Dr. Douglas Durand is a Mercy Clinic pediatrician in Washington, Mo., and part of Mercy Children’s Hospital. For more information, visit mercychildrens.net. In this column, he offers advice on weird behavior:
Parents have a lot of things to worry about. Worrying about whether or not their kid is weird should not be one of them.
In my practice, parents come in with their heads hanging in shame for some of the things their kids are doing. It’s part of my job to ease their minds. Their kid is not the first to eat things that the earth provides, like dirt, rocks and leaves. Their kid is not the first to test what size toy parts will fit up their nostrils or use the vacuum hose to create colorful body art (known as “hickies” to the younger crowd). Kids are also known to head-butt walls because they find it soothing, sleepwalk (a book chapter in itself about weirdness at its most unconscious level), forget to wear underpants, urinate outdoors and touch themselves inappropriately in public.
Kids just do weird things. It’s a part of growing up.
What parents do need to watch out for is what they’re putting in their mouths. While those things from the earth will run their natural course, other things are dangerous. Lock up the medicine cabinet. Keep batteries and household chemicals far from reach, too.
Sometimes big changes stir up new behaviors. An only child who gets a new sibling may act out in weird ways to attract attention away from the baby. An easy fix is to put aside time to do things with just the older child and also allow her to help you take care of the baby.
So the next time Billy picks his nose, let him know that’s not something we do in public. If Sally stutters, let her gather her thoughts and get through the words in her own time. If it’s a behavior that can be ignored, ignore it. As long as the behaviors are not dangerous, not having a disparaging affect at home or school and aren’t serious cries for attention, it’s probably temporary.
Kids of all ages, from babies to school aged children go through periods of what adults may call weirdness. Most kids grow out it. Of course, if you do have concerns, it always helps to talk to your child’s pediatrician. We can help put your mind at ease and offer some direction if you need it.
When you think about it, though, a little weirdness is bound to come out of curiosity, new encounters, lightheartedness and just plain not knowing the difference. Those are qualities about kids that make childhood magical. Enjoy it as long as you can, even if it may seem a little weird at times.