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Mental Health

7-Year-Old Acts Out for First Time

01/14/2011

Question:

My little girl just turned 7 and is a happy carefree child most of the time but can be shy and reserved at times especially at school. She is also very sensitive about being in trouble. Recently I had punished her by sitting her in time-out, which is the first time she`s been punished in probably a year because she`s such a good kid. To my shock, she began pinching herself and slapping herself on the leg. She seemed so upset for no apparent reason, she was like a different child. I didn`t know what to do or think. I just tried to ignore it until she calmed down and later told her that wasn`t the right thing to do. She didn`t hurt herself but this has me very concerned. Should I be, or is this normal?

Answer:

When someone behaves in an aggressive manner, either toward him/herself or another, it is usually very concerning to others. These types of behaviors generally are not normal, but one instance of this behavior does not allow for determination of potential underlying causes. Ignoring the behavior can often be a helpful strategy. 

Ignoring is only appropriate if the individual is not actually harming him/herself. If an individual does harm him/herself, a caregiver can stand behind the individual and physically block him/her from engaging in the behavior while not making eye contact with or talking to him/her. 

If this behavior continues or worsens despite use of these strategies over 4-5 instances, it would be best to contact a local psychologist so that you may receive assistance with behavior management. 

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Response by:

Michelle Spader, PsyD
Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

John V Campo, MD John V Campo, MD
Interim Chairperson of The Department of Psychiatry
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University