Cousin in Trouble

23 Jun

Dear LetterBalm: My cousin is 4 years old and becoming a real bully. He gets very physical with his little friends. He hits, pushes and kicks. And, he bites. He doesn’t seem to understand how to play and share, and he throws temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. I look after my younger cousins, including him, when our extended family gets together, which is often. Invariably, somebody ends up crying because he’s acted up. I’ve tried to say something to his mother, my aunt, but she doesn’t think it’s important. I think he needs guidance and discipline and, maybe, a shrink. What can I do?

–Cousin Babysitter

Your cousin may well need guidance, discipline and a shrink. He may also need a doctor to see if he has ADHD, a brain disorder, a learning disability or a physical problem. That’s a big litany for a little guy. No matter what the situation, he needs someone to advocate for him because he’s an unhappy boy threatening others. Even for a four-year-old, your cousin may well realize that something is wrong with him and he’s out of control. Ms. L.B. recommends that you become his champion. Talk to any adult you believe will listen, and, if you’re mistaken, keep trying. Start with his mother – again – and say this:

Aunt Greta, I’ve come to you before, but you didn’t listen, so I’m coming to you again. This is serious. Andy is out of control. I see it every time I take care of him and the other cousins when we all get together. He fights, punches, bites – he gets really physical and he hurts kids. Please take him to his doctor to see what the problem is. Maybe it’s physical, maybe it’s emotional or maybe it’s psychological. Whatever it is, Andy needs help before he gets older and really hurts someone. He doesn’t know how to help himself and stay in control. He must be very unhappy because he doesn’t understand what’s happening to him. Aunt Greta, I have to tell you that if you don’t think this is a problem, I’m going to talk with someone else in the family or anybody who’ll help Andy. I’m very worried about him.


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