Does My Four Year Old Need Counseling?

Updated on November 30, 2009
T.F. asks from Austin, TX
4 answers

Hello follow moms I need your advice!
I have three awesome children. My oldest son is 6, my daughter is 4, and my baby boy is 18 months. We are strong christians and very avid parenting book readers. We have always had a very difficult time with my daughter. When she was two we blamed on the "terrible twos, at three we heard sometimes it can get worse. Now, she is about four and half and we are still at our wits end. You never know what you are going to get with her. She talks back, has sudden without notice severe tantrums, and is just very disrespectful. She also has severe seperation anciety when we leave. Our boys are not like this at all. We feel like we have tried everything...(consequences, talking it through, spanking, praying etc etc) I really wonder if she needs to get some professional help or be tested. I also wonder if I am just overreacting and I need to wait it out and see how she does once she gets into kindergarten next year. She goes to preschool two days a week and does wonderful with that. No issues at all with behavior at school. If anyone reading this has any advice for me I would really appreciate it! Geeeezzz parenting has been on of the most humbling, exhausting challenges I have ever taken on.

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answers from Austin on

Hi T.,
I can surely empathize because my daughter had a lot of the same issues. I am an occupational therapist and before my daughter's birth I worked with kids quite a bit and thought I was good with kids! Then I had my daughter and I was totally humbled! I then took the parenting course called Redirecting Children's Behavior at out churcn. It made such a difference for me that I became a parent educator and also work with parents and kids individually. (So I hope and pray there is a silver lining for you as well).

In order to see if some services would benefit your child, I would ask you some questions.
1. Does you daughter seem to have an inflexible other words does she get thrown off if the routine changes (more so than most kids?) and/or does she have a low frustration tolerance? This would indicate a need for a more intensive parenting approach that you can learn through a class, a book and/or a couple of individual sessions.
2. Is she particularly clumsy or particulaly sensitive to textures, food, sounds, etc. Or is she fearful and anxious around activities that involve balance, motor skills, etc.? Does she seem to have difficulty with listening...not necessarily with her ears but with processing the language?
3. Is your daughter one of those kids who needs a ton of autonomy? Has she from day 1 (like my daughter) wanted to be the captain of her own ship? My daughter needed autonomy and freedom like the rest of us need air.
4. Has there been any trauma in her life....does not have to be something huge...but any incident that you have a gut feeling that she has not quite gotten over? Could be something related to her birth. Did she experience a terrible upset over the birth of a sibling, etc?

In any case for most of these issues there are some really effective self-help strategies; for some I might recommend that you take a specific class or read a specific book. For some, she might benefit from some pediatric developmental therapy. Feel free to contact me directly if you like with your answers...I am in Austin as well and could direct you to some resources. One premise of the Redirecting Children's Behavior Course is: "all children's misbehavior is communication of an unmet need". I just want to encourage you that you are wise to seek solutions now (and to decipher the unmet need(s)) so that you can maintain a close and loving relationship with her and so that her self-esteem (and yours) does not suffer.
Blessings to you and your family,

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answers from Austin on

My daughter had her own issues. But, I was terrified there was something wrong and she wouldn't make it at school, etc... Now, she is 5 1/2 and brilliant at school. She just needed to grow up a little. Please be careful with counseling because there are many professionals who will find a problem even when there isn't one. I would recommend family counseling because she is part of the family. Go with your gut and trust.

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answers from Austin on

Your little girl sounds a lot like mine. I've been reading/introducing 'Parenting with Love & Logic.' I even attended 4 sessions held at my son's elementary school. It was awesome & helped me over the hump (I'm a visual learner & do best w/interaction-just reading the book wasn't enough for me). We also increased her preschool days to 5 1/2 days (she goes to kinder next year too) & she is doing great. Our family is much happier! I hope this helps...

