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Out-of-Control, Bipolar Pre-Teen


My 12 year-old son has bipolar disorder, is defiant, doesn’t follow rules or directions, gets angry easily and overall has numerous behavioral issues. I have tried rewards and consequences for good and bad behavior. He sees a psychiatrist and counselor regularly but he only seems to bet getting more out of control every day. How can I help him?


Parenting a child who requires extra care makes an already tough job that much more challenging. Children who are diagnosed early on in life with bipolar disorder face many challenges, as does their family.

It can be common for their disorder to change as they do. Changes in the disorder may require adjustments in medication of either type or dosage. We always encourage parents to be completely forthcoming with how the medications are going because it can have such an impact on the child's treatment. Have you recently had him evaluated? Sometimes other types of disorders will co exist with bipolar, which may better explain some of the behaviors he's been displaying.

It can be overwhelming to think that his disorder might be in constant motion and some parents have found it helpful to keep a daily record that includes specific behaviors, eating patterns, medication status and sleeping patterns. Examine the record for patterns that might be developing. 

We encourage you to consider family therapy if you haven't already done so. Sometimes parents caring for a child who needs more attention often put their own needs last. However, it's hard to care for someone else if you're ​not caring for yourself first. Continue with positive and negative consequences consistently to create a stable environment for your son.