Every child misbehaves and all of us lose our temper several times. A child is termed problem child when parents, guardians or teachers fail in their efforts to correct his persistent or repetitive undesirable behaviour or conduct. Most of the children have some psychological problem at one time or another. The most common kind of problems in children are fear of insects or darkness, nail biting, thumb sucking, bed-wetting, temper tantrum, stealing, lying, etc. It is easier to correct behavioural problems in children as they are not as deeply rooted as in adults. The child’s mind is easily amenable to suggestions. It is also important to keep in mind that each child is unique and must be understood through his view point. In this article, we are going to discuss some of the common psychological problems faced by children and certain household remedies for them.
Habits like nail biting, thumb sucking, etc.
Explain them the harmful effects of biting nails : Random nail biting is best ignored; but if the child is in habit of biting nails, we should explain that by biting nails, the dirt in the nails enters the stomach and causes various illnesses.
While explaining to girls, tell them, ‘Your nails look ugly when you bite them; but hands look very pretty when the nails are not bitten.’
Applying oil to the nails keeps them soft and the habit of nail biting is reduced, as children do not enjoy biting soft nails.
Give suggestions to the child during the first 5 minutes after it sleeps : During the first 5 minutes after the child sleeps, tell it regarding the habit of nail biting. After that, give a suggestion, ‘As soon as you start biting nails, you will realise it and you will immediately stop it.’ The first 5 minutes of sleep are like a stage of hypnosis. Suggestions prove very effective when given during this time.
Giving a prize for leaving a bad habit : Sometimes we can encourage a child to leave the bad habit by saying, ‘You will get a prize if you do not bite your nails’.
Avoid dreadful remedies : Never use remedies like applying bitter medicine to the nail, sticking plaster, etc. This may, in fact, exacerbate the bad habit.
One can apply the same remedies, as mentioned above, in cases of thumb sucking and hair pulling.
Likes and dislikes regarding food
If children are choosy about their food then the parents should devote more time for that. The children realise that their parents are attentive to them and their complaints get minimised.
Avoid forcing the children to eat any particular dish. If the child dislikes any particular dish then do not give it for a few weeks. While serving it in future, serve it in some other form. If the child dislikes leafy vegetables, then serve the child parathas made with spinach and fenugreek leaves or pancakes made of the same. The children will appreciate such dishes and they might start liking the food dishes they disliked earlier.
Do not be too strict regarding the time of taking food. If a child wants to eat a particular dish between meals, then give it. Do not pass angry remarks like, ‘You did not eat properly at lunch time and now you are feeling hungry.’
5 – 10 minutes before serving the meal, tell the child that food is ready and will be served shortly. This gives the child enough time to clear up his books or toys.
Care to be taken by the parents while eating along with the children :
1. The atmosphere of the house must be pleasant.
2. Things like toys should not be kept near children, to avoid distraction while having food.
3. Do not discuss your liking-disliking when the child is having food.
4. Discussion on the child’s progress report, pranks or mistakes should be avoided at the dining table.
Fear of insects or darkness
Young infants are afraid of being left alone, of darkness, loud noise, unfamiliar faces, a man with a beard or a strange object. Older children are afraid of insects like cockroaches, solitude or fear of being left alone, wild animals, giants, ghosts, teachers, angry parents, punishment or accident. When afraid, infants and young children cry, scream or cling to the parents. Below are some tips that will help remove fear in children.
1. Parents should rush to their help, carry them and give them physical comfort and reassurance.
2. The parents should never make fun of a frightened child or put the child to shame or force him into fearsome situation.
3. The child should be encouraged to talk about the fearful object or draw its pictures.
4. The child should be encouraged to overcome a fearful situation gradually for example if a child is afraid of darkness, he should be made to sleep with a night lamp. Night lamps of lower and lower intensity should be replaced gradually till the child gets used to a very dim light and will not mind even if the very weak night lamp is put off.
5. Often it is noted that the mother starts screaming at the sight of a flying cockroach approaching her. The child of such a mother is naturally afraid of cockroaches. Such a child should be taught to kill cockroaches.
6. Parents need not be always fearless but they should avoid the expression of their fear before their children.
To get rid of the habit of bed-wetting, take the following precautions :
1. Do not give a child anything to drink at least an hour before going to bed.
2. Tell a child to go to the toilet before sleeping.
3. An alarm should be set 15 minutes before the child usually wets the bed and it should be taken to the toilet after the alarm.
4. Encourage the child in such a manner that after a few days the child itself will go to the toilet on hearing the alarm bell. Thereafter, keep on increasing the distance of the alarm clock from it. After a few days, the child will get habituated to get up as soon as bladder is full and will go to the toilet even without the alarm.
