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Disrespectful and Throwing Tantrums at Eight-Years-Old


Our 8-year old son is a good student and receives rave reviews at school, but at home he's extremely disrespectful and refuses to listen and follow directions. He has always been challenging, but lately he's become very disrespectful and throws tantrums when he doesn't get his way. During these tantrums, he will sometimes hit his sister, me, or the family cat. He also throws toys, slams doors and tears apart his bedroom. His father and I have been trying everything from taking away toys to spankings and timeouts. Last night we removed all the toys from his room, but he laughed at us and said that he would just get more for Christmas. My husband lost it and told him that no one would be giving him any presents and he emailed all of our family and told them to return any presents they bought for our son. I know we have to follow through, but I fear this is going to make for a terrible holiday and even more trouble to come. I fear we've ‘babied’ him too long, and now his behavior is getting completely out of hand. Do you have any advice? Should we take him to a counselor? We're very frustrated and tired of dealing with his outbursts.


Thanks for contacting us for help with your son's behaviors. Tantrums are often a result of a young child's inability to express his feelings of frustration or anger. It is closely connected to his verbal communication development.

When age and development are not the issue, and the tantrums become aggressive, resulting in injury or discomfort to another person, and include hitting, name-calling, yelling and damage to property, it is sometimes advisable to seek professional help. Pediatricians, therapists, counselors and psychologists are appropriate individuals to contact.

The situation you described with your husband losing his cool and deciding that your son would not receive any gifts at Christmas was a decision made out of anger; unfortunately your son was in control of his father's emotions at that point in time.

If your son verbalizes that he is sorry for his behaviors and demonstrates that by being helpful, sensitive and respectful, you may want to consider providing him with a gift to reinforce the change in his behaviors. That gift should be a piece of clothing or something he could use to calm himself when he gets upset such as a journal that he could use to express his anger with words on paper. While your son needs teaching in many areas, learning to control his anger is the most critical issue. At a neutral time when he is calm, talk with him about his out-of-control behaviors and what he should put in their place. Have him spend time practicing calming techniques at neutral times when he is not upset. Give him scenarios that in the past have set him off, but ask that he show you what he can do instead of the out-of-control behaviors he has used in the past.

Good luck and let us know if there is anything else we can do to help.

Helpline Support

Nebraska Family Helpline: The Helpline is a free resource for parents who have concerns and questions about their child's behavior. Call 888-866-8660. Bilingual counselors are available.

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