Don't know what to do next with out of control 5 year old.

fun fam

New Member
I don't know what do with my 5-year-old son. I wrote on the early childhood boards awhile ago but now I will write here. I will give a brief background; was born as a healthy almost 8 lb baby. No birth complications. He was pretty normal until 18 months old when he started waking up many times a night, screaming his head off and inconsolable for 20-30 min each time. (many times a night, every single night, he hardly slept) pediatrician said it was a phase. We co-slept with him and would rub his back throughout the night to calm him and this helped him fall asleep, but still the middle of the night fits continued daily. His behavior started going down the tubes. He was constantly tired and angry, throwing 1-2 hr long screaming tantrums several times a day. Finally at age 3 we did a sleep study, found out he had bad sleep apnea, and removed his tonsils. Immediately he began SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT and the constant night terrors stopped. It felt like a miracle. We could not believe it. For awhile his behavior got better and better and we thought he was finally going to be a normal, happy child. Unfortunately, in the last year, his behavior has taken a huge turn for the worse.

As for our family---I am a stay at home mom and my husband is a very loving, patient, and supportive husband and father. We have 4 children and our other three kids are as normal and sweet and easy as can be. We have always practiced attachment parenting and co-slept, nursed, baby-wore, etc. We rarely yell and never spank. We are firm, and inappropriate behavior always leads to an immediate time-out. If we say there is going to be a punishment, we always follow-through. We have also always been big on playtime with our kids. M gets lots of love and affection and attention. I'm not saying we are the best parents or perfect. But we do try really hard to do what we think is best. Plenty of people have told me that all M needs is a good "butt whooping" and think attachment parenting is too soft, but I disagree that smacking my son will help with his violence. The amount of patience and self-control is takes to parent my son is exhausting and leaves me feeling drained every night. Anyway, here is my son in a nutshell.

--is very violent with me and husband. Will hit, kick, hair pull and come after us with objects. Destroys things around the house daily on purpose.

--fights EVERYTHING. Fights getting dressed. Fights eating meals. Fights getting into the car, etc. Purposely turns every single thing he needs to do into a fight. We try not to ask much and pick our battles. This morning, he raged for a full 2.5 hrs in his time out room, because he didn't want to get dressed but he wanted to go to a friend's house and couldn't go in pjs. His behavior really matches ODD perfectly.

--very explosive. If his ipad game stops working, he throws it at me because its somehow my fault; its not working. If he steps on a thorn, he screams and then comes after me with sticks because its my fault; he got hurt. He gets violent many times a day. And he doesn't just hit and kick me once or twice, he hits and kicks, and pinches over and over until I can restrain him or get him to his time out room. (we lock it)

--Has some sensory issues. Quite sensitive to tastes and smells and noises. However, many of his fights/meltdowns are not sensory-based. He just likes to fight with me.

--Does not seem to feel remorse after violent rages. He will smile or laugh when I cry from the pain he's inflicted on me.

--he needs A LOT of stimulation, especially social stimulation. I sit and play with him many times a day and its not enough. husband also plays with him when he gets home from work. We also go to the park, library, swimming etc, and provide him many fun things to do. Still, he complains constantly he is BORED. He has no independent play skills. He always wants attention from me. A common scenario is that I play a game with him and then I give him a snack and turn on a TV show and tell him to watch it while I shower. Just 4 min later, he is banging down my shower door, breaking things and screaming that he NEEDS me to play with him because he is already bored. You can give him attention all day and its never ever enough.

--We try to leave the house to do fun stuff, and M loves fun activities, but he always gets angry at some point during them. We have to cut activities short much of the time, because he goes into a rage over something he doesn't like.

--Will unbuckle himself in the car and PEES in defiance in his room. (was fully potty trained at 2.5) What to do about this awful behavior??

--loves animals. We have pet rats and he takes very good care of them. He will take them up to his room to play with them and I peek in on him and he's always very sweet and gentle with them. He's never done anything to hurt them.