5. If there is no bed-wetting then give a child a present as a token of appreciation. That will encourage it to try on its own not to wet the bed.
6. When a child sleeps, give the following suggestion during the first 5 minutes : ‘When your bladder is full, you will sense it and immediately wake up to go to the toilet and thereafter l get a sound sleep.’ This suggestion should be given to it for at least 2 months.
Temper tantrum is an outburst of anger when the child loses his temper and throws different objects, breaks utensils, throws himself on the fl oor, bangs his head, holds his breath or kicks the furniture. During this period the child appears out of touch with the environment. He may accuse the parents of lack of love or make unreasonable demands. He calms down once he is exhausted and may even apologise for his behaviour. Most pre-school children have tantrums but they are considered pathological if they are frequent and severe. When a child resorts to tantrums, the parents get disturbed. At such time, all that you need is a lot of patience and take following precautions,
1. Do not reason out the child or make him obey your order as the child is not in a mood to listen to you and not in a state to think rationally.
2. Smacking the child should be avoided as it means loss of temper by parents.
3. The parents should neither show their anger or anxiety nor surrender to the demand of the child.
4. The best way is to ignore the whole episode completely.
5. Parents should see that valuable, brittle objects and objects which can be easily thrown are not within the reach of the child.
When the child becomes calm, then ask the reason for its outburst. Most of the times, the reason is trivial like ‘Mummy gave a sweet to the neighbour’s child but is refusing it to me’. When the child talks it out his pent up feeling is relieved. Console it with love, without getting angry. Divert its attention and create an interest in music, handicraft, game, etc.
Do not scold and beat a child if it steals something; but it should be brought to its notice that parents are upset with what has happened.
Find out the reasons and difficulties behind stealing : Try to understand the child’s behaviour and sort out his difficulties. Sometimes children tend to steal to vent out their anger against the parents. In such case, find out the reasons behind the anger and try to nullify it.
If the parents realise that the child has stolen somebody else’s thing, then ask it to return immediately.
Punishing children for their mistakes : Sometimes, it is necessary to punish a child for its mistakes. If the child has spent the stolen money, then punishments like doing the household work, cleaning own plate, not giving eatables, etc. are advisable. Still there is no change in the child, then a psychiatrist should be consulted.
Talk to the child to make it aware :
1. If money is lost from home, then tell the child, ‘You have taken this much money. Return it immediately. If you need money in future, then ask me.’ If it denies the charge, then neither argue nor force it to accept the charge.
2. After the act of stealing, do not ask, ‘Why did you do that?’ If such a question is asked, then the child usually lies. Just tell, ‘I felt very bad as you did not tell me that you needed money.’
Reasons for lying : Most of the times children fear that if they tell the truth, then they might be punished or their parents might get angry. Hence, they lie. Some children lie in order to show off or to gain importance.
Finding out the reason behind telling lies : Find out the reason for telling lies and take appropriate remedial measures. If the child is scared of punishment, then take it into confidence and assure that it will not be punished. Then it will tell the truth. Subsequently, explain politely why is it wrong to lie.
A trick to avoid telling lies : If the child is lying to show off due to inferiority complex, then draw its attention to good qualities and good behaviour. This will enhance its confidence and will avoid telling lies.
Not attentive in studies
Do not force children to study as soon as they return home from school : At present, children have to study many subjects besides a lot of homework. It is natural they get bored because of this burden. So, instead of asking children to study as soon as they come home from school, give them something to eat and let them play for an hour or so before sitting down for study.
Find out child’s other interests also : Sometimes a child develops interest in some other subjects. As a result, it ignores study. In such case, if it has developed interest in music, drawing or any game, then allow to pursue it. But at the same time take care that the child maintains a balance between its interest and studies. See to it that along with pursuing interest, it also completes daily homework on time.
Taking follow up of regularity in attending school : Parents should visit the child’s school intermittently to find out whether the child attends the school regularly and on time or not. They have to be particular about knowing its behaviour also, as nowadays children are attracted towards video games. Some children even bunk school and play games. These games require money. So, they start stealing money from home and ignore their study completely. In such an event, it becomes even necessary to change the school; otherwise such children are drawn towards the criminal world.
Praise the child if it secures good marks in any subject. A small present would encourage it to study more.
The important thing is that the atmosphere in the house should be pleasant. Parents have to be alert, not to cause anxiety to children owing to their own problems.
It is advantageous to use hypnosis to increase concentration.
Easy home remedies are helpful in removing most of the psychological problems faced by children. At the same time, proper behaviour of the parents helps in developing healthy personality of the children. This, in turn, helps in avoiding the occurrence of any mental illness in children in future.
– Dr. (Mrs.) Kunda Athavale (Reference : Speech on radio, in the year 1988)