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Poor Behaviour in 6 year old. Becoming unmanageable.

(18 Posts)
PavlovtheCat Fri 04-Dec-15 10:12:37

DS turned 6 last week.

His behaviour for a while has been increasingly disruptive but not constant. However, over the last couple of weeks to a month, it's been particularly difficult.

He wakes up hungry. And probably tired as he won't sleep (more about this later). But, he won't eat his breakfast. It's too hot, too cold, he is cold, but won't put anything on (likes to wear just pants in bed, but that's changing as it gets colder). His toast is too dark, too light, he doesn't want butter, he wants butter but the peanut butter is already on, he needs toast to dip in his porridge, he needs the lego figure from the car before he can eat. Needs to sit on my lap etc etc. Basically, there is some issue stopping him from eating. Always. He screams, shouts, won't ask for anything nicely, gets in a state. Eventually, he will eat, normally after about an hour, and apologises, and is happy again.

Then it's time for getting dressed. The same. socks ruffled, won't put them on himself, larks about, picks on his sister, runs around chasing her, laughing, or screaming/crying. it can take almost 2 hours of battling to get him ready to leave for school. The process causes high tension, DD aged 9 is getting very upset with being picked on, with the shouting, and not really getting enough attention, it's all bout DS. Once he is ready, he is normally ok again, and he calms down, says sorry, and is happy again. Until we need him to do something else within a time limit that's not his.

Evenings are the same. Hungry as soon as he gets out of school. Fed immediately, or else he refuses to eat his dinner. But, even at dinner time it's a constant battle (that's gone on for much longer than a month though). Won't eat vegetables, kicks off if anything even touches his plate that he doesn't like, refuses to try new things, has to have a certain cup (but which changes each day so we can't give him a set cup). Meal times are also stressful.

Bedtime. Well, where do I start? This will turn in to an essay now, but much of the same, refusal to go to bed, refusal to pick a book, the lamp has to be on just so, in certain direction, he needs a certain toy in bed with him (again it changes, so we can't pre-empt it). He is definitely tired, as he won't go to bed properly (we have a routine, but it's difficult to follow it atm).

We are happy to put in place structures to help his little 'quirks' but we can't pre-empt them. he has an idea that he wants something just so, and right now, and if/when it's not exactly so, it all goes to shit for him. And it means we either say no, and refuse, and then it gets worse and worse and worse, until he is a massive ball of snot, anger, upset, potentially has kicked his dad, sent to his room, and me/DH are frought and stressed and DD is crying too, or, we try to appease him, but it's never enough, and feels like we are just giving in to him constantly, which we don't want to do.

He has also reverted to baby talk, baby actions like refusing to get dressed, laying on his back with legs in the air telling us to dress him. he is making demands, not requests ('get me xyz now') and he is hitting, punching, lashing out in anger, particularly at daddy.

So, apologies for the length of this. DH and I need some help in managing his behaviour so that we can get the balance of accepting that he may need structure, some specific things happening to keep him calm and content/safe but not letting him get what he wants all the time by being so shout and rude. We need some help to find a different way of helping him through this as we are stressed, find ourselves bracing ourselves and planning for the inevitable battles, and it's wearing us down. It's also affecting DD who is also bracing herself for meltdowns, is becoming increasingly unhappy at the attention DS is getting, at the what she thinks is bullying (and she's probably right, he's quite mean to her much of the time).

Our home doesn't seem very happy at the moment and we need help to change this.

Any advice, experiences, guidance on websites or groups or books that might help us understand what is happening for him, and for us and how to help will be great.

(oh, his behaviour at school is impeccable, although he has a reputation for being a bit of a joker, which he is at home too, but to the point that it stops being funny, not at school though).

PavlovtheCat Fri 04-Dec-15 10:16:17

It's sort of like 'something' stops him from eating his food, or going to bed, or getting dressed. He acts like he doesn't hear or makes up so many reasons for not being able to do the things he has been asked. Once he has done those things, or even started, he calms right down. Like, breakfast. As soon as he has taken that mouthful, it's like whatever was in the way has gone, and he is all ok again, to the point of recognising that his behaviour is not ok and apologising, without prompting, really meaning it.

