It’s only natural for parents and sons to conflict now and then, but sometimes it seems it’s more than typical. So what do you do if you think ‘my son is crazy?’ How can you find out if your son is really crazy, or if it’s just you he’s driving crazy?
It’s normal for parents to say their son is crazy during transitional times like growth spurts. However, parents are usually the first to recognize when it’s more than that making their son or daughter act crazy. If this is the case, the best action is to talk with the child’s doctor about it.
As a mom of three sons, I can certainly identify with crazy moments, and thinking-a few times-that one or all of my sons were crazy. As well, in my teacher background I’ve experienced boys particularly acting out in cases when it signified something more than normal.
I’m happy to share my thoughts on this topic and what I learned from my research such as signs for recognizing mental illness or just acting out, as well as tips to help parents either way.
- Recognizing Signs Your Son Is Actually Crazy
- Your Son Acts Crazy, But Isn’t
- Is Your Son Making You Crazy?
- The Takeaway For Your Son Is Crazy
Recognizing Signs Your Son Is Actually Crazy
One book I found helpful parenting a son acting crazy is No Drama Discipline (available for free with an Audible trial membership). While I don’t agree with all of it, and wouldn’t expect you too either, there’s logic in the approach of being responsive rather than reactive. That being said, what are signs that it’s more than your son acting out?
Parents concerned their son has a mental disorder or illness should pay attention to indicators such as unusual or aggressive behavior; changes in their behavior; and extremes. Then bring concerns to their child’s pediatrician or even school counselors for advice and expert opinions.
“Mental health disorders in children are generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, social skills or regulation of emotions.”Mayo Clinic
If your son is struggling at home, school, or other social functions, it may be a sign or symptom of a mental health disorder.
But realize that it’s understandably difficult to identify mental health disorders in children because of the nature of their growth, and because of this, children often exhibit some signs simply due to growth spurts and transitions.
However, there are some signs experts tell us that are more reliable indicators. If you notice any of these, you should talk to your child’s doctor as soon as possible.
- Persistent sadness that lasts several weeks
- Not interacting with others; or refusal to be social
- Fixation on death; suicidal talk; and/or self-harming talk
- Violence or aggression towards others or things
- Changes in personality
- Mood swings
- Changes in sleeping habits (sleeping too much; or insomnia)
- Changes in eating habits
- Noticeable weight loss or gain Frequent
- Signs of anxiety like biting nails; pulling hair; headaches or stomachaches
- Problems at school, or avoidance of school
And let’s go ahead and address the elephant here! For purposes of this article, and being transparent with parent and/or teacher feelings, we’ll use the word ‘crazy’. However, at no time is it acceptable to call your child crazy. You may refer to actions or behavior as crazy, but not people. When crazy is used here, it’s with this in mind!
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Having A Mentally Ill Son
If you discover you have a mentally ill son, it can be extremely daunting. However, you’re not alone.
Parents of sons or daughters with a mental disorder need help for the whole family. While studies tell us 1 in 6 kids from 6 to 17 have a mental disorder, the entire family benefits from treatment. This can include medication, therapy, behavior modifications, and other resources offering hope.
One in six kids between the ages of 6 and 17 have a mental disorder.American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
Some common mental health disorders affection children are anxiety disorders; Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa; depression and other mood disorders; and schizophrenia (which typically presents during the teen and young adult years).
One of our sons is diagnosed with ASD, while another has been treated for other mental disorders. From experience, I can tell you that it affects everyone in the home. And everyone in the home should be versed in how to support the child with the disorder, as well as self-care techniques too.
How To Help Your Son Who’s Mentally Ill
So first, let’s focus on how to help your son who has a mental illness. After all, during times of ‘triage’ it’s the one who’s most affected who gets first treatment.
To properly support a son or daughter who’s mentally ill, parents need to make sure their child has good medical care and follows instructions especially if medication is prescribed. Siblings should be enlisted in expectations and needs, so that everyone’s on the same page, too.
Some suggestions for helping your mentally ill son:
- Researching your child’s diagnosis. And sharing information in kid-appropriate language, particularly necessary for younger children.
- Follow all recommendations, as good as you can, from your child’s doctor. For instance, if your child’s doctor suggests a particular nutrition plan, do what you can to follow it. Often a nutrition plan is good for the whole family, too!
- If your child attends talk therapy, ask the therapist if whole family therapy is recommended. If so, get everyone on board.
- Take care of yourself too. Healthy parents make for good parenting!
- Likewise, spend time with all of your children. It’s easy to focus on the child who’s in distress, but be sure not to ignore other kids or you’ll create sibling rivalry and/or other problems.
How To Help Yourself If Your Son Is Mentally Ill
But beyond helping your child who has a mental illness (which is first priority), you also must help yourself. In truth, the best thing you can do after taking care of your child is to ensure he has healthy parents.
Parents of a child with mental illness often neglect themselves, and their other children. It’s default to focus on the child with a disorder, but it doesn’t help him if his parents aren’t well or his siblings resent his attention. It’s vital parents take care of themselves and the whole family.
So what should parents do for themselves?
- Keep your check-ups.
- Follow a good diet.
- Get enough rest and exercise.
- Have fun- whether that means fitting in time for a hobby or just acting silly.
- Maintain a good sense of humor.
- Have a reliable sounding board. This could be trusted friends, but might even mean talking to your own counselor or therapist on a regular basis.
- Take some time for yourself.
- And take time for your spouse. Too often parents of special-needs children divorce because they didn’t prioritize time for each other. Don’t fall into that trap!
What about your other kids?
- Enjoy a weekly family night, but rotate the options. Don’t just play to what your special-needs child wants or prefers.
- Have family meals- it doesn’t have to be dinner. It could be breakfast if that works better for your family’s schedule.
