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Does My Child Have a Behaviour Disorder?

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 13 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
Inappropriate Behaviour Behaviour


My son who is 3 seems to have difficulty in behaving when asked to do something, he will refuse point blank by either ignoring what we have asked or just saying no. He will also if unable to get his own way lash out by either hitting or throwing items either at us or a wall. He also seems to be unable to share and play nicely without getting aggressive.

Please could you advise if he has a behaviour disorder of sorts, as my doctors will not comment and say it is his age which I am very doubtful?

(Miss JF, 1 October 2008)


Only a trained professional could diagnose a behaviour disorder in your son, and this could only happen after such a professional observes and interacts with your child as well as hears about his personal history. In a child as young as 3, this may be hard to do given that your son’s personal history is relatively short.

Since your GP has already advised you that your son’s behaviour is age-related, have a think about how hard the 'Terrible Twos' hit your son. When did they did begin? What kind of behaviour did he display during this developmental stage? Can you say for sure when this stage ended? In answering these questions you may well find that your son has only recently started this stage or indeed seems to still be in the middle of an extended version of it.

Parenting a young child who is routinely oppositional and aggressive can be tough, but practise some patience. It may well be that your son is not trying to upset you but is instead trying to assert his own personality and independence. The hitting and throwing may simply be a temper tantrum that he has when he becomes frustrated that he can not express himself, or that you do not understand what it is that he is expressing.

If possible, take note of your son’s behaviour over the next few weeks. Is there a particular cause? Does it occur at a particular time of day or with a particular person? When and why does he resort to hitting and throwing? Think about factors such as hunger, boredom or exhaustion. As you answer these questions you may find a pattern that can give you clues to help curb these behaviours in the future.

But don’t wait to act on limiting your son’s inappropriate behaviour. Try to set up a routine for your son so that he knows what to expect from his day, and when. Offer him limited choices and agree to whatever choice he makes. Begin to discipline him with time outs and/or use a reward chart to encourage good behaviour. Always make sure that you address his behaviour as bad or naughty so that he does not begin to believe that he himself is a bad person.

If you still find that your son’s behaviour is inappropriate, you should return to your GP or look for a second opinion. You may want to consider finding a private counsellor or therapist for your son who can walk you through his specific case and what to do next.