M. R.

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answers from Austin on

T., You must be speaking of my 5 year old son! :) When he turned 2 and a half, he became a different human being. His separation anxiety was abnormal for a child his age (he would rage when I would leave him at school). It got to the point that the teachers were expressing their concern. He also had anxiety and would chew his shirt until it was soaking wet (while at school). I did have a baby shortly after he turned 3 and that was most likely a large factor. He still has jealousy issues but adores her most of the time. He had impulse control problems. ...and he is VERY strong willed!!! I had him evaluated for Sensory Integration Disorder, ADHD, you name it. We were seeing a behavioral therapist for a while (she mostly helped me learn how to parent him and understand him). He only met her once, so she could get to know him. The therapy was mostly for me. I have read a million books. I have tried many of the techniques but still struggle. The books make it sound so easy but very often my son doesn't respond to their recommendations. Anyway, he was diagnosed with SPD but a year later, he became bored with Occupational Therapy and would not participate. I just pulled him out. I do feel like a lot of the SPD symptoms are gone now.

Everything is a battle with him, he wants to control every situation. Is your daughter this way? It's a battle to get into the car and it's often a battle trying to leave our destination. He is not flexible but a very affectionate and loving child. So anyway, I would say don't put her in therapy but do keep reading, reading, reading. Like other's have mentioned, take a class. I need to. I do subscribe to Kirk Martin's email news letters. I recommend doing the same. Great information in there. Our pediatrician recently suggested They are here in Austin. I just haven't contacted them yet.

What I have learned from it all is that he is strong willed and we have very different personalities. I was always a pleaser, he is not a pleaser. I am still learning how to allow him to have a little control instead of battling for control all of the time. However, flexibility and not always having control is part of life. Sometimes I just don't allow it. The child is 5 years old and had a massive tantrum tonight because he wanted more ketchup on his plate than what I gave him. Because of this, he chose not to eat dinner. Most people would say, just give him a little more ketchup, pick your battles. However, sometimes I need to show him that he isn't the boss and more ketchup is just wasteful and he was being unreasonable. Anyway, I probably give him a little more control over things in his life than most parents allow. It has helped a lot. I try to always give him choices. Right down to tiny things. He needs his schedule, he needs down time, he needs control. Sometimes when he is out of control, I take him to his room to calm down, and tell him he is not in trouble. I let him know he may come out whenever he is calm and ready. Sometimes it works, sometimes he holds grudges and stays in there for an hour.

He speaks very disrespectfully. I just learned from a book this week that when they do this, show them no attention at all! Just walk away (this is so different than what I normally do...confront, correct and punish). Then, when the time comes that they ask for something (for example: desert that they have after dinner every night, or their evening book) just say, "no, we aren't having that tonight." (in a calm and kind voice). When they ask why, you can explain it is for speaking disrespectfully. The book is How to Have a New Kid by Friday. I have also learned that he is a little socially immature. However, since he turned 5 two months ago, I am seeing big changes. He's more empathetic. He's calling me out on things I do wrong (in a calm voice). He does well at school too. I think the hard thing is, we don't know how to raise these children with strong personalities. If we don't give up on them and do not crush their self-esteems, their strong will should prove to be a strength in their adult lives. Try to stay calm with her and focus on the positive A LOT more than the negative. I have found that when my son is doing something undesirable and I try and correct him, he will push it even more. He loves the negative attention just as much as the positive. If I can just train myself to ignore the negative!!!!! Ahhhh, sounds so much easier than it is. Lastly, try not to worry about what others think. This is so challenging for me because unless people have a child with a strong personality, they cannot begin to understand how complicated it really is to raise them. I know I must be criticized all of the time when he flies of the handle. Oh, one more thing!!! We did some extensive blood work recently and found out that he is severely deficient in B vitamins and has a wheat intolerance. We just started a wheat free diet and he started on prescription B vitamins a few months ago. Could this be the reason I'm seeing the positive changes in him? Who knows. I'm sorry this email is so unorganized and all over the place. Too tired to go back and tweak it. Good luck.

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