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8-Year-Old Acts Inappropriately Toward His Sister


I'm not sure how to handle my 8-year-old son’s recent behavior. He’s been acting inappropriately towards his 5-year-old sister by daring other children to kiss her, which upsets her greatly. When I confront him about it, he lies. We’re a new military family at our first duty station, and my husband just left. My son starts to cry and throw a temper tantrum when the other kids "don’t want to play with him" because he’s being too bossy. I am a young mother of three and very concerned about this.


Being a parent is a tremendous responsibility and having to do it alone while your husband is deployed can be overwhelming. If there are groups of other mothers who find themselves in the same situation, we suggest you consider joining one of them. It will at least help you realize that you are not the only one experiencing these problems, and at most you may learn some strategies that others have used successfully with their children.

Initiate preventive teaching to help your son change his behavior. Preventative teaching involves three simple steps:

  1. Describe what kind of behavior your want.
  2. Give a reason. 
  3. Practice.

If you were to use it to address the "kissing" issue, it may sound something like this:

  1. When you are playing, “kissing games” are not okay. But let's talk about what other games you can play. If someone suggests a kissing game, just say "No, I am not going to play,” and walk away.
  2. If you find other things to play, you will still have fun and not get into trouble when adults hear or see what you are doing. And, you’ll be able to play with those friends more.
  3. Okay, let's say you are over at the neighbors, and someone says, "Hey, let’s chase the girls and kiss them." Show me what you would do and say.

If the behavior continues, use a different parenting skill called “corrective teaching.” There are only four steps, and it’s used to respond to your child's problem behaviors by teaching and practicing acceptable alternatives:

  1. Stop the problem behavior.
  2. Give a consequence.
  3. Describe what you want.
  4. Practice what you want them to do.
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