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What level of 'obsessiveness' is 'normal' in a 3-year-old?

(27 Posts)
mummylonglegs Tue 26-Jul-05 21:36:54

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BadHair Tue 26-Jul-05 21:43:21

I'd say it was normal. Ds1 used to spend ages lining his toy cars up into a traffic jam, and if one got knocked over or moved slightly out of line he went ballistic. Until recently he would freak if his routine changed from what he expected, ie if we did an impromptu shopping trip rather than going straight home after nursery. He's only just stopped that and he's 4.8 now.
I remember that I had a list of things that my mum had to check every night before I went to sleep (doors were locked, windows shut, no fire, no flood, landing light on etc.) and if one was out of order or missed out I made her go and check them all again. And she did, or at least pretended to, bless her.
I really do think its just one of those awkward stages of development where your child is trying to make sense of the world around her and exert some control over it.

mummylonglegs Tue 26-Jul-05 21:54:40

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Fran1 Tue 26-Jul-05 22:09:01

My dd is the same!! she is 2.5

She has to either wear a wooly hat or an alice band FAME style around her head!! no matter what the weather. And noone absolutely noone can help her put them on, touch them when they are on or do anything with them! The amount of busy bodies i see smirking or giving me odd looks like "why are you dressing your dd in a woolen hat when is is so hot?"
I like to think i'm allowing her her individual style .

She also has to tell us the same story every night before bed (and we must not interupt otherwise she has to start all over again!)

Virtually everything she decides to do must not be interrupted otherwise we have to go back to beginning. TO the point of going back to front door if i've tried to help her towards the car!!

I havn't been overly concerned about this, me and dp do sometimes roll our eyes and mouth OCD at each other in a jokey way. (i am not knocking the seriousness of OCD btw).

I recently did some work with a counsellor who specialises in OCD and so i mentioned dd to her. And she basically said OCD is present in everyone and it is only a problem when it begins to affect daily life/when the loses control of their behaviour over OCD.

These things are far more apparent in young children as the stage of development means they are learning about control and to some extent this is healthy and does not mean they will suffer as they get older.

I know some people reading this will think dd sounds spoilt. But its not that, it is genuine obsessions and i am taking a very careful approach with them to ensure they don't become a problem. I try to reassure her that if she does forget her hat one day it doesn't matter and we talk about the fact that we need hats in winter when its cold, but its ok in the summer becuase its hotter etc...

BadHair Tue 26-Jul-05 22:21:52

MummyLL, I would go with it for now. Both ds1 and I have emerged unscathed (I think!) from our obsessiveness, and I'm sure it is a normal part of development. I do think its something to do with trying to make order of the chaotic world they see around them.
Even if you took her to a GP they wouldn't refer her on at this age. They would probably advise you to wait until she was 4 or 5, unless she's becoming overtly anxious and its affecting her in other ways (eg not eating, not sleeping).
I used to reassure ds1 that it wasn't the end of the world if one of his cars fell over, we could just pick it up and put it back in line and it would be OK. At first he still had to start all over again, but after a while, and I really can't remember how long but it seemed like ages, he started to just repair the damage rather than start again.

mummylonglegs Tue 26-Jul-05 22:23:27

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misdee Tue 26-Jul-05 22:23:43

sorry for hi-jack, MLL how is nyour brother doing?

mummylonglegs Tue 26-Jul-05 22:30:35

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mummylonglegs Tue 26-Jul-05 22:31:04

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misdee Tue 26-Jul-05 22:34:21

thats good he is ok.

peters doign well, and my alomost 3 year is very obsessive

mummylonglegs Tue 26-Jul-05 22:38:41

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Fran1 Tue 26-Jul-05 23:09:06

Not urge her out of them. I believe in allowing them that individuality and freedom to make choices. I just try and explain that it is ok, we don't need to back to the beginning iykwim. Try and get her thought process realising that nothing bad will happen if we don't do xyz.

Of course i have bad days, when we really don't have the time to undress and redress because i twisted her sock the right way for her, and i do lose my rag. But i have learnt losing my temper only prolongs the agony i have become remarkable at walking away and muttering to myself whilst dd retraces her steps!

As i'm typing i just realised that this she also does this with toileting. If i ask her if she needs to go, its always a no not matter how desperately she is dancing. she may then go to the bathroom and i walk in to help, which somedays she does want, but if its a day where she doesn't want the help she'll walk out and hold onto her wee for another few minutes. Then i know not to go in otherwise i'll upset the whole thing again!

mummylonglegs Wed 27-Jul-05 12:11:34

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Enid Wed 27-Jul-05 12:32:19

Dh admitted to me yesterday that he had looked OCD up on google as he is convinced he has it and he thinks dd1 has it too

She is a ritualistic, obsessive child who draws everything in symetrical patterns - but she is also very lively and chaotic with her friends and happy and sporty. She sounds a lot like your dd mummylonglegs except she is nearly 6 now and has grown out of tantrums!

