar disorder. Since these behaviors occur more often in the summer, it could be bipolar mania flaring up. It's very unlikely that riding a bike would cause this. For our Difficult Child, he always had flair-ups of strange behavior in the spring and summer - crawling on the floor and barking like a dog in class, making inappropriate sexual comments, increased hyperactivity and giddiness, heightened frustration and irritability. We didn't know what it was, but once he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it was obvious that they were part of a seasonal flair up in hypomania. Eating dogfood and washing hands in the toilet bowl could indicate sensory issues. Sexual acting out and violence against animals could be signs of an attachment disorder. He may have a combination of things. What were the first three years of life like for him? Were they unstable, with family members and caregivers in and out of his life? Is there any family history of mental illness or someone in the family whose always been considered strange or dysfunctional? These may give you clues.

Also, if he is harming animals, they should be rehomed as soon as possible. Other children should be protected, maybe put alarms on doors and security cameras. It's really important to keep other family members and pets safe while you try to figure out how to help your son.


Well-Known Member
To me this sounds a lot like attachment disorder. Did your son have chaotic early years? Cruelty to animals is a serious symptom. Does he pee and poop appropriately? Has he ever done in, say, in a closet or smeared his feces? Does he like matches and fires? A preoccupation with blood and gore is also worrying and sexually odd comments from a child so young indicates he may have been sexually abused. Trust me, we adopted a child like him and he acted nice sometimes too, until he killed our dogs and molested our two younger children and scared them so much that they wouldn't even tell us about it. This is far beyond ADHD.

Since nobody here knows the history of this child it is impossible for us to even guess what is wrong. Conduct Disorder is what it will grow into if it keeps up, but attachment disorder and Conduct Disorder basically mean a child who has no conscience. If he is not adopted or did not go through a contentious divorce in which he may have been neglected or abused, he could have had a birth injury, but your son is heading in a dangerous way.Yes, yes, rehome those poor animals. You don't know what he does when you don't see. I know that first hand. In front of us he acted as if he LOVED the animals. Obviously it was not the case.

If you have babies, keep him away from them at night and be sure you are always in the room with them when he is there. Other than that, get a psychiatrist involved. You don't want things to end up like they did for us. I am assuming our adopted son was like this at his age...we didn't meet him until he was 11, but he told the authorities he'd been abusing others since he was about five years old and that he did not know why he did it (often kids have no memory of their abuse).

Is there more to this that we don't know so we may be able to help more? I believe you have a good family life. I am concerned about his life BEFORE he was with you or, if he has always been with you, if he had birth problems that could have lead to brain damage of some sort that causes this.
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Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
He is very young to be diagnosed with conduct disorder. Usually that is not a diagnosis given to someone so young. It does sound like something more going on than just ADHD.

I agree with more testing being done. With my son, it took a lot of time to get a diagnosis and we began looking early as we knew at a very young age he was differently wired. We started with one psychiatrist and then got very lucky with the second one. He has been a marvelous member of our son's team.

A neuropsychologist exam can also be very helpful. When we ended up with a neuropsychologist exam in addition to his diagnosis from his psychiatrist and talking with his therapist we were able to get an even clearer picture of our son.

I agree with finding new homes for the animals. Sending gentle hugs your way.