Little girl picks fights with peers

Parent Q&A

October 04, 1998|By T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. | T. Berry Brazelton, M.D.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL FEATURES

Q. My 6 1/2-year-old goddaughter, "Sally," relates to other children in a very contentious manner. She seems to enjoy picking fights with her playmates to get a rise out of them. Often, many of the children end up furious and crying. Sometimes she herself ends up in tears - but this doesn't stop the behavior.

One example: Sally will say the sky is orange. When the other child responds that it is blue, she'll calmly continue to say it's orange until the other child is very upset. Sometimes she'll appear to be very competitive with the other child until it all ends in a fight.

Sally's parents have tried timeouts, and they've tried ignoring the behavior in an attempt to let the children work it out. They've also tried reasoning with her, saying the other children will not want to be her friends as a consequence of her actions. None of this has helped.

How can they get her to relate more positively?

A. It sounds as if Sally's parents are already doing the right things to help her. For a reason I can't understand, Sally seems angry and determined to rouse anger around her. Has she not resolved sibling rivalry? Is she feeling deprived for some reason?

Her parents could make times alone with her, in an effort to understand why she is so angry. But I'll bet they will need an understanding professional to help them uncover the reason for their daughter's unhappiness. I recommend that they find such a person.

Q. I read your recent article about bed-wetters, and it left m with some questions. My son, who just turned 11, is still a bed-wetter. We've been to the pediatrician and have tried various methods to solve this problem, but none have worked. I am at a loss as to what to do next.

Your article did not mention older children who are bed-wetters. My children's father was a bed-wetter until the age of 12. Is this what is happening with my son? Or is there anything else that can be done?

A. I can't really advise you without knowing your son. But I do know that his self-image is at stake, and I would not want him to have any more feelings of failure than he already has. I'm sure it would reassure him to know about his father. Any child this age rwho is a bed-wetter wonders whether he'll ever be able to control himself.

Maybe he has an immature bladder or an immature sleep system that doesn't lend itself to night controls. But I'm only guessing.

There's a clinic at Children's Hospital in Boston where doctors evaluate children suffering from enuresis, or bed-wetting. If getting there is out of the question, I would advise you to take your son to a local children's clinic. It would reassure him to know there are professionals who can help him.

Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Dr. Brazelton regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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