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ADD and Bad Temper

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I have a seven-year-old son in first grade. He has ADD/ADHD with an emphasis on the hyperactivity. He is curently not medicated because of financial reasons. I am very familar with all the symptoms and effects of this disorder. But some of his behaviors don't seem to be related -- according to the research that I have done. I am hoping that maybe you can shed some light on the situation for me.

Since Adam was around the age of two, he has been very agressive and on some occasions even violent. I had him hospitalized at his therapists' suggestion and learned that it was my fault. I have a really hard time with this since my other two children show none of these problems. As time went on and he got older things got worse. We finally brought in a home nurse to help. Finally we had someone to witness his behavior. Bedtime didn't come until about 2 or 3 a.m. and later than that sometimes. We tried everything. Our insurance decided that he no longer needed the home nurse or the therapy and we can't afford it on our own. He still goes to bed at crazy hours after going from stories to singing to yelling. I am tired, so is he.

Even dinner time is a fight. He is obsessed with anything violent and talks about it like he's talking about the weather. He just doesn't seem to understand that it's wrong. At my son's parent teacher conference he was asked what type of books he wants to read when he learns (he is learning disabled and can not read, yet). He replied that he likes books about killing. He choked his cousin and after disciplining him he said "But Mommy, you never told me I couldn't choke people!" What do I do? This is knowledge I never thought I had to teach. Of course he has been told right from wrong, and never to hurt others. Do I need to sit him down and tell him in detail what constitutes hurting others? What am I doing wrong? Am I just a bad mom? Please help me to help him!!! I love him, and feel that he is a good boy who needs extra attention. He is very cuddly and loving. But his hot temper scares me. Am I alone? PLEASE...... any advice is better then none!

A: It sounds like you have been overwhelmed with this situation for a long time. There are so many points I'd like to respond to but this is not the appropriate forum for it. I would, however, like to comment on several questions you raised.

First, I don't know what medical or mental health professional would have ever told you that you were responsible for your son's emotional difficulties. YOU ARE NOT!!! There are usually so many complex factors that cause behaviors and learning problems that it takes considerable professional skills and patience to discover them and treat them successfully. Right now you're saying the insurance company won't pay for any treatment or medication. I am sure you feel left out in the cold by this decision; it certainly appears your son and your family are in need of continuing professional support and counseling. Please try to find a sympathetic therapist who has worked with children like your son and see if she will work out a sliding fee scale with you based on what you can afford; every therapist I know makes such arrangements with a certain percentage of his clients, especially with what the insurance companies will pay for these days.

As to the violence, unfortunately many kids, mostly boys, become rather fixated on violence at some point in their youth. I would not be overly concerned about this fascination(it's hard to escape the media violence all around our kids) but I would definitely be concerned if he willfully tries to physically harm anyone. This boy could be so frustrated with how little control he has had and currently has over making his life a happy one and one that doesn't cause him and his family problems that the power behind violence may appeal to him-- he can feel able to change things through the power of force.

You have and are trying your best to love and nurture this little guy, and raise two other kids. That's a huge task! You deserve enormous credit for your accomplishments up to this date. But Amanda, you cannot do this alone, it's too much for one person. If nothing else, you need a support system. Try CHADD's #800 and talk to them about your situation; this organization is the most powerful, parent organization in the country advocating for kids with ADD and their parents. Their number is 1-800-233-4050.

Take heart. I bet your search for a good, understanding therapist will turn up an arrangement you can afford. Maybe you could start that search with the Social Work Department of a nearby children's hospital. Good luck. You really are being a champion for your son.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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