Posted by: Purple | 2009-07-15

Concerned about sons comments

Dear CS,

Hope you are well. I' ve had a bit of a worrying incident with my son and your responses are so well thought out and sensible, that I wanted your opinion and advice before I read too much into the situation - or too little into it.

My son is 5 and a half years old now. Although we aren' t a particularly religious family, we live in a Christian community and do follow the faith to some degree. My mom has bought him a children' s bible and he sometimes asks to be read to from it, I keep it in his bookshelf with all his other books. Last night we were reading about the ten commandments and there was the bit about not killing.
He hugged me and said he' s very sorry but sometimes he thinks about trhowing knives at me and cutting my neck and he doesn' t want to do that.
I reassured him that everyone feels cross enough with people to have thoughts like that from time to time (I don' t think everyone does though!) and that he wouldn' t do it.
I asked why he felt like that and he said he didn' t know but sometimes he felt like that.
He asked me to hide the knives away. I said there wasn' t any need to as those were just thoughts and he wasn' t going to do it.

I' m a little worried though, is he showing signs of depression? (I have bouts of depression on and off and had post natal depression and looking back think I was depressed through my pregnancy too), an aunt of mine suffered from depression from in her teens and committed suicide in her twenties.

Is he perhaps angry with me about something (perhaps I have inadvertently treated him unfairly by saying no before listening properly to what he wants or not listening to a story he' s telling or paying attention properly - I think all parents have that happen from time to time, and for me it happens some evenings when I' m tired from a day of constant in depth questioning from him about everything under the sun and beyond it too).
Is my rule setting and discipline perhaps too harsh and he is feeling negatively towards me about it?

Or is this age appropriate expression to perfectly normal ocassional anger?

I' m not worried that he will actually do this and I don' t think he' s developing murderous tendencies, I just want to know