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Extreme Violence in Six-Year-Old

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

Q: I am very concerned about my 6 year old. He will be 7 next week, and is starting the first grade. I am not worried about how he will do in school because last year he did great. I am concerned that maybe something is wrong with him. He seems to have no conscience, and he has been hurting his younger (2) brother and yesterday he hit his baby brother (7 weeks) when the baby was sleeping. He has shown signs of behavioral problems like urinating in his room and he just does not listen to anything. I asked him why he hit the baby and he stated "because I like to be mean" and I said "You like to be mean?" and he said "Yes, God made me that way." I am worried and very frantic that he may have something very wrong with him, I don't want him to end up a Charlie Manson or the likes, but do not know what to do, please help. He also has hurt animals before, and just acts weird.

A: You have reason to be concerned. I will not sugarcoat my opinion. Your 7 year-old son needs professional help immediately. His actions suggest great inner torment, confusion, a lack of impulse control and most disturbingly, a lack of conscience. The fact that he would purposely hurt his sleeping, defenseless 7 week-old brother is rather terrifying. If this were an isolated act, one might begin to think of sibling jealousy, due to all the attention the baby is receiving. But he has also purposely, repeatedly hurt his 2 year-old brother as well as animals. He is, after all, 7 years old and at an age and stage where his conscience should be fully developed.

I am further disturbed that he told you very matter-of-factly that he hit the baby "because I like to be mean" and that "yes, God made me this way." These statements of "fact", according to his sense of reality, indicate that he believes that he has no control of his violent behavior...this is who he is and how he will remain. The fact that he ascribes his meanness to God making him this way takes away any responsibility he has for these acts of cruelty and violence.

You need to network within your area mental health system to identify therapists who have worked with kids displaying these behaviors and lack of conscience. Given his reference to God, you may also want to have his therapy include some assistance from the clergy. These behaviors are not manifested in ADD/ADHD. Your therapist(s) should definitely factor in family dynamics when they treat him. Please get him into treatment as soon as you can and do not allow him to be alone with either of his siblings or animals. At this point, he cannot be trusted to control his rage and violent actions toward them. I will be holding a good thought for you all.

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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.


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