Child's morbid responses are worrying his parents

Parent Q&A

August 02, 1998|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Q.Our son, who is almost 6, is healthy, beautiful, smart and loved. He is basically a well-behaved child. However, when we occasionally must correct him or discipline him for minor things, he will say things like, "You should just kill me" or "I should be dead" or "Just shoot me, Mom."

Why does he say such things? His references to killing, shooting and death concern me. We always assure him verbally and physically that we love him, that he is a good boy and that we would never want him gone from us.

Is this serious or something he'll outgrow?

A. I can see why you are worried. Our violent world worries all of us - children, too. They hear such statements all the time in the media. They are bound to repeat them when they want a reaction from adults.

However, your son's statements may reflect a child who is either depressed or has a poor self-image. I can't tell from what you have written. A well-behaved child may be suppressing a lot of anger and rebellion, or he may be pushing himself very hard to please you. When it doesn't work, he blames himself and has to fall back into these frightening responses.

I can't tell you from here whether it's serious or not, and I am concerned, as you are. Can you find someone who understands children this age who could evaluate him? It would reassure you, and him, if you could understand how serious these statements are.

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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