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Child Behavior


My 4 year old niece has been throwing things or kicking her classmates at daycare since she was 21/2 yrs old. She also started wetting the bed at age 31/2 when her mom moved into a new house. She does not act up when she is with me for the weekend or when she spends days at a time with her grandmother. She actually cries to her daycare teacher when her mother picks her up from daycare, telling her she wants to go to her grandmother’s house and she doesn’t want to go to mommy’s house. The behavior stopped a few months ago but has started again. She lives with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. The day care suggested to her mom to take my niece to a child counselor.  Her mom tookk her twice and decided the counselor was wrong about the solution which was that the child was feeding off the mother’s anger and anxiety.

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My response to your E. Mail is divided into two parts: The first deals with the type of therapist your niece and her mother should see. The second part deals with some speculations about what might be happening to uspet this little girl. However, these speculations are not diagnostic, are guesses and could be wrong. They both need to be seen by a real expert, as I indicated.

1. Your niece is exhibiting symptoms that are troubling for her and everyone who cares for her. However, just what the symptoms point to are difficult to determine.

I agree that your niece needs to be seen by a mental health specialist. However, it is my opinion that the choice of therapist be done with great care. The idea is to find someone with a lot of experience working with children and their families. I am not being critical of the therapist she was taken to see but that therapist acted to quickly in interpreting the girls behavior.

I suggest that she be taken to a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in working with children. The mother must understand that she will be part of the treatment.

2. There are a variety of things that could be upsetting to this youngster.

It is possible that this 4 year old is exhibiting a huge amount of anxiety. Children of such a tender age lack the words or ability to verbally describe what they are feeling and thinking. That is why much of these things are expressed through behaviors. The fact that she was potty trained and then started to wet the bed at more than three years old is a symptom, a way of her trying to say, “something is wrong.” That is true of the kicking and not wanting to go to Mommy’s house.

What could she be anxious about? There are many things: 1. Perhaps she is fearful of Mommy’s boyfriend. She could fear that he will leave them. I assume that her real Daddy is gone. 2. If Mommy and Boyfriend argue a lot she could be reacting to their hostility to one another. 3. Going from Mommy’s house to Daycare to Grandma to your house all may stir lots of anxiety and fear about abandonment, what we call “separation anxiety.”

Please make every effort you can to get this mother and her daughter to see a qualified Child Clinical Psychologist as soon as possible. She is young and the sooner she is helped with whatever it is that is bothering her, the sooner she will feel better. Help now could prevent more serious behavior problems when she gets older.

Good Luck

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