PavlovtheCat Fri 04-Dec-15 12:00:03


flanjabelle Fri 04-Dec-15 12:08:42

It sounds to me like he is desperately looking for your attention. In your shoes I would schedule out some special time for you together where you can really focus on him. Being babyish is trying to get you to exhibit a caring response. In all these examples his behaviour is trying to keep your attention on him, and its working even if at some points it is negative attention.

He really is crying out for some one to one time, and I would give it to him. Find something to do together where you really focus on him. Also try to integrate some special time each day where you connect and spend time talking.

Also this is a long term with school, I would expect him to be tired and quite needy at the minute.

Look into love bombing, it might help on your special day together.

lljkk Fri 04-Dec-15 12:15:12

How much 1 to 1 time does he get?

What happens if you bribe him with a small chocolate to put socks on/ eat breakfast/ etc.?

Artandco Fri 04-Dec-15 12:16:49

I would try and let him do stuff more himself.

So breakfast - if he wants toast, let him stand on stool and out in toaster himself, then add whatever he wants on top. No discussion. He chooses, and makes, he's more likely to eat first choice

At bedtime - more self choice. I would say 'ok I'm just going to the toilet ( something he presumably lets you do and 5 mins you can just hide in toilet ), in the meantime you can get your room how you like it for bed. When your ready get into bed with a book of your choice and I will come and read to you'. That way he gets himself in whatever pjs he decides, and can choose how he wants lights/ teddies etc. tell him he has to have that sorted before getting into bed for story as can't keep changing

I would also get clothes on first before breakfast, means he can get up and dressed without leaving room. It's more effort to go back to bedroom after a meal, and plus he will be warmer at breakfast time then.

ImperialBlether Fri 04-Dec-15 12:27:18

I'd ask the GP whether he could have his blood sugar levels tested to start things off. I know that wouldn't explain some of his behaviour, but it would certainly explain his foul mood when he's hungry.

ButEmilylovedhim Fri 04-Dec-15 12:46:44

I don't have experience myself and in no way trying to diagnose but have you considered talking to the GP and maybe getting a referral to a paedetrician? Could he have sensory issues or very anxious and therefore controlling things to the nth degree? Or maybe even low blood sugar as things are so much better after some food? I would see my GP if this was my child OP.

PhilPhilConnors Fri 04-Dec-15 13:16:28

Agree with others saying to take him to the gp, there could be a physical reason.

He sounds very similar to my son. He was always a handful, but things really kicked off when he was 6.
He is 10 now and has been diagnosed with high functioning autism and PDA (pathological demand avoidance).
I'm not saying this is your ds, there's no way anyone can diagnose over the internet, but 4 years ago I was so grateful that others told me about HFA and PDA. Without it we would still be struggling and wondering what was going on.
I'm on my phone so can't link to anything at the moment, but if you google PDA it's worth having a look at the PDA resource and PDA society. It is anxiety led, but although anxiety is huge, it can be hard to spot.
The Explosive Child is a very good book. Whether your ds has SN or not, it is a different, but very effective way to parent and teaches the child, and the parents techniques when the child doesn't respond to "do this because I say so!" type if parenting.

ClashOfUsernames Sat 05-Dec-15 00:46:18

I also thought anxiety or HFA, sorry. I second third? Going to the gp.

PavlovtheCat Sat 05-Dec-15 10:14:48

sorry for disappearing, been hugely busy since I posted! Thank you for some fantastic suggestions, and some things for us to think about, which I have been talking over with DH since I read the posts yesterday briefly. I will reply later properly when I am not sneaking on instead of getting ready to go out!

PavlovtheCat Sat 05-Dec-15 19:33:34

So I have had a read of Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) and wow, that's my boy in so many ways. And it fits with the intense feeling I always get that it's not just him 'playing up' or 'testing boundaries' but something very real going on for him.

