How to Deal With Children’s Obsessive Behavior

It is cute when your child hops down the footpath, avoids the lines and steps only in the squares. It’s impressive when they can name and draw every dinosaur. But there comes an extreme point when this is neither ?e nor impressive – it is obsessive and odd. There are thousands of children out there who are normal yet very usual. Most are boys and most have a preoccupation with order, tine and an area of over-interest.

One eight-year-old I work with has an obsessive bath routine. Only he an insert the plug and the bath water can only rise to a certain level. The bath cannot end until he has lifted out his toys and placed them in an exact spot. Then he removes the plug and some normality returns.

Children Obsessive Behavior

Another seven-year-old insists that only he turn off the television set. If others interfere, it must be turned on, run for a minute, and then only he can switch it off. On leaving for school he must close the front door and can only enter the car through the back left-hand door.

We see others who will only eat at a certain spot at the dining table, insist on wearing specific clothes despite the temperature or hold tight to a favorite object.

Some parents who read this will think, ‘Stop pandering to the brat. Just knock him into shape/ But those who have tried this find the explosive aftershock is not worth the effort. We often try to desensitize and remove the obsessions, only to find they are replaced by a new area of over-interest.

Many of these children are fixated on some part of learning. They may have an immense knowledge of animals, cars, planes, football, video titles or events in history. Their conversation is often inappropriate, turning into a lecture on their special topic. At school some are branded ‘weird’, while others are accepted as an eccentric professor.

Sometimes there is a worrying over-interest in wars, guns and death. Though this is no more sinister than an over-interest in football or dinosaurs, it usually results in psychiatric referral.

As I work with these children I must decide when this is a normal odd temperament and when it is a pathological problem like Asperger syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, semantic pragmatic language disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder.

My decision is based on the depth of the fixation, how it interferes with life, the child’s social skills and the quality of both verbal and non-verbal communication. When in any doubt, children who may have obsessive behavior should be referred to a paediatrician, child psychiatrist or specialist in child development.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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