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Hi my grandson is 8 he is bright and very funny this year he has started being defiant. He is totally honest to his detriment.He hates doing his homework - it is "repetitive and boring". 8yr old does not like singing and teacher sees this as a behavioural issue - he receives detention - today he was asked to spell and describe the word stream he spelt it correctly and said that it had to do with TV where they live stream a program he was told that was incorrect (the expected answer was a creek or water way) he told the teacher that it was not wrong. he got detention.I am angry as that is the reason he ignores her or becomes "stubborn" with her - how can we get him around this?He has a big brother who he idolises in year 10 his mother and father are at their wits end as they deal daily with this 15yr oldwho has been diagnosed and medicated Asperger and dyslexic and very bright.8yr old as 'punishment' at home gave up his ipad and all electronics for 1 week (his decision)!
Nana - 13-Jul-17 @ 1:56 PM
hi, my daughter is 9 year old. I have 3 children and none are as challenging as my daughter. She is achieving above and beyond what is expected of her at school and her cognitive ability has always beensurprisingly better than my own however she drives me crazy. She always has issues with friends at school (we have moved schools once already) as she becomes fixated with a particular child who be her best friend no matter how many time she is rejected or bullied or even told in a nice way. she controls our house she is so loud all the time continuously interrupts conversations where these become impossible everyone ends up screaming at each other. she has now decided that she cannot sleep in her own bed and insists on sleeping with me. No matter what we try she stands at the side of the bed repeating her self for up to 5 hours some nights until she gets her own way. sheends up waking the whole house so we have to give in even after attempting sleeping on her bedroom floor in her room in an attempt to calm her. We have tried rewards and punishments and I honestly think she is gonna split our family up or give me a mental health issue. Even as a baby she was so strong willed im wondering if there could be more to this . help!!! end of my tether!!!!
ta - 5-Sep-15 @ 11:10 PM
@caz. That must be really hard work...hope you manage to find some support.
KidsBehaviour - 2-Sep-14 @ 11:46 AM
hi I have got a 2 year old son and is behaviour is so bed he is physically abusive, refuses to do as heis told he keeps beating is brothersHe seems to get a real kick out of doing it. He finds it very funnyI'm worried that he has behaviour problemshe's just started school and they can not get im to sit still he is still to young to have test dun for adhdsome times I can not what for im to go to bed
caz - 1-Sep-14 @ 8:20 PM
@AnneDos. Has your daughter's school offered any help? They should be able to put you in contact with someone who can help and get to the root of the problem whether that be a counsellor, psychologist, welfare officers, doctor etc. It's a terrible thing to have to try and resolve on your own, so be sure to find someone there who will listen and point you in the direction of some help. Best of luck and let us know how you get on.
KidsBehaviour - 8-Jul-14 @ 2:35 PM
I have a 7 year old girl who's behaviour has detereatred over the last year.She has been through a heck of a lot Inc, a relationship breakdown due to domestic violence from my ex who I left immedtiley which ment moving into a hostel temporally and goin through Court it was an awful ordeal for her she had just setteled into hrr new school. I have managed to keep her in the same school but we have had to move home. Further more after leaving my ex I found out I was pregnant and had a baby girl. We tried to pay as much attention to my eldest as poss and pre paired her for her sister.Unfortunately my eldest behaviour has detereatred more and more.She was top of her class had impeccable manners and was so caring and kind to others.Now she will not listen to anyone she just looks strait through you.She ignores evening you say. She is not violent or aggresive but her school are not happy at all and have asked for me to go in. I'm so upset as she used to be so good I feel I am too blame. I will do what ever it takes to get my girl back but I need you guidance and advice please.
Anne Dos - 6-Jul-14 @ 12:16 PM
My son is now 9 and I thought he was just a bit naughty when he was younger and he would improve as he got older but his behaviour is quite deifferent from my other sons , he doesent do as hes told he will never help tidy his room etc ,,he asks for things in shops constantly and does not take no for an answer he will go on and on at me and become quite aggressive and abusive when cannot have his own way . He doesent play very well with other kids and often causes a fight and is very aggressive with his brothers . He is quite hyper and likes to jump on furniture a lot and finds it hard to just sit still for a long time , he also talks quite a lot and is quite rude sometimes and can be pretty mean to other kids. I love him dearly but he his hard work and can make a simple trip to the shops or park very difficult .
lilly - 1-Oct-13 @ 4:40 PM
my son is 8 and i had to be pulled into school as his friend had a girl in a headlock he walked past and decided to kick her in the head whilst in the head lock, his reaction was he didnt like her???
debi - 15-Feb-13 @ 12:19 AM
my son ids 8 years old and the other day i was pulled into the school because he walked past another boy hitting a girl in his class ans as the other boy had her in a headlock he kicked her in the head, this is because he didn't like her? i do n't know what to do and i am a single parent so dealing with this on my own. I am also confuse because it is out of character for him any advice is welcome thank you
debi - 15-Feb-13 @ 12:09 AM
