Honestly, I am not sure if I should be getting too worried or worked up about my boy of 8years, but some of the behavioral characteristics seem a bit worrying. Asking the question to see if I should really be worried, or can do something, s.a. make changes around the house to bring about behavioral changes.

  1. Kid is afraid of being left alone in a room, in broad day-light, doesn't go to the toilet alone. He gets really scared listening to "ghost stories" that many boys his age share amongst friends. We as parents, have never threatened him of the dark, or locking him alone in the room. In fact, we are (probably worryingly so), the "always around" kind of parents.

  2. Kid is pretty laid back and has a very non-competitive attitude towards everything. Not that he doesn't enjoy the adulation on winning a competition, but seems to give-up far too soon, and far too-easily and uses the "it's okay not to win", excuse far too often. To an extent, it has to do with his school which is a blend of Waldorf + Montessorie style. However other kids in his class are quite competitive.

  3. Kid seems very inattentive, often goes into "deep think" mode, where he seems to cut-off from his surroundings, even while making a sketch. This happens so frequently, that we need to tell him repeatedly to do simple things like brush his teeth, change his clothes, keep soiled clothes in the laundry basket, eat his food, drink his milk... i.e. every tiny thing needs to be repeated 10-12 times in "instruction mode".

Other wise, he is a happy kid, in what I believe is an typical family. The kid has a 8mo old sister, but there haven't been any stark behavioral changes since the arrival of the baby. Kid loves his sister, plays a lot with her, seems quite caring.

  • Our child is #2 and #3. #2, I think, just stems from being introverted. He enjoys competing, but could care less about winning or losing. In some ways, that's perhaps a good thing. As for #3, in his (and his dad's--ie, me) case = ADD. – DA01 Feb 5 '13 at 3:45
  • Thanks @DA01. Would be great to hear, how you guys are dealing with ADD ? Any proactive steps taken.. – icarus74 Feb 5 '13 at 5:06
  • We've talked to doctors and psychologists and tried a few medications. We found one that's been working fairly well. It's something that differs from child to child so it's hard to suggest broad solutions. – DA01 Feb 5 '13 at 6:03

There's really not enough info here to say anything for certain, other than vague "anxiety disorder" type of things (assuming here that it is a "disorder"), but a couple things come to my mind from what you do have here:

His own personality + what could be described as "hoverparenting" "Helicopter parenting" is a term often used to describe parents who are always doing things for their kids, instead of letting kids work things out for themselves. This can lead to kids being overly dependent on their parents for things that they should be capable of doing for their age (in your son's case, being in a room by himself), depending in part on the child's own personality (a naturally independent child is more likely to be capable, regardless, but a laid-back or conflict-avoidant child may develop co-dependence issues). While hoverparenting is caused by the parents' behavior, it's generally borne out of love and a desire to not see the child hurt or suffer. These are noble desires, but conflict and suffering are a part of life, and learning to deal with them start in early childhood.

If you find yourself doing things for your child that he should be able to do (resolving conflict with a peer, doing various chores, etc), take a step back and start teaching him how to do it, even if it takes longer and is more frustrating in the short term.

Autism Spectrum Disorder Again, without any more information, it's hard to say for sure, but several of the behaviors you've mentioned here point to the possibility of an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I'll explain why in a minute, but please note that Autism isn't just the stereotypical rocking in a corner and screaming at every touch, nor does it need to be an anchor on the rest of his life. Just because he's verbal, highly intelligent, or otherwise "normal," it doesn't necessarily rule it out.

  1. Anxiety in general is a pretty prominent part of ASD, for a number of reasons. Have you ever asked him why he's afraid of being alone? This might help you understand why he's afraid. (If you notice what seems to be an abnormal amount of anxiety over a new or social situation, this may also indicate ASD.)

    • Additionally, literalism is another prominent part. It's possible he has a hard time comprehending that the ghost stories aren't real, and thus, is afraid to be alone, or in a specific place that he heard a story about.
  2. Being non-competitive isn't so much an ASD thing (though some tend to rationalize negative things), but it is possible that he's just not showing his feelings on the matter. Have you asked him how he felt about winning a specific game (after having won it)? Or, have you noticed a lack of expressed emotion in other aspects (not counting the rage you mention in a comment, I'll get to that one)? Have you asked why he's giving up?

  3. What is he doing when in one of these "deep think" spells? Is it nearly always the same thing, such as drawing, or while on the computer? Also, do these spells frequently occur, say, after school or other social event? For people with ASD, these are often known as the person's "special interest." It's how they "recharge" or relieve stress, how they unwind. It can also consume all their time, maybe even requiring someone to intervene to get them to do things like eat or brush their teeth.

