I No Longer Know How to Deal with My 8-Year-Old’s Bad Attitude and Behavior: Any Advice?

A mom writes in, asking for advice on how best to deal with her 8-year-old son’s bad attitude and behavior. She says he’s obstinate, screams, slams doors, and otherwise behaves in a difficult manner. She says he’s even been stealing.

Clinical psychologist and creative arts therapist Dr. Lori Baudino weighs in with some expert advice for this mom in need.

I No Longer Know How to Deal with My 8-Year-Old's Bad Attitude and Behavior: Any Advice?

A Mamas Uncut Facebook fan asks:

“I cannot handle my 8-year-olds attitude lately: Advice?

I have an eight-year-old son. I don’t know if he’s getting into that age and hitting early puberty or what, but every day it’s a constant fight and crappy attitude, and before anyone suggests medicine for ADHD, he already takes that…

I tell him to put his shoes on, and it turns into ‘I laid out the wrong socks,’ ‘I’m not doing something fast enough,’ ‘he doesn’t like what I fixed to eat.’ He snatches things away from his little brother, screams in his little sister’s face, slams doors, refuses to do homework, tells lies, and is constantly stealing!!!

I’ve taken away his iPad and toys. No phone (house phone), no tv, no outside time, no stuffed animals in the bed, no extra throw blankets!!!. I have literally stripped his room down to only the clothes in his closet, his bed, and a cover!!!! We are now at the point of coming home, doing homework, eating, and bed. It’s usually chore time after homework while I’m fixing supper, and a shower after eating, but I’ve been making him shower before school just so I can get some peace at night… Maybe that makes me a bad parent, idk. Any advice?”

– Mamas Uncut Community Member

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Advice from Dr. Lori Baudino

I No Longer Know How to Deal with My 8-Year-Old's Bad Attitude and Behavior: Any Advice?

After reading through your question I’ve noticed the focus on two areas you’ve mentioned: 1) compliance and 2) attitude.

Compliance: In order for an individual to follow through on a task, there must be a meaningful connection to it. Imagine if you were asked to carry a bag through an airport but you didn’t know why. You may question and refuse and mistrust any intentions behind the request. 

First, let’s write down a list of what compliance areas are needed. What does he need to get done in the morning and what does he need to do at night? Now, can you checkmark all the things he is doing? 

I read how you’ve “made him” shower in the morning, so that sounds like he is doing it. This is wonderful to hear! He can be acknowledged for all the things he is doing. 

I No Longer Know How to Deal with My 8-Year-Old's Bad Attitude and Behavior: Any Advice?

Think about how you feel when you are recognized. All the effort your son puts in every day with his individualized brain wired to process in its unique way — it may take him a lot of effort to organize each step and maintain a full day of interactions. He deserves credit and you do too, for all the time spent in practicing these interactions and tasks. 

Practice is the keyword, as this is all a process and each day gives another opportunity to learn and try again. 

Attitude: Secondly, you speak about his attitude. I’d love to ask when you last laughed together or everyone in the family joined him in his ideas? I’d recommend you find time to spend together. By repairing your relationship and actually spending quality time with your son (don’t focus on quantitative numbers, such as hours, but instead focusing on just specific time where your son is the leader and you follow his ideas and join his body in movement), he can start to trust you, feel safe, seen and he will act with soothing connection and care. 

I No Longer Know How to Deal with My 8-Year-Old's Bad Attitude and Behavior: Any Advice?

He will find meaning in what is actually meaningful: homework and daily chores are part of your life, but they are certainly not what will be looked back on and remembered for a life of love and connection. He needs to know he has someone and some space on his side. 

Lastly, should he have a unique brain (which we all do) that manages tasks in a dysregulated or disorganized manner or even just differently, he can benefit from learning about his body’s needs and cues. When he learns how to organize his body and integrate his bod and mind to experience the many facets of his daily life, then his attitude can shift to possibilities vs. inadequacies. You may start with breaking down tasks, simplifying transitions, and using multi-level learning tools such as visuals, audio repetition, songs, and more!! I wish him and you all the best! 

[Photos via Envato Elements.]

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