Serious behavior problems in young children

 Q:   My husband and I have had custody of our 6-year-old son (almost 7) for four years.  His biological mother signed over custody rights to avoid paying support.   We have been having behavioral problems with him ever since we have had custody.  Every day when his father comes home from work, I have a list of things to confront him with that our son has done wrong. 

I felt guilty because I felt that I wasn't doing something right but when he started school I realized that it wasn't just me that had this problem. It seems that everyday he has been in trouble either at school or home. When I took him to the doctor for help, he ran tests and told me that there wasn't anything wrong with him and that he was simply mean and lazy. 

And no kind of punishment seems to affect him. He has been caught stealing things, he tears up his other two brothers things, pushes and shoves others, talks out in class, and it seems that no matter what it is or where he is he always has to be first, and he would rather tell a lie than to tell the truth.  He gets up in the middle of the night and eats large amounts of food, and refuses to do anything he is told to do.  

Our 10-year-old son, our oldest, was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit disorder) and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) when he was 3, and his biological father died when he was 4.  He has adjusted very well to having a stepfather and a stepbrother and a half brother. Since I have done well with my oldest son, then why can I not get the same response out of my 6-year-old?  It seems to me that if I can succeed in raising a son with ADHD & ODD to the point to where he is very successful in shool, home, chuch, and society, I should be able to do the same with my 6-year-old.

I have researched everything I can to make sure I have done everything possible to provide the best of care for all my sons, and have applied the same guidlines with all of them.  Anyone knows that with a child who has ADHD & ODD you have to follow a very strict schedule and routine.  We have looked into trying to find a youth development center, and they do not take children under the age of 10.  By then I am afraid that by then he will so much trouble that even a center like this won't be able to help him. 

Can anyone please tell me what I am doing wrong?  I cannot understand why I have as much trouble with my 6-year-old as I do.  Please help me!!!!

A:   First, let’s look at all of the good things that you are doing. Your concern for you son’s well being and desire for him to succeed are very important. Recognizing that routines and schedules are helpful for young children is also a positive step. Discussing your frustrations and concerns about your son’s behaviors is important for you to do so you can vent and also gain ideas from other resources.

There are several options you can look into to help your family cope with this problem. If your older son was diagnosed with ADHD and ODD you may want to look at taking your 6-year-old to see this same physician for an evaluation. The Doctor will be able to determine if medication may help your son’s behaviors. He/She will also be able to recommend whether therapy might be appropriate for your son. There are play therapy techniques that may help your son learn how to express his feelings more appropriately. A therapist may also be able to help you work out a behavior plan with your son’s school. Another option would be to look into parenting classes in your area to learn new behavior modification techniques to deal with difficult behaviors.

Remember that there are many parents who struggle with problems similar to this. Finding the right combination of resources may take awhile but will be well worth it to see your son’s behaviors and interactions with others improve.

For more information, call 402-717-HOPE (4673).