How Can I Help a Child Who Throws Things?
By Dr. Susan Goldman, Family Psychologist
My son is having behavior problems in school. When other kids bother him, he gets angry and throws things at them, like chairs and pencils. He also calls the teacher names and says he does not like her. Today he got suspended. I don't know what to do. Should I take him out of school?
Some children react to the normal give and take in peer interactions by becoming irritable, and are oversensitive to others' remarks or teasing. However your son's reactions suggest that the situation in the classroom has gotten out of control. There are key steps you might consider in this situation:
1. Improve communication and coordination with the teacher.
It would be helpful to have a better sense of your son's situation in class. His teacher might be able to help clarify his behavioral difficulties in school. Are his responses overreactions to the normal peer give and take? Is he being teased or excessively provoked? Are there interactions that he handles well? Is his behavior connected to cognitive or learning difficulties?
Some children react with general frustration and anger when they have trouble following a lesson or doing homework. A frank discussion with the teacher and other relevant school staff (e.g. school psychologist) can be an important first step in helping him get a handle on his behavioral problems.
If his problems persist, a referral for an evaluation by a qualified mental health professional might be in order.
2. Help your son manage his anger and irritation.
I assume that he knows it's not appropriate to resort to physical violence or throwing objects. He needs help in identifying situations that cause him to feel angry and strategies for handling his feelings. These may include withdrawing to another place, asking the teacher for help or not responding to peers' comments or provocations.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.