--he's VERY social and loves friends. He has very good social skills. He gets invited on many playdates a week and has three close friends. His friend's mom's say he is very well-behaved at their house and is welcome anytime. When he has a friend over at our house, he is much more respectful and cooperative towards me and complains he is bored much less.
---is 100% well-behaved (different child) at gymnastics, swimming, and preschool. (Preschool is 3 days a week, 2 hrs a day)

--he cares about peers. If he sees another child crying on the street, he will run up to them and ask if he can do something to help them and give them a hug.

--10% of the time, he can be sweet and loving to me. He will say I love you and try to be helpful and cooperative and affectionate. This is always fleeting though.

--extremely, genius-level bright. Our older sons are in full-time gifted programs in school. M is a much faster learner than his brothers. At age 5 he is teaching himself multiplication and division.

He has seen 3 child therapists and we are starting with #4 next week. No one seems to know how to help him. I've heard he may have ADHD, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified, Aspergers, Anxiety, Depression, Bi-polar, etc. I have read a ton of books and articles and none of these disorders match him very well or stand out to me. He has "bits" of all of them, but none are a strong fit. The last therapist said that M is an enigma and she had never seen any kid like him in her 10 years of practice. Everyone wants to medicate him. I am at a loss and starting to suffer from depression/anxiety and feel like I'm on the verge of a serious mental breakdown. Every day with him is this crazy-drawn out fight over the littlest things. He violence is out of control and I wake up everyday in fear. Thanks for your help.


Well-Known Member
Hi and welcome.

I recommend taking him to a neuropsychologist or for a detailed evaluation by a group of professionals. Therapists are not trained to test and diagnose.

In the meantime, you may want to purchase "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. It's helpful in the short term, but something is obviously not right and in my opinion t he earlier you find out what it is, the better. These problems do not tend to go away...they tend to get worse with age if not taken care of. Violence can get him into a lot of trouble, however most of our kids do not respond to typical discipline. You need to find out what is "off" and your best bet is a neuropsychologist or multiple team evaluation (usually done at university or children's hospitals). At five you probably won't get the 100% answer, but you will at least be guided in some direction. Right now, you don't have a direction.

This is not your fault and has nothing at all to do with your parenting. Glad you found us, but sorry you had to. Can you give us a detailed background on him and tell us if there are any neurological or mental health issues on either side of his biological family tree?


Well-Known Member
I've heard he may have ADHD, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified, Aspergers, Anxiety, Depression, Bi-polar, etc. I have read a ton of books and articles and none of these disorders match him very well or stand out to me
been there done that. I didn't think any of the labels "fit" my difficult child either... it turns out that I didn't know how to interpret the "symptoms" lists (things I thought were pretty normal, in fact are red-flag symptoms!). I learned much more about the disorders by reading biographies... especially for anything on the autism spectrum (Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified, Asperger's), authors like Temple Grandin and John Elder Robinson provide a window on how these people think.


Welcome, he probably has a combination of diagnosis that are going to take a long time and lots of testing to figure out. A neuropsychologist would be a great idea, but it is not the only testing that needs to be done and you'll probably end up taking him back for more testing as well. My difficult child 1 is the same way. What I've done (to maintain my sanity) is to what you are doing, the time out room. I've also been very blunt about the social consequences of aggressive behavior. Mostly follow what you think is right. It sounds like you are a great mom. Sorry you had to find us.


You sound exhausted and it sounds exhausting and familiar listening to your story.

I'm a newbie but I second the testing neuropsychologist testing all the way.

Also making a note book of symptoms amd things he's done in the past that set off the "not normal" flag for you. Having this notebook written down saves time when changing doctors and when you ask for a referral from the pediatrician to see a neuropsychologist or if you self refer you might have to talk to several different people to find the right doctor so it's always easier to have this stuff listed down. Plus it's easy to get emotional when talking to the doctor and its easy for them to blow off emotion depending on the doctor. Most doctors I've talked to in the past two years wanted to throw medicine at the problem at the same time implying I had munchhousen (sp?) syndrome because " a kid who has no problems in school can't possibly be on the spectrum"

If your kid is on the spectrum spanking isn't really effective anyway. I say this as someone who does believe in spanking and has spanked my difficult child (gift from god, non typical kid) spanking worked for her only on things that were a danger to her, like sparking her hand when she reached for the stove or electrical outlets it never really did work for bad behavior it took a very long time to notice that difference though.

And yes it is exhausting and my kid is only a big handful compared to my other kids I wouldn't really call her a problem child compared to other people's difficult children.

The only thing I would say about anything that you have said at all and this is just my opinion. Your difficult child hits you and you cry about it in front of him, better to be stoic if at all possible I realize how hard that is but giving them emotion tends to backfire. He did it to get the emotion from you, don't give it. Also and you may not agree with this but I don't let my difficult child rage out of control anymore or my nephew who is also a difficult child and a really big boy, I have had to physically restrain both of them until the rage passes because they aren't going to hurt me or break things or hurt other people. Physically restrain ie: bear hug from behind keeping their arms pinned to the side or actually holding difficult child on the floor while she was attacking them did the time out after they realized they weren't going to be allowed to destroy or hurt anyone. You have a leg up in your difficult child is still small and is unfamiliar with any physical consequence to his rage, it might shock him the first few times you do it.

Just my two cent. Boys will get bigger at some point than us and even girls get much stronger, it's a good idea to try to curtail the physical violence if at all possible now.

Also a natural consequence of throwing a 800 dollar piece of equipment is taking it away.

I really do get taking their coping mechanisms iPods computer tv seems to be making more work for yourself and is counter intuitive but you aren't saying they have to be bored you are just showing them a natural consequence at that time for breaking throwing expensive things and disrespecting mom.

Having a list of alternate low tech activities can help. Small crafts, crayon art, painting, sock puppets, rock painting, take a walk with the family, books, color pages, pet time, play with the animal time, making home made treats, help with cooking....
Honest to god sometimes it seems like the less tv or computer time my kid gets the better she behaves.
Having really stern rules about where they can do each activity makes this less hard work for you, only one area to clean up instead of all over the house..

Just my two cent, welcome to the board.


New Member
I have a similar story. My son is 7. I found this site about a year ago. After many recommendations I read The Explosive Child. It's wonderful!! I recently completed a 12-hour course on the method. I know parenting a challenging child can be so exhausting. You are not alone anymore. There is so much support on this site.

Kids do well when they can. He is lacking skills that are making it difficult to behave. He is not manipulative, attention seeking, rude, etc. he wants to be good just as much as you want him to be. He is not behaving this way because you are not consistent, you are too passive, too strict, etc. He is not a brat and you are not a bad patent...don't ever let that get into your head.

Feel free to message me if you would like a copy if the course materials.


Well-Known Member
Keep seeking the right answers. It can be a long and difficult road. Support is here whenever you need it. Hugs DDD


New Member
Hi, my daughter sounds a lot like your son. I really have found a lot of value from the Explosive Child approach and love "kids do well when they can." MY difficult child has made significant improvement with dietary changes. Right now we are gluten (1.5 years) and dairy (3.5 years) free - both of which helped a lot with mood, impulsivity and sensory issues. For the past 2.5 months we have strictly followed the Feingold diet which eliminates food dyes, preservatives (even those hidden in packaging) and foods high in salicylates/phenols (this includes tomatoes, apples, oranges - things my daughter had multiple servings of every day). The results have been stunning. My daughter has gone from weeks (and days) of multiple rages -where she could destroy a room and her eyes looked crazy and she would be focused on breaking and hurting - to today, where I joyfully noted that it has been two full weeks since she has thrown a fit. Previously things like getting into the bath was an hour long ordeal (as was getting OUT of the bath :) ) Today she got in when I told her it was time, and gave herself her bath, and it's been like this "mostly" for over a month and fully for two weeks. I had read similar experiences about FG on various forums, but truly didn't think we would be as successful. My daughter's behavior had gotten scary enough that I had to try it, and now I am so grateful I did. I know it won't help every child, unfortunately, but I am so grateful that we tried it. Please let me know if I can give you any more information. Your wonderful lists of concerns and strengths really could be my daughter's...

All the best.