My 5 year old pre-schooler exhibits some behaviors that have my wife & I a little concerned, but we're unsure whether there's a real problem or not.
I'll try to summarize some of his behaviors and/or personality traits (positive & negative), then go over some of it in a little more detail.
- Destructive behaviors
- note most of these behaviors occurred between ages 2 - 4; over the last year we've noticed a decline in his destructive tendencies, though he still peals stickers off things, and his toy breakage is roughly on par with his older brother at this age. Furthermore, as we've tried to understand the "why" of this, as best we can tell he does it out of pure curiosity.
- Peeling stickers, paint, & other decorations off his property, or off the wall in his room (peeling the paint off his room was one we've only recently arrested; he was regularly destroying the paint job in his room).
- Tearing pages out of books, and tearing other paper things (posters, calendars, etc); these are always his property, I've never seen him destroy someone else's property
- Breaking his own toys -- usually by playing rough; I don't recollect him destroying / breaking toys just because he was curious.
- Personality traits
- He does not have trouble bonding with people -- eg, he does not avoid physical contact (likes hugs/kisses from parents, sometimes hugs/kisses siblings), and enjoys hanging out with parents / siblings.
- He's very curious and talkative; loves to read, play video games, and especially loves cars and other vehicles (tractors, monster trucks, etc)
- He doesn't usually understand humor. He often mistakes playful situations for offensive behaviors.
- Punishments generally don't phase him, except to upset him; we learned a long time ago that taking things away, spankings, etc, do not encourage him to alter his behavior. Furthermore, his lack of interest in "things" (discussed below) negates the possibility of rewarding him with treats, toys, etc; however, rewards such as spending time with mom/dad, or doing other things do seem to motivate him more.
- He has a very high pain threshold; if someone hurts him (eg, rough-housing), he doesn't cry/scream [typically], he just gets angry.
- On a related note, there's one particular quirk I've noticed lately that concerns me. My wife and her [biological] brother have a 'tick': they pick at their thumbs to the point of bleeding/cracking. This behavior has been around since they were both young teenagers, and neither one can explain why they do it other than it being a nervous habit. So far as I know, my son has never observed this particular behavior, and now he's started doing it.
- He's always been very defiant about swallowing his food. When he decides he doesn't want to swallow something, he'll keep it in his mouth for hours if you let him.
- This defiance extends to other things as well; when he makes up his mind that he does not want to do something, he'll just clamp his mouth shut and ignore you.
- He does not form attachments to things. I'll talk about this more below.
- Our pediatrician suspects he may fall in the class of children with Opposition Defiance Disorder.
- He exhibits ADHD symptoms -- inability to focus / concentrate, etc.
The main thing I want to explore is his lack of concern w/regard to personal property. We're concerned it may grow into something more serious as he gets older.
Recently he got a "slot car" track for his birthday and destroyed it by playing too rough with it (within about a month or two). He helped throw it away without argument, and kept talking about something unrelated.
My wife was helping him organize his bedroom and purge it of old/unused and broken toys. He spoke fondly of many of the toys, but showed no interest in keeping them; it didn't seem to bother him that they'd be gone permanently.
It doesn't matter if it's something he plays with regularly, how long he's had it, who gave it to him, where he got it, etc. He's never attached himself to any one thing (eg, a security blanket). When I've taken things as punishment he'll make a show of being upset, get over it very quickly, and thereafter shows very little interest in getting it back.
He has had trouble getting along with his older brother the past few years, though they've been getting along better the last year or so (we tried having them share rooms a few years ago before they were clashing; we put a stop to that after they destroyed a room (pealed paint, peed on carpet, poop in heater vents, peed in radio, etc) and one of them bit the other). He gets along with his other siblings quite well (for a 5 year old).
In short, we're worried his behavior could grow to encompass more anti-social behaviors. My wife says it almost seems like he's less caring/emotional in general, and is worried he has (or may develop) a similar inability to place value on people or relationships.
What are we dealing with here? What can we do to help him? If he grows into an adult who doesn't particularly value 'things', but is an otherwise well-adjusted person, I'm ok with that. However, if there's something going on I can help him with, I don't want to let him down.