Parenting Q & A- Aggressive children, Delayed development, Medicating children

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By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist

Edition: October 21, 2007 | Topic: Questions from readers


When my 7-year-old gets upset, he yells and screams, "I hate you" or " I want to kill you." He is not physically aggressive and surprisingly does not try to hit us or his younger brother.

These rages don't bother me, as I think it is better that he uses words to express his feelings rather than lashing out physically. My husband feels we should punish him for the way he speaks to us. Please settle this argument for us.


Words matter. While it's good that your son is not physically aggressive during these angry outbursts, the words he uses are inappropriate and unacceptable. The guideline I suggest to parents is simple. What would happen if your son were to talk like this at school or elsewhere? Most adults would not tolerate being screamed at by a 6-year-old!

The key is not simply to punish your child for using these words, but teach him other ways to express himself when he feels angry. At your son's age, such strategies as walking away, being by himself, doing some type of physical activity, or banging a pillow can all be very appropriate ways for him to express his frustration. Yelling at adults and saying that he wants to kill you is certainly not acceptable.


My 5-year-old daughter was in a serious car accident and spent almost nine months in the hospital for various surgeries.
She has been back home for about three months, but she doesn't act like herself. She seems much more immature and is difficult to discipline. She is not doing well in kindergarten, and is behind her classmates. I've been told that I should just treat her as a normal child but I wonder if my expectations are too high.


In some ways, your child is different from other youngsters. A lengthy hospitalization certainly affected her and may have impacted her social, emotional and cognitive development.

Contact the hospital where your child was treated and ask that a pediatric psychologist evaluate your child. Depending upon the type of accident, a neuropsychological evaluation may also be helpful. Some of this testing may be done by the school. You may also wish to consider retention in kindergarten.


My 10-year-old son was just evaluated by a school psychologist. We were just informed that the test indicated that he has attention problems and needs medication. I am strongly opposed to giving pills to my son. I am very fearful given all that I have read about the serious side effects of these types of drugs.
I don't want to deny my son treatment if that is what he truly needs, but I am skeptical.


There is no test that indicates that a child needs medicine for attention problems. Test results need to be considered with other information in developing an appropriate treatment program. There are many other strategies that teachers and parents have found to be effective in dealing with active children. Until other methods have been tried, I share your concern about medication.

Talk with the psychologist who completed the evaluation and ask for some assistance in developing non-medical treatments for your son's attention problems. There are some situations in which medication is very appropriate. However, I generally do not recommend it as the treatment of choice until other alternatives have been attempted.

Dr. Ramey Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at

©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.


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