She never plays with things like her Sylvanian Families, but she keeps them laid out immaculately in a collector-like fashion. All her toys are lined up in her room which has to be tidy before bed. Dh has told me that he was like this as a child and now loves order!


I have to say they both seem quite normal to me and I don't think it is affecting their day to day life...

mummylonglegs Wed 27-Jul-05 15:17:51

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heeheehaha Wed 27-Jul-05 15:34:00

I think it's quite commom in young children, though i did watch house of tiny tearaways where they had a little boy who used to do this with his cars.

Dr Tania(can't remember 2nd name)said is was due to the mothers obsessive need for order & tidyness. He was distraught when they messed up his neat arrangement. The more he was allowed to be messy the more tollerant he became for them to break his line-not suggesting that's what you are like but just giving another angle.

mummylonglegs Wed 27-Jul-05 18:41:31

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Enid Wed 27-Jul-05 18:51:38


I have no obsessive need for order. Dh does but he doesnt really care about the kids rooms so they can be messy if they like. Dd2 is 'normal' and doesnt really bother about order adn loves to play properly with her toys.

dd1 is very conscientious at school . she lvoes the discipline and rules and is very worried about breaking them (eg missing the bell ringing in the morning). When she is confident she is less obsessive but gets much worse if she is tired or worrying about something.

She had lots of rituals when she was about 3 but doesnt really have any now, she tidies her room herself and loves to arrange her toys in lines.

The upside is she is really really good at Flower arranging and loves to pick flowers and sort them into fab looking bunches

Enid Wed 27-Jul-05 18:54:05

She entered a drawing competition at my work (i work in an arts centre) and her picture was completely symmetrical: rainbow bottom left and top right, unicorn bottom right and top left, hearts in one corner and the opposite diagonal corner, loads of bits and pieces in perfect symmetry. When I took it in one of my colleagues looked at in in horror and said pityingly 'You have to live with that?'

Enid Wed 27-Jul-05 18:55:23

Dhs conclusion is that he has mild OCD and so does dd1 - I think he is exaggerating personally as I think he is obsessive but not at all compulsive, like dd1.

Jimjams Wed 27-Jul-05 19:04:56

I think whether you count it as ocd or a variation of normal depends on how much of a problem it is. ds1 has ocd as part of his autism- tbh the ocd causes more problems often than the autism. For instance he will not come into the house without going through an elaborate ritual (walk 3 doors up, back 4 doors down, back, down side of house look through neighbours window- pavement look at neighbours front door- walk in front of our house look through window then in- and I went through loads of screaming to cut that down from something ridiculous). If he misses out a stage then he'll be hedbutting th wall. His tics and obsessions change- at the moment its looking through keyholes and under doors- and the really weird one of hitting himself symetrically if he hurts himself- so if he falls over and hits a knee he'll go back and start whacking the other knee on the ground.

When he was originally assessed I asked about managing the ocd and they said what I was doing was on the right track- which was basically limiting obsessions- so I'll let him look through a keyhole but not over and over again.

If there is an obsessionh that is a pita then we have to break it. In that case I tell him last time then don't allow it- he screams the place down- after about half an hour I'll let him do it again "last time" Sometimes once is enough, othr times we have to do thjat whole process several times. I don't do that unless the obsession is a pita because when one goes another one replaces it- and better the devil you know. I'll have to break the coming into the house one soon- but I know it'll be hard and involve lots of screaming so I haven't done it yet (need to before it gets to autumn)

mummylonglegs Wed 27-Jul-05 22:01:04

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Jimjams Wed 27-Jul-05 22:40:39

Ah MLL ds1 does that with his feet as well- he often has to go back to a place to touch the spot wiith each foot again- we call it balancing out so interesting you used the same words.

I suppose in some ways ds1 doesn't have the prooblem of knowing that he "shouldn't be doing these things iyswim. He's non-verbal so he just does (or tries to) do what he wants- he doesn't have any social convention that he's trying to fit in with.

His compulsiveness is worse when anxious. We had a terrible time after ds2 was born when he would glue himself to steps/stairs and would refuse to move from them. very difficult if we were out and about!

ATM a lot of his routines are more like tics (touching things etc) which is easier to deal with (for him as well) although I know it drives his teacher up the wall when he's looking through keyholes in PE lessons

mummylonglegs Wed 27-Jul-05 23:15:44

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mummylonglegs Wed 27-Jul-05 23:17:33

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