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Frustrated Pre-teen Lashes Out at His Sisters

Question:

My 11-year-old son shows little emotion except frustration and anger toward his three younger sisters. He has been this way for a very long time. He also shows little compassion for others. We try to instill positive values but he just doesn't seem to have nice feelings for others. How do we get him to show compassion? We are afraid he’ll grow up to be an angry, selfish adult. It's breaking our hearts and although he's has seen a counselor and we've read many books, we are still seeking help.

Answer:

This sounds like it's been very hard on your family; we're glad that you're reaching out. It's understandable that this would be heartbreaking as a parent, and it sounds like you’ve been taking the right steps to get your son the help he needs.

Depending on what the counselor found, your child may have issues which could be addressed with anger management classes or assertiveness training.

If you feel that this started when your oldest daughter was born, we suggest you speak with your son about this if you haven't already done so. He may be acting out to get attention because to a child, all attention is good, even if it's received for bad behavior. Bad behavior needs to be handled, but once it is, change your focus. Praise your son for the positive behavior you see. Consider taking him to volunteer at homeless shelters to instill a sense of empathy for others. Sometimes actually seeing an unfortunate circumstance will trigger an empathetic response.

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