The biggest thing that my DH feels doesn't fit is that, at school, and with anyone at all other than us, he isn't just 'passive' as described is common with children who have PDA, but he engages well. He loves school, absolutely loves it, always wants to go, enjoys learning and is coming on leaps and bounds with reading, maths etc. His handwriting is not great and he has only just started wanting to write, so it's messy but his teachers feel this is not unusual for a boy his age. His behaviour is always great, never been in trouble, often gets awards/certificates etc for good behaviour. He has good friends, is popular, so the social thing is more than superficial. Or, maybe we have misunderstood the wording.

But, many many aspects of the signs and traits match his, imagination, fixation on things, refusal to do things to the point of deliberately creating subterfuge, rendering himself incapable. The 'jakyll and Hyde' definitely fits, as when he is ok, he is wonderful, happy, lovely, charming is definitely a word to describe him.

I am going to buy the book Explosive Child as you have recommended philphil, as you said, whatever there is happening for DS, new techniques will be helpful, always happy to think outside the box and parent for the specific child, not just as we think we have to for both children.

Today has been a much better day, as I said, I read last night, but only quickly and didn't post, but it did mean some discussion with DH and we have tried to pre-empt some things today. No school, so breakfast we less stressful, it seems to be when there is any time pressure that he has big problems. Although food itself is a big deal for him, not sure how much is fussiness and how much is some sort of controlling behaviour. So this evening, to give him and us a break from the fights, we had a meal we know he loves. He was given a 10 min, then 5 min count down to prepare him for dinner being ready. This worked well. Didn't put any knives/forks etc down that he might not like, and gave him his favourite water bootle. He loved his food, ate seconds, no fighting at all. I rewarded the change with letting him finish the min craft youtube video he was watching before dinner. He also had some bath time with daddy and it meant some one to one, we made an effort to give him lots of love and had a 'family hug' and agreed to have lots of fun today. And we did.

Basically tried to pre-empt the tantrums with reducing the things he might be cross about. Not giving in to demands from him, but not creating too many opportunities for him to meltdown. Quiet evening, ready for bed in a few minutes, giving him a 10 and 5 min countdown to prepare him.

Also. He has a bug! Which I suspected, but he keeps saying he feels fine. He has been dosed all day and I think this has helped a LOT.

PhilPhilConnors Sat 05-Dec-15 20:58:11

We struggled to get ds a diagnosis originally, because he was so "normal" in school, engaging, cheeky, doing everything his peers did.
At home we've noted that he doesn't use facial expressions as much (actually he doesn't in school, but he does enough to fly under the radar), doesn't use many gestures etc.
At school he is acting very well, with a few slip ups which are seen as naughtiness.
At home he can't keep up the level of effort so often goes to pieces. He does enjoy school though, and being with others.

I'm reading a book called Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome - My Daughter is not Naughty. The child in the book is more extreme than ds, but I'm finding it really helpful as it explains different levels of demand and how to deal with it differently and different levels of behaviour and what it means.

fusspot66 Sat 05-Dec-15 21:23:10

Dear Pavlova
You could be describing my 5.5 y o DS and 9 y o DD. Recently I spoke to school where he's perfect and was told about Webster Stratton workshops in the teacher's locale,but not in our area, so instead i have bought the book 'The Incredible Years'. I quickly recognised how I'm escalating things. I've already started more ignoring and speaking more clearly to him about my expectations. We've had modest improvement and I haven't even read the whole book. This little boy has always been a refusenik but I'm learning the difference between backing off and ignoring and actually walking on eggshells around him. I'm reassured by this reading and conversations with friends that it is yet another 'difficult age' so I don't feel such a failure.

PavlovtheCat Sat 05-Dec-15 22:47:57

philphil thank you so much for sharing your experiences and for the book recommendations.

