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My son is brilliant, but behaves badly

Published:Monday | March 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Q. My son is four years old; he will be five in November and he is extremely brilliant. He reads the newspaper daily and is aware of what is happening worldwide. He is able to have discussions on issues, even Jamaica signing the IMF agreement. I have to read widely just to keep up with him. He refuses to watch cartoons because they are not fulfilling (in his own words). Instead, he reads or watches National Geographic or Discovery channels. He plays, but only for limited periods of time (his choice). When he gets home from school, he does his homework; he uses grade-three workbooks at home.

My problem is that he is very disruptive at school and at home. He is still in kindergarten because he is not writing properly. His teacher keeps complaining that he does not sit or listen at school. He is always fighting and he argues with his teachers a lot. We live alone and that is the same behaviour he displays at home. He does not listen, and if he does listen, he starts arguing. He says he would not stop shouting because he has a right to express himself freely and I should not slap him because that is child abuse.

I have tried punishing him, but it has little or no impact on him. He would even volunteer to do the punishment. I am frustrated and I do not know how to proceed with this child. Awaiting your advice.

A. It is great that you have a child who is smart academically, but you must be firm and consistent with him with regard to his behaviour. It does not matter how smart he is, he must learn to respect authority at home and outside of the home. I recommend that you get him tested by a psychologist to determine his real ability level. If he is functioning way above his grade level, he may be gifted and talented and may need a special type of education. Some of his rude behaviour may be a part of his frustration. A child psychologist will help you with the behavioural and academic help you need. Please call us at 382-7034 if you need a referral to a psychologist close to you.

Q. My eight-year-old daughter shouts a lot. She gets real frustrated when she is saying something and we do not hear her. Do you think she might be deaf?

A. The best thing to do is to take her to a paediatrician to see if there is anything wrong with her ears. The paediatrician may recommend you to see an audiologist. The audiologist will test her hearing to see if there are any special problems with her hearing.

Q, My husband does not like to travel and I like to go and take the children. The problem is they are eight and four years old and require a lot of attention when travelling. How can I convince him to come with us and have a family vacation?

A. Be frank with your husband and tell him that you need help monitoring the children. If you can, plan some time during the vacation for you both to be together, without the children. This will mean organising baby-sitting before you go. Let him know that you love to have him around you and that it is so much better for the children to have him around when you are on vacation. It will help with family bonding.

Orlean Brown-Earle, PhD, is a child psychologist and family therapist. Dr Brown-Earle works with children with learning and behaviour problems throughout the island and in the Caribbean. Email questions to helpline@gleanerjm.com or send to Ask the Doc, c/o The Gleaner Company, 7 North Street, Kingston.