My 6 year old daughter does not like to do any of the daily routine works like cleaning her teeth, taking bath or doing her homework, she would not go to sleep time 10:30 pm on weekdays, so I have to tell her repeatedly and try to make her sleep by 9 pm.She also has thumb sucking problem which i have been trying to stop for 1 1/2 year now.I have tried everything, rewards, star charts, timeout, nothing works with her.Now she has become very negetive in her thoughts, she says i am not treating her well and i am making her sad if i ask her to do certain routine.She does not like me to tell her to do anything. She does not even like me to tell it is time for bed, school etcShe expects me to use all my manners when i am talking but she refuses to use any of them.In contrast she is very well behaved outside at school, at family friends houses or any public places.She is the best child you could every see in your life, very polite, quiet, very good in following instructions, using manners etc.She is gem of a person. I am in lot of stress, I don't know where i am going wrong.Can you please help me.
nectar - 26-Mar-12 @ 3:31 AM
my son is 5 & i have always thought he has been different than my other 2 boys since the age of 4 ish he liked to run off and i would have to chase him he didnt realise he could getv lost etc since starting school his behaviour has got worse he was unsettled at first like hiding under chairs and tables and came out when ready once settled he was fine until the november he just started hitting,punching,biting kicking etc at school and at home he likes to scratch the face sometimes he just cant control his behaviour he has quiet time at school & at home and a sticker chart & marble jar but seems to give up if he missesa sticker and sometimes when given a consequence he says i dont care i am stuck for things to try do you think he has a behaviour disorder??
kaz - 2-Feb-12 @ 4:31 PM
My son is 5 years old and I'm worried that he has behaviour problems. He can't sit still in class he has to sit on the teachers knee, he shouts out and makes silly noises, he refuses to do as he is told, he will flop on the floor and lye there while the other children walk over him, he does this often. He doesn't socialise with the other children, he is stubern and if he doesn't want to do something he won't. He doesn't listen and he doesn't give eye contact unless asked to. He doesn't sleep very well it can take hours to get him to bed at night.
Sarah - 8-Dec-11 @ 2:50 PM
I've a 3.5yrs old son who like to disturb his friends who sit beside him during class lessons thus his teacher has to put him to sit in a chair of his own while other children sit on the matt. He is also not focusing much and slow in responding questions of teachers. I brought him to see child speacialist and he is not detected as ADHD or autism. How to stop his misbehaviour? and how to make him more focus during lesson?
Annie - 15-Sep-11 @ 7:07 AM
I am a single parent and my 12 year old son is so hateful most of the time there is not a day that goes by where we do not argue, he is clever and intelligent and is very strong willed and wants to do what he wants to do, he shouts at me and has started to tell me to keep my nose out, his attitude is disgusting,he does nothing he is told, answers back at everything . I so dislike him at times and I am getting very depressed and cry a lot as I just dont know what to do.Everything is am argument and I mean everything I am at the end of my tether, At school he is fine in all aspects and gets some good marks Help!
Debs1205 - 8-Aug-11 @ 9:02 PM
Hello. I have a two and half years old son.When he was a year and a half he was speaking few words like my name and his brother name,beside saying mama and papa. Now he doesn't saying any word.Many people told me that he has austim disorder because he doesn't play with others if he is not intrested.But he is going to a school now and his teacher told me that he is playing with others at school.How can I know why he stopped speaking? Please help!
Om Kids - 24-Jun-11 @ 3:27 PM
My boy who has just turned 6 is hurting our puppy deliberately. He seems to get a real kick out of doing it. He finds it very funny. I've told him that it's only a baby and he says he cannot control himself. He is a very intelligent boy, loves reading, and is an adorable son. I'm a single mom and it's just him and I at home. I'm extremely worried as his school put him on a behaviour checklist for bad behaviour but he was taken off it as he improved so much. He's now hurting the wee pup when he thinks I'm not watching. I've punished him and he shows genuine remorse. plz help. I'm gonna make an appointment with is doc but I want an idea of what I'm dealing with.
nic - 1-Jun-11 @ 10:20 AM
My 5 year old daughter who is highly intelligent, communicative and otherwise healthy has become an absolute nightmare to live with. Her behaviour has progressively got worse over the last 18 months so much so I feel like I cant no longer have her in the house. She is defiant over everything is verbally and physically abusive, refuses to do as she is told, talks back and acts like she's an adult and has the right to tell other people what to do. I have been told because of her age she is too young to be assessed for any behavioural problems. In school they say she is a good child and they don't experience problems with her yet the school fail to remember they asked me to come into school as she was rapidly falling behind her whole class for all her subjects. She is also extremely well built for her age and extremely heavy and powerful but not by any means fat she looks slim and the weight is very deceiving. She has two older brothers the eldest being 9 a high achiever mild mannered and always well behaved boy though even he is losing patience with her. Her middle brother is 6 and is showing signs of textbook ASD spectrum or mild form of ADHD he is extremely hyperactive can't explain why he does things and occasionally has temper tantrums to the extreme but these are rare and emotional distress is more regular. I'm at my total wits end and I also have a history of bi-polar which has been under control for some time unmedicated but I can feel she's pushing me to the brink again. Help!
mel - 12-May-11 @ 4:13 PM
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