How important do you think it is for a diagnosis, or non-diagnosis if it turns out to be not specifically PDA but some more general similar characteristics? (I am suspecting more, the more I think about it, when I look back to different things over the years, from the moment he was born pretty much when he refused to sleep in his moses baskets and cot! grin)

DH is very anti lets not speak to professionals yet, lets work things out ourselves first, it might not even be that, all children have difficult patches, all parents have difficult patches, we may well work through this yet. I do see his point, and certainly we cannot wait for anyone else to be involved anyway, whatever is happening, we need to make some changes, and do some more learning now. But, is it more important that we read up on this and other possible things, learn some techniques, try some things out to see what works and what doesn't, and then further down the line consider external support if we can't do it without intervention, or is it important to access that support now, sooner rather than later, so it doesn't become a longer term problem that we just can't fix and end up unnecessarily more stressed and the home being unhappy?

I am not necessarily one for 'labels' for the sake of them, all children are different and have their own unique 'problems' that need working through, but, if this is something that he will need much more additional support with through the years, then perhaps it would be better for that label, to access the support needed.

And of course, I am not saying that DS does have PDA, or any other ASD or sensory diagnosable problem, but I really do think it's more, much different to 'bad behaviour'. he has always had sensory issues with socks, shirts that rub or itch, doesn't do labels in clothes, doesn't like tight waistbands (prefers elastic to normal 'trouser' bands), is super super touchy with me, always stroked my face as a baby, toddler and now aged 6, he is happiest going to sleep with me stroking my face, when he is tired, he goes straight for my face to stroke, when he is unhappy, has been angry, is poorly, he sort of paws at me in a needing, obsessive way rather than affectionate way if that makes sense, so thought have crossed my mind over the years. But felt, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. But, things can't be fixed so easily with a face stroke any more.

philphil how is your DS's behaviour now, aged 10? Do you feel you and he, your family, have some control over how he can manage the behaviour linked with PDA?

PavlovtheCat Sat 05-Dec-15 22:54:29

ALso, meant to say, we will take him to the docs, to rule out anything physical , sugar levels etc, as food is an issue and often behaviour is fixed, albeit temporarily, with eating, when we can get him to physically put the food in his mouth. And he is often hungry!

DH feels that the food thing is a particular issue that he wants to work through, and I think he is right. Looking over it all, often the issues stem from, or he first gets wound up by being hungry, but refusing to eat. Not sure if it's a control thing, if it's that we have made a big deal out of trying to get him to eat vegetables and try things other than sausages, spaghetti bolognaise, lasagne and peanut butter sandwiches.

fusspot great to know you feel reassured by what you are reading and getting some positive results straight away, even if small steps. I will read that book too, all the ideas for addressing different situations will help hugely.

Thanks all for so much useful information. I admit that I did have a cry today at the prospect that DS might not be 'perfect' and worried that there may be some hidden disability that might stop him from being happy, independent, confident, loved and loving as an adult, but actually, after that cry, I felt much more positive that whatever is happening with him, if we find the right way to parent him uniquely, to set him up with the skills he needs to understand himself and manage his own feelings as he grows, he will still grow to be the person he wants to be.

PhilPhilConnors Sun 06-Dec-15 08:56:27

It sounds like you've got a good attitude about this.
I would read as much as you can, use parenting strategies to see if anything helps and write diaries to show how he responds, and as evidence should you need it in the future!

In some ways now ds is more predictable now as we understand him more, and we can now spot the very subtle signs that not all is well and we're dealing with him better.
In other ways it's more difficult. He goes through more difficult stages when there's too much going on, Christmas is one of them!
Because in school he looks fine, they won't put any strategies into place, which is very frustrating.
We find it easier to get our heads round it because we know he's not being deliberately naughty, even though it looks like he is, but is always reacting to something.

He's still your perfect little boy, nothing will change that thanks

fusspot66 Sun 06-Dec-15 09:07:26

PS Pavlov
It all regressed last night. I put myself to bed at 11 and took him in with me so we all could get some peace.

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