5 Year Old Behavior-Is It ADHD Or Bipolar Or Both?


Hi, My 5 year old is currently spitting at school out of frustration or anger, hitting adults when in trouble, hiding when corrected, and tearing papers off the wall. He also played in the toilet at school and put toilet paper on the wall. He’s always been a handful. He’s much easier at home. I’m a special ed teacher, so, maybe I’m a little more understanding and structured. We are having him tested next week, but my fear is that he can go a good 2 weeks sometimes with little or no problems at school. Then out of the blue he will have issues. He sleeps great and doesn’t threaten us so I just don’t know what’s going on. He doesn’t have night terrors or think he can fly or anything like that. My question is …If he is ADHD, would he have a stretch of 2 good weeks? It seems like he would always be ADHD, right? Thanks so much!

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Hi Worried Mom,

 First, let me point out that it is good you are having him tested. You seem fearful that the testing could miss something but I doubt that. If you son has ADHD it will come through the testing loud and clear.


Second, I doubt that you are dealing with a Bipolar disorder because you have not mentioned any symptoms that would typify that. Of course, these things cannot be determined via the Internet and that is why the testing is a good idea.

Third, it is entirely possible that you are dealing with an issue of limit setting for you boy. He is only five years old and it might be that he is testing the limits. Without spanking or yelling, he needs to be told, with eye to eye contact, specifically what he is doing that is wrong and why it is wrong. This should be done immediately after the misbehavior. I am using the term “eye to eye” contact to mean that you, the parent need to kneel down on his level and tell him to look directly into your eyes. Then, in very concrete and specific terms, tell him what he did wrong and give the reason. If he does it again, take something away. You can insist on a genuine apology. All of this without hositilities from you, the adult.

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By the way, even if he had ADHD the same applies. ADHD should be no excuse for bad behavior. Yes, it might explain it but not excuse it.

You are a special ed. teacher and you must know that the home environment is also important as it affects child behavior. Parental constant or chronic conflict, drinking, drug abuse, etc, can increase anxiety in children and cause problems. I am not implying that this is true of your home. I have no way of knowing but, am just pointing it out for the sake of being thorough.

Also, make certain that there is nothing at school that could be bothering him, such as someone who is bullying him, or, school work or homework that might bother him. I just heard of a case of a five year old kindergartener who gets homework that the parents pressure him to do. He becomes over-whelmed and cries.  After all, they are only five years old.

Good luck with the testing and with your child.

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