  4. You mention in a comment that he gets extremely upset, even enraged, when embarrassed or reprimanded in public. Does this happen in private, too, or over things that you find minuscule and not worth getting that upset about? Do these outbursts seem disproportionate to the trigger? Have you been told by others that he's "making a scene"? Is there a pattern to when these outbursts are the worst (ie - toward the middle or end of a shopping trip, rather than at the beginning)? Also, what's the behavior that caused him to be reprimanded to begin with, and when does it usually occur?

  5. Also, you mention that he loves playing with his sibling and seems quite caring with her. How about his peers? Does he have a lot of friends? How does he interact with them? Does he seem more aloof around his peers, or otherwise a loner? Social issues (particularly non-scripted social interactions) are a highlight of ASD, even at the highest levels. Kids on the spectrum tend to get along better with adults (because they have more patience for the child) and infants (because they're more simple beings and easier to understand).

Again, I'm not saying that he is on the spectrum, but what you've described here does point to it enough that I think it's worth looking into more, especially if you combine this information with what you have that you haven't told us. If nothing else, it's obvious he has some kind of issues with anxiety (separation or otherwise), given your point #1. In any case, it's probably a good idea to mention his behaviors to his doctor and even consider seeing a specialist, so that you can get him whatever help he needs to be able to handle his fears and anxiety. If nothing else, it will rule out disorders, and you can work on adjusting your parenting style to help him be more confident.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Shauna, thanks for taking time to answer. I'll have to come back and answer your questions in a while, but I'll surely do so. – icarus74 Feb 5 '13 at 3:41
  • No real need to answer me, the questions are largely rhetorical and to help you determine the next step to make. If it helps you to answer here, feel free, but you don't have to feel obligated to do so. On a side note, it might help to write down notes about various events/instances that you think might be relevant to getting him help from professionals, if you decide to go that route. – Shauna Feb 5 '13 at 4:09
  • Thanks Shauna, that's a very kind and thoughtful suggestion. – icarus74 Feb 5 '13 at 4:24

I don't know that I would be overly concerned about points 2 and 3.

  • Point 2: Some kids are just laid back and competition doesn't necessarily spur them on. Encourage him to keep trying things that are difficult and make a big deal out of his successes when he completes something that you know was hard for him. If he fails at something, help him brainstorm ways that he can do better next time so that the failure becomes a learning experience.
  • Point 3: I have always been the type of person who can easily get lost in my head or get caught-up in reading a book. When I was a kid I would frequently become so absorbed in what I was doing that a parent or teacher would have to repeat themselves to get my attention. I more or less grew out of it, but having the ability to tune the world out and focus single-mindedly on a task has come in handy as an adult. Would making a list of things he needs to complete help him focus and stay on task better? Or encourage him to write down what he's thinking about.

The only point that seems a little disconcerting is how fearful he is. I don't think being afraid of ghost stories or scary movies is out of line, but an 8-year-old should be able to use the bathroom alone and be left in a room alone. This seems a little like an attachment issue to me--in that he seems like he has a little attachment anxiety like you'd see in a small child. This website has some information about this type of anxiety which can manifest itself in older children, and since you've only listed a couple of examples (and I'm not a doctor) it obviously can't be diagnosed here. But it might bear some looking in to independently.

|improve this answer|||||
  • Thank you @MegCoates, for answering. It is certainly comforting to reading your explanation around the behavior #2 and #3. The thing about #1, after reading the material at the childmind website, I think it could be a case of attachment issue. As such, the kid is extremely sensitive kid, in the sense that he can sense sadness and happiness very easily, i.e. even without visual cues (but I guess all children are like that). He gets extremely upset and enraged, when he is embarrassed, such as be reprimanded in public, by anybody. Not sure if there's a connection. – icarus74 Feb 4 '13 at 17:18

Sounds like you are describing me as a child.

  • I was afraid of the dark; wouldn't go outside by myself; was afraid to talk to people; although I think I did use the toilet alone.
  • I was very laid back and didn't like other people paying attention to me or being noticed; hence I didn't really like winning.
  • I would regularly zone out staring off into the distance often not hearing people talking to me.

I also went to a Montessori school for ~3 years.

As a child I did martial arts but never got passed white belt because I never did a kihapp because I was too shy. As an adult I forced myself to overcome my fear (practiced being louder, a lot) and am now a martial arts instructor in my free time (and have done quite well in competition).

I enjoyed piano as a child because it allowed me to learn a skill and perform while still hiding behind this large thing. If piano is not feasible for your situation something like a chess club or getting involved in a local hackerspace would be a good learning/group activity that wouldn't put them in the center of attention.

I use a lot of lists to keep track of things that need to be done; a standard written checklist for morning/evening time/other repeated tasks/chores might help instead of repeating yourself.

I organize non-repeating tasks/chores (as well as a score for rewards) on different colored post-it notes organized by what type of task it is; pink=yard work, blue=house work, yellow=other. They can be organized by priority and 'cashed in' when completed.

|improve this answer|||||

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.