What on earth is a psychological growth page?

Well, let's put it this way.  In the silicon valley pressure cooker, children manifest all sorts of "problems" growing up.  Tantrums, bed-wetting, yelling, biting, and even worse stuff too.

But wait, isn't that stuff just part of normal growing up?


In our rampant "hey! let's DIAGNOSE it!" culture, it's easy to have your kid pegged with all sorts of "psychological problems" if you're not careful.  (Although my personal favorite is the classification PIAK or Pain in the Ass Kid.  It's a non-clinical term and, privately, one that I have been known to use in my home!)

And I have to attest to the fact that, with every new (and more sophisticated stage) of my son's, I have spent at least SOME amount of time wringing my hands and declaring "Oh no. I have No Idea what to do about this!"  Which is where reference books (not to mention girlfriends and the UCB Parents advice page come in.)

But here's the thing.  If you come from a family that carries mental illness, or if your child is doing some pretty weird stuff, are there resources where you can check to see if your kid is within normal ranges -- and where you can keep checking? 

After all, there really are mentally ill people in the world. And good parents should be aware of possibilities, without judging their kids. Sometimes it's good to know the parameters.

It's also helpful to know what's out there because frankly, a tool is a tool.  And some tools work pretty well.

This section gives you help with problems, bumps, phases, and such.  It also goes a bit further, to give you more information about childhood psychological development and problems.

Let's start with a nice link to Parenting Press, a great online bookstore that supports parenting the psyche.  (Well, the whole kid, actually.)

Here are links for Children's Mental Health.

Owning your Feelings and your Actions
Nobody is perfect. We all have problems.  I have a tendency to overdramatize and am too intense. My temper has been known to get out of control. This is stuff that I know about myself, and this is stuff that I will work to control for the rest of my life. So it goes.  I believe that children can start being aware at a fairly young age that they "own" themselves and that they are responsible for taking care of themselves, and for learning how to control the instrument that is them.

I am very fond of a book series by Elizabeth Crary called "Dealing with Feelings."  These books start by describing a situation (e.g. Betty is getting mad at her brother.)  Then they stop and, with the help of an adult, the child works through their options in that particular situation.

For some children, like my son, it really helps to route things intellectually.  You might want to buy one of these books for a "trouble spot" that you're going through and give it a try. I'd suggest these at about age 4, by the way.

This is a biggie.  In my experience, if your kid is in the wrong school and they are making him or her feel like a bad kid, or if your childcare is bad, or if something else is wrong, you can easily end up with an angry kid.  Working on "anger" is find and dandy, but please, look hard to figure out what caused it (like ... does daddy ever come home, or is he working late every night?  that can do it!).  Here's a nice list of anger resources from the University of Michigan health system.

Difficult Children
You know, I hate to sound like an oddball here, but I've always been a bit perplexed by the whole "difficult child" thing.  Is a Downs kid difficult? You betcha. But that's not what they're talking about.  Deaf?  Oh yeah, sure.  A spoiled little brat whose parents have foisted her off on doting, non-english-speaking sitters?  Definitely.

But in this section, I think "difficult" means ... intense?  Perhaps children who almost seem to thrive on negative feedback?  Children who don't repond to standard child-rearing techniques?

Here's a book called Transforming the Difficult Child" that apparently deals with children like this.  I haven't read it. I've given up on parenting books this month.  However, the reviews are highly enthusiastic.  Sounds like a behaviorist model that is wonderfully pragmatic.  Apparently it talks about how intense kids want an intense response, and it teaches parents how to give a great response for good stuff, and how to bore the kid to death if they don't do a good job.  I like that.  (Caution: massive paraphrasing. Read the amazon reviews attached to the above link.)  Sounds nice.

I really apologize for this, but I like the Amazon lists function.  Since we inhale books at our house, we like 'em used, but I like the ability for people to put together very useful lists. Like this one: "For stressed moms of difficult children."

And here's a Waldorf homeschooling mom's list that she uses on her bipolar child.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder? 
And then there's something called Oppositional Defiant Disorder?  And apparently this book is good for it.  This whole "branding" of hard kids is pretty confusing to me. At this point, to be honest, I'm not sure if this is a psychological term, or a term culled by an editor. But the book sounds good.

Temperment seems to be the new thing in dealing with kids. I know nothing about it, but here are some recommended books on the topic from Parenting Press.  I believe that Kiersey has a lot of information on temperment.

What causes tantrums?  We have all sorts of professionals' opinions in here, but here's a feet-on-the-floor MOM opinion.  If your kid is starting to have tantrums, look at their world. REALLY look at their world.  Do they react poorly to stress? Are they inflexible?  Are they perfectionistic?  Did anything change? Anything at all?  Did they go up a level in their classes? Start a new set of lessons? Did a friend move away or a new kid move in?  Track it down.  In my humble opinion, today's kids are stressed to the max and tantrums are one of the things that happens when pressure builds too high.

Here are some books on tantrums:
The Explosive Child: a New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children; by Ross Greene; HarperCollins, 2001

Everything Parent's Guide to Tantrums: The One Book You Need to Prevent Outbursts, Avoid Public Scenes, and Help Your Child Stay Calm; by Joni Levine; Adams Media Corp, 2005.   This book gets a five star review on about.com.

Tantrums; by Michelle Kennedy; Barrons Educational Series, 2003

•  The Angry Child: Regaining Control When Your Child Is Out of Control; by Tim Murphy; Clarkson Potter, 2002

Somewhat Odd Methods of Dealing with Behavior
In putting this page together, I have just run into a fairly odd method, called "Use it or Lose It." which is applied to children who cause trouble in the classroom. Essentially, they are told that there's a new set of rules. If the child misbehaves, they are sent home immediately.  Interesting and fairly odd.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Here is a really excellent discussion of what is and what isn't OCD in children.  Good to know. Also, I found it interesting that one of the sites said that other things sometimes mask themselves as OCD in children.

This article is called "the role of cognitive behavioral therapy in treating common problems in childhood."

Bipolar Disorder in Children
Here is a very good link describing pediatric bipolar disorder, which looks like a brand new psychologic trend, if you'll pardon me for sounding a bit snarky.  Go ahead and read this but please be very careful about opening this door.

Here is a book called Bipolar Child, which describes itself as "The Definitive and Reassuring Guide to Childhood's Most Misunderstood Disorder."

From Publishers Weekly
The authors of  Bipolar Child warn that nearly one-third of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may actually be bipolar (previously called manic depression), and they stress the importance of getting early diagnosis and treatment, especially since ritalin, which is commonly prescribed for ADHD, may worsen the bipolar child's condition. The authors dispel the myth that bipolar disorder occurs only in adolescents and adults and note that cases of bipolar disorder are increasingly occurring at a younger age.

While the book sounds several alarms, it also offers support to parents (Demitri is the adviser for an online support group for parents of bipolar children, from which the authors culled much of their anecdotal information). In addition to diagnosis and treatment, the authors discuss practical ways to deal with the condition itself, as well as the impact it has on the entire family. This is an important guide for parents seeking ways to cope with this potentially devastating disorder. (Dec.)

Brandon the Bipolar Bear is a book for bipolar kids.

Depression in Children
Here's a very useful list of sources giving information about depression and related issues in children.

More depression info from the NYU Children's Study Center.

ADHD and the whole "hyper" thing
I really, seriously want to do a website called 'ADHD World' that has as its logo a revolving carousel and circus music, but I lack the time.  I have started trying to put together an ADHD page, though.

General Resources
PsychCentral has mental health and psychology resources online.

The Anachronistic Mom's
Psychological Growth Page