- Make sure every child feels special. This means you need to take time for everyone, too. And talk about their interests, goals, and simply their day.
- Try not to unintentionally foster rivalries or resentments. This means don’t blame your child for falling behind, or play favorites, for example.
- Let each child have his or her own ‘thing’. This doesn’t mean you’re chauffeuring everyone all over town for classes, lessons, or practices, but it’s okay for each child to have a specialty. For instance, Lexi did horseback and art lessons which required a few practices a week; but two other kids had music lessons at home together. The boys did little league and karate together, and one child was the family techie!
Your Son Acts Crazy, But Isn’t
So what if your son isn’t actually crazy? What if his behavior isn’t a result of mental illness or a disorder? What should you do, then?
It’s developmentally appropriate for your son or daughter to act crazy during transitional periods like growth spurts or changes such as moving from one stage to another. Parents can minimize the crazies by being consistent with family routines, but also responsive to their child during these times.
Let’s look at how this might play out in practical terms with your son at different ages and stages.
When Your 3-Year-Old Son Acts Crazy
What about terrible three-year-old sons who act out and throw tantrums?
Parents of three-year-old crazy sons should refrain from getting emotional when he acts out. For the most part, his behavior is normal. Maintain clear expectations and immediate consequences to get you and your child through this phase. Typically this will be enough. When it’s not, seek expert help.
Some tips for dealing with ‘crazy’ toddlers:
- Make sure routines are followed. Keep consistent eating times; bed times; and so on.
- Don’t push your child’s buttons. Sometimes we inadvertently do things to set off our kids. Pay attention to context and think about what you might be doing to foster the negative actions.
- Be active with your toddler. Don’t sit him in front of the TV for too long. Play together indoors and out.
- Spend quality time too. This might mean going to zoos; library story time; or simply reading together at home.
- When he gets upset or acts out, think about what he’s really after. Usually it’s attention. Then figure out a way to provide the attention he needs, but not reward bad behavior.
- Be clear about the behavior he should do, and reinforce it with positive praise.
- Don’t change the rules on your child. Make sure you set and follow clear expectations.
When Your 7-Year-Old Son Acts Crazy
Likewise, what do you do when your seven-year-old son is crazy acting?
If you think you have a crazy seven-year-old son, it’s probably a lack of discipline and you need to re-assess that. Children at this age have a sense of right and wrong as well as some impulse control, but will test boundaries. Parents should be clear about expectations and follow through.
- Again, reflect on what’s transpired. Are you maintaining consistent routines? Do the routines still fit your lifestyle? If not, make adjustments as needed, and then be consistent.
- Who’s influencing your child? Often 7-year-olds have a social group. Are you supervising this properly?
- What about you and your spouse? Are you taking care of your relationship? Are you being good relationship role models for your son? It might be that you are indirectly demonstrating crazy behavior to your son and he’s just mirroring it back at you.
Your 15-Year-Old Son Acts Crazy
Usually after the terrible toddler years, it’s the teen years that bring us the most turmoil at home. So what do you do if your teen son is acting crazy?
Crazy fifteen-year-old sons can be tricky for parents to get a handle on. Often this is because the parenting work has been lax up til this point and is now manifesting into terrible teen behavior. Regardless, parents should set clear expectations and follow through, no matter how hard it is.
I set the age at fifteen because this is an age that isn’t commonly expected to be the most challenging, but it was for me with my oldest and after talking to some others, it seems more common than thought.
I think one reason for this is because it’s particularly challenging for boys, with a wide range of maturity levels at this age. It’s also difficult in that it’s pre-driving age, yet boys generally feel angst to drive.
So what should moms and dads do? Here’s my best advice: maintain a balance with your son.
- He’s not an adult yet, so don’t give him responsibilities he can’t handle/live up to.
- This also means keeping communication open and spending time together. Many parents of crazy 15-year-olds would rather do anything else, but it’s super important to do this anyway.
- Start planning for the future, together. By focusing long-term, it helps your crazy teen realize ‘the now’ is temporary and this helps with his emotional state.
Is Your Son Making You Crazy?
It’s not unheard of that your son or daughter will call you crazy and think it’s all you, not them.
When your son or daughter calls you crazy, you must put a stop to it immediately. In fact, your kids should not be name-calling you, or anyone. Beyond that, though, check your behavior to make sure you’re not acting erratically or too emotionally. It’s vital that parents model appropriate behavior.
If your son (or daughter) calls you crazy, be clear that that’s not acceptable. And your spouse should too. Parents should be partners in parenting and ensuring kids are always respectful. It also should be clear here that parents are respectful to each other too.
- After this, you should think why is your son or daughter doing this. Usually it’s because the actions have been modeled or reinforced before. If you’ve been lax and allowed name-calling, it’s going to be harder to stop it (the longer it’s been going on). But, you need to do it anyway. Habits take time, so take the time to un-break them too.
- What’s your emotional state? Are you acting crazy? If so, don’t be ashamed, but you must get control over your outbursts. Get help-either from your spouse, friends, or experts.
- It might be that your son’s friends do this. Be vigilant about who’s influencing your child.
- It could even be that other family members are modeling this bad behavior. Are in-laws disrespecting you or your spouse in front of your son? Are your siblings (his aunts and uncles) reinforcing bad behavior? Or cousins bad influences? It may mean distancing from extended family, but YOUR family is worth the sacrifice!
The Takeaway For Your Son Is Crazy
Hopefully, this article has provided you with some insight about dealing with the ‘crazies’ as it pertains to your son. Always seek medical or expert advice when it comes to your child’s health and well-being.
If it turns out it’s not a health issue but normal acting out, try the basics. Focus on clarity; expectations; and follow through, consistently.
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