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Attention Seeking Child May Feel Dethroned: Sylvia Rimm on Raising Kids

Q. We have a very bright 7-year-old son who excels in school and is well-liked by his teachers and fellow students. At home, we experience the following: outbursts of strange noises; failure to acknowledge wrongdoing; physical hurtfulness to his brother; defiance and inability to take corrective criticism. When focused on doing something he wants to do, right or wrong, he continues to do so in the midst of being corrected. The list goes on. Any suggestions?

By Sylvia Rimm

Q. We have a very bright 7-year-old son who excels in school and is well-liked by his teachers and fellow students. At home, we experience the following: outbursts of strange noises; failure to acknowledge wrongdoing; physical hurtfulness to his brother; defiance and inability to take corrective criticism. When focused on doing something he wants to do, right or wrong, he continues to do so in the midst of being corrected. The list goes on. Any suggestions?

A. The characteristics you're describing at home sound as if he has a fairly serious problem, but because his school behavior and relationships seem excellent, it's unlikely his problem is quite so worrisome. It may help you to determine how serious your son's problem is by thinking back to him in his earlier childhood before his brother was born. If he was much more positive and had significantly fewer problems in his early years, there's a good chance he has an extreme case of sibling rivalry. I typically describe that as "dethronement."

Dethronement usually occurs when a first child has been the center of attention, very bright and verbal, and has been overempowered by adults. When a child has been attention addicted, and then feels attention deprived, he often appears to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or is simply very attention-seeking. Obviously I can't diagnose your son from a letter, so I'll make a few suggestions that may improve his behavior. If you don't see much improvement, I'd suggest you go to a psychologist for help.

1. Be sure your son gets at least a little one-on-one time with you or his father every day. Also, set up a once a week, special time for a brief excursion.
2. Emphasize your son's positive behavior in school, and let him know how proud you are of his school accomplishments.
3. Tell your son secretly how his younger brother admires him and how important it is to be a role model for him. Arrange a secret signal to notify him that you're noticing his kindness toward his brother.
4. When you talk to other adults within your son's hearing (referential speaking), be sure not to comment about his strange or aggressive behavior.
5. Time him out in his room when he is clearly the culprit in hitting his brother. Separate both boys for 10 minutes if you're not sure who started the battle.
6. Although you may find yourself frustrated with your son's behavior, don't make statements like, "You're impossible" or "I can't handle you." Even when you don't feel in charge, act as if you are. It will cause your son to feel more secure, and he will respect and trust you.

These suggestions are also helpful with normal sibling rivalry, as well as the more extreme variety that you may be describing.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com.
COPYRIGHT 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.



Categories: School-Age, Children,


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