Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Does My Kid Need Therapy?

I was called into school today to have a meeting with the school psychologist to discuss Little Bear's behaviour.  The tiniest little upset can set him off like a firework; screaming, shouting, kicking, hitting and spitting.  It's a pretty regular performance at school, and she was curious to know if he did the same thing at home and, if so, how we handled it.

Six weeks ago I was not handling it.  At all.  I was in despair.  He was throwing fits on a daily basis and i was trying every strategy known to modern and cave-dwelling parents alike.  I tried ignoring the behaviour but that made him worse.  I tried Time Outs but they don't bother him.  I tried smacking him but that just led to escalating tit-for-tat physical conflict.  I tried positive praise but that just enraged him.  I spent nights researching Aspergers and child bipolar disorder trying to figure out what his problem was.  I cried and felt like a terrible mother, not least because I found myself wondering if I still loved him.  I just couldn't understand how a four year old with a loving, attentive family could be so unhappy.  It was breaking my heart. 

But about a month ago there was a shift.  We decided to try a weekend without turning on the computer, so that we would be less distracted and more engaged with the kids.  It was so much fun that it is now a firmly enforced family rule.  Around the same time I also made a conscious decision to give Little Bear more 'colo', which is a wondeful Brazilian word that amounts to cuddling and holding someone like a baby.  Guess what?  In the last four weeks we haven't had a single episode of the same magnitude, at home at least.  He's being utterly adorable and sweet and happy most of the time.

For me, it was case closed.  But today the school psychologist was recommending we should take him for an evaluation with a child therapist to see if we can figure out what is bothering him.  I have my own theories; jealousy of his younger sibling; anxiety about growing up (and even death) and a desire to go back to being a baby, all of which manifest themselves in massive attention-seeking fits replete with baby behaviour.  See, I've got it all figured out myself.  Why do I need to take him to someone else to corroborate my theory?

Truth is that we Brits are not very comfortable with therapy.  I don't know a single British friend of mine that has ever been to a therapist, or taken their kid to one.  The therapy culture of countries like the US and Brazil is a source of total bemusement to us.  It's just not something that we do.  And if we do, I suppose we don't talk about it.  (Do you even get psychologists in British schools?  You certainly didn't in my day).  Of course I think that some people have some serious issues to figure out, but it seems like some people go to their therapist to indulge their precious egos for an hour, talking about how they feel about their broken nail or the boyfriend that just wasn't that into them.  The Brits on the other hand like to figure things out by themselves.  We're just not that dramatic or touchy-feely.  Stiff upper lip, Dunkirk spirit and all that.

Whether or not I take Little Bear to the therapist remains to be seen.  As for me, why would I pay to speak about myself for an hour when I can just spend an hour writing a blog post for free?  Thanks for listening.


  1. :(
    I don't have kids, but your explanation seems really logical (and you know your kid better than anyone).

    Brazilian psychologists should be taken with a grain of salt, even the ones the insurance provides. Many are poorly trained and not up-to-date on modern theories or anything like that. I can tell you from experience.

    Are parents allowed to hang out in the classroom? Maybe you could observe for a day, see if you get any insight as to what's different at school.

    Good luck. <3

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  2. It's a tough one, but acting out is usually a cry for attention...our kids will get it one way or another be it for bad, good, destructive or quiet bahavior...what ever works, they will figure it out.

    As parents we feed into their manipulation for attention without even realizing what we are doing half the time. I think your extra cuddles, positive and focused attention and allowing him to regress for a moment and be your baby again (mom is so important to little boys) is a good call. The improved behavior will eventually bleed over into school...give it some time.

    You aren't the first mom to wonder if they like their child...loving them is a given, liking can be tough at times, but that comes and goes through out childhood, adolesence and young adulthood...I assume sometimes they don't like us much either. You can tell little bear adores you...go with your intuition for now.

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  4. "Do you even get psychologists in British schools? You certainly didn't in my day"

    It is now a growing trend here in the UK mainly driven by the expectation of additional 'special needs' cash....

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  5. Attention & care. Colinho & bate-papo. No therapists needed. You guys will be fine.

  6. "You know who" is in therapy. He beats people up at school. I got called in just like you. How do you find him at home and all that. Well you know him. He's energetic to say the least and has an explosive temper just like yours. Anyway, his teacher is a first timer, very young and softly spoken. He is twice the size of the other children in his class and can beat me at arm wrestling age 4. I saw an incident when I went to pick him up, fighting over a toy with someone, the other guy went for mine with all his might, but didn't even make a dent, mine shoves him back, other guy goes flying and ends up screaming and crying, and guess who got the rocket? I don't think he has any problems that require a therapists help, nor does anyone else that knows him well. But with the advise of a teacher friend, we have to do it, otherwise I will be labelled as the 'uncooperative, uncaring' parent. It sucks.

    I will try the 'colo' thing though. Big kiss.

  7. Personally I don't think of therapy is that big of a deal either way. It's a place to talk to a person who is not directly involved. Personally, I find that post 4 yr olds will vomit out information to a plant. Doesn't need to be a professional.

    If cuddles are working, great! Go with it. You can always try the therapy thing if need be. Don't be pressured into a decision. Maybe he just needs to figure out how to communicate with the teachers. I bet some one on one chit chat during cuddles time with Mom will give him the communication tools he needs so he can speak his mind in school.

    Sadly Mommy cuddles do not get to go to school. (Even us Moms need a break!) But I'm sure Momma love and conversations can do just as much, if not more, than a trip to a doctor's couch.

  8. for now I think you should check how is his progress at school...if he gets better like he did at home you are fine . If he gets worst maybe you should talk to a professional.

  9. "I don't know a single British friend of mine that has ever been to a therapist" - this is especially interesting for a Brazilian to read. ALL my friends have been to a therapist. All of them, at least once...

  10. I know that could sound a bit harsh but have you look into Oppositional Defiant Disorder?
    And yes these days in the Uk the schools have psychologists checking kids behavior at early age.
    A friend of mine had her son diagnosed with mild autism while in a school in London, now they are living in Brazil and the doctors there don't think her son is autistic... The Brits are catching up with the therapy culture slowly.

  11. Danielle, I strongly disagree with your statement about Brazilians not having a good child Psychologist Educate yourself, before going on public blog defaming other Cultures! You must be American Hun!? And probably never left the country once! Poor ignorant woman...

  12. brave and bold, well said. everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion....

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  13. Exactly, it's not only matter of Brits but also all norther EU states. I'm sick of every psychologist fan. I don't believe them to resolve something. If I need talk about my problems with someone, it has to be a person which is affected.

    If I have problem with my brother i have to talk with him not with psy about my relation to my brother. This world is sick.

    Brazilians believe in the same think such as americans. IN TV
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  14. Lived six years in London, had my two kids in the US (3 and 4 years old). Well, know just a bit about British and American cultures (but my English still poor, sorry...). I moved back to Brazil last year and my daughter was having behavior problems too. It was my decision to look for a therapist - not for her but for myself. She's too little for this, but I think a psychologist could help me to see things more clearly. Yeah, it's intrusive. You talk about your life with a stranger! I don't mind and I don't care. What it's most important to me is to understand my daughter's behavior and help her and my family.

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