Morning Nightmare


New Member
My 8 yr old son has been diagnosed with a behavior disorder. At times he can be sweet and cooperative, but other times he goes on a rampage, cursing, throwing things, spitting, etc. We are
working with a psychiatrist, mental health case manager, and school.
He is especially bad in the morning when it is time to go to school. He is awake, but refuses to dress, yells, and tells me to shut up everytime I check in. The night before everything is okay. I help him pick out clothes for the next morning, he hugs me goodnight, and goes to bed. When he awakes he is a different person. I have given the choice of dressing at home or in the car. Today I put him in the car and his clothes in his bag. Still was dressed at drop off. Cursing, throwing, spitting the whole time. I waited outside the car in the hopes that he would collect himself and cool off and not obtain the attention he wants. The principal and Sped. teacher came out and helped me. After a long while he finally got dressed and went inside and was fine. These morning episodes are becoming daily and getting worse. His brother is sometimes late to school and if I have a sub job, I will be late. I am afraid this will affect my employment as it already is his brothers.
Nothing I try works. I've stated my expectations, provided incentives, assigned consequences, talked in a straightforward tone and not lectured, etc. This problem just keeps getting worse despite the interventions I have implemented and professional support systems put in place.
Does anyone have advice, suggestions? I'm not looking for a magic bullet, just a different angle to try .


Staff member
Welcome @buttercup

I'm glad that you found us, but I'm sorry you needed to.

It seems like you have taken a lot of steps already to reach out to professionals and the school to put systems in place to help for your son. It's got to be very difficult for you to be seeking out help and making so much effort and your son is still struggling.

I know a lot of parents here found some of Ross Greene's techniques in the book The Explosive Child useful. Here are a few threads about it:

Explosive Child

thoughts on the book "the explosive child"

So I read The Explosive Child...

The Explosive Child

The book What Your Explosive Child Is Trying to Tell You: Discovering the Pathway from Symptoms to Solutions by Dr. Douglas Riley has also been recommended by some of the parents here. Dr. Riley has posted on our forum a few times.

Dr. Riley checking in

New here - What is doing the Riley?

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Welcome Buttercup!

RB gave some good advice. I actually had a student like this last year who was so difficult in the mornings. It was a ton of anxiety but eventually with therapist and school working together he was able to come in fine in the morning. He still had other emotional behavioral needs but he did much better.


Well-Known Member
I'm sensing something about school that is setting him off. Wiped out suggested anxiety, which is high on probability list. He could be bullied. It could be some undiagnosed medical problem that affects school, such as auditory processing disorder, in particular problems with figure ground, which means they have trouble figuring out what to focus on when listening in a "noisy" environment... and classrooms are chock full of constant sound-blocking noise, such as rustling paper, fans running or other heading/cooling sounds, chalk, erasers, whispers. My kid loved learning but hated school. Did super well when working one-on-one in a separate room - of course he did, it was "quiet" and he could hear. This is just one suggestion. There may be other reasons for his anxiety. But I'd be investigating alternative possible sources rather than just accept "behavior problems" as the diagnosis.


Well-Known Member
Doesn't really sound like voluntary and chosen behaviour and because of that incentives, consequences etc. are not likely to work.

If you want a kid jump over the house, it is not likely to happen despite how well you state your expectations, give incentives, prompts and consequences. If it can't be done, it can't be done.

There doesn't seem to be much for your son to gain from thios behaviour and your attempts to change this behaviour with incentives and consequences do not seem to help, so it is quite safe to assume, that this is not something he chooses voluntarily.

If it is not voluntary, to change it, you have to figure out what could cause it. When does it start, could you change those things? Or could you interrupt him getting over the line where there is no control if you could figure out when and how to interrupt the whole thing.

Try to first write out everything that happens during these difficult mornings. Try to make a chart of his mood and behaviour during the morning.For example does he wake up kicking and screaming or does it ramp up through the morning? That way you could possibly find those points where you still can intervene and help him to have a better morning.

Things I would consider:
-How much and how well does he sleep?
-How does he wake up? On his own, with an alarm clock or do you wake him up?
-How is he at the moment he opens his eyes?
-Does he eat anything and at what point? (Blood sugar can be huge issue with moods.)
-Does anything change if something changes? For example with my younger, untroubled kid, I had to wake him up like a toddler for much longer than I think is common. As a toddler he often woke up crying and needed five minutes waking up on my lap in rocking chair with me petting him to start his morning with the right foot. It was around your son's age when I didn't any more need to wake him up by petting his back couple of minutes, while he was slowly waking up to have a good morning. Now at 19 those wake-up light alarm clocks help him to wake up in better mood. Kids are different, just because someone says that in certain age they are supposed to this or that doesn't mean they are able.
-Try to pin-point those key points when things start to get worse and try something different to avoid it.
-Is it a same at weekends or only school days? If not, what is different?

School anxiety can certainly be a factor, but of course often that would also show when trying to get into sleep. How does he feel himself? Why he feels he is so upset at mornings and does he have any ideas how things could get better? Having very calm talks with him about it when he is feeling good, and make sure to mainly listen and not show any judgement, can give you a lot of insight and help you figure out how you could help him.

I have to say that first thing I would give a try, if you haven't yet, would be waking him up half an hour before his waking up time with offering a juice- or milkbox straw to his mouth and then letting him sleep that half an hour before waking him up again.
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Buttercup: My now 16 year old Difficult Child used to have a horrible time getting up & getting to school in elementary school. My solution was earlier & earlier bedtimes (15 min earlier) each day that he couldn't get up.

So, say his bedtime is now 8:30 pm. If he cannot get up reasonably, that night he goes to bed at 8:15 pm. The next day, if he cannot get up reasonably, he goes to bed at 8 pm. Once you find the "right" bedtime, if he maintains getting up reasonably for 4 out of 5 days, you can move his bedtime 15 minutes later.

It gets him more sleep, which most kids with mood disorders need more of. It also puts the pressure back on him to make it work, if he values going to bed later.

Of course, I need to do my part, such as have dinner ready by 5:45 or 6 pm. And I have my child shower before dinner. That way we still have time for chores, homework, & reading before bed.

Good luck!