Self-Punishing Son


I am very worried about my 4 year old son who punishes himself whenever he thinks he is in trouble. For example: If he breaks a glass, he will say: “I am bad, I am going in time out”. Then he closes himself in his room and stays there. When we go there to talk to him and say that he is not in trouble and he does not need to be in time out, he continues to insist that he should and says that he is bad. My son has always been an excellent child, very easy going. We surround him with love and we always tell him what a good boy he is and how much we love him. My husband and I rarely have to reprimand him. On the other hand, his sister is always in trouble and is always being punished. I became very worried yesterday when my son walked by me and said: “I hate myself”. I tried to ask him what he meant by that but I could not get much out of him. All he said after that was: “Because I am bad” My husband is a Special Ed teacher and he seems to think our son suffers from depression. Can you please help me make some sense out this? Thank you very much.

This Disclaimer applies to the Answer Below
  • Dr. Dombeck responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
  • Dr. Dombeck intends his responses to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; answers should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).
  • Questions submitted to this column are not guaranteed to receive responses.
  • No correspondence takes place.
  • No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by Dr. Dombeck to people submitting questions.
  • Dr. Dombeck, Mental Help Net and CenterSite, LLC make no warranties, express or implied, about the information presented in this column. Dr. Dombeck and Mental Help Net disclaim any and all merchantability or warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or liability in connection with the use or misuse of this service.
  • Always consult with your psychotherapist, physician, or psychiatrist first before changing any aspect of your treatment regimen. Do not stop your medication or change the dose of your medication without first consulting with your physician.

I wish I could help you to make some sense of your son’s behavior – but as I have no background in child psychology – it is not my place. I would strongly suggest that if you are worried about your son’s well being that you arrange for him to be evaluated by a licensed child psychologist in your community. My understanding is that the earlier in life that problems can be caught and properly addressed – the better is the prognosis.

Best of Luck to you,


Dr. Dombeck


More "Ask Dr. Dombeck" View Columnists



Myndfulness App

Designed to Help You Feel Better Daily

Myndfuless App Rating

Download Now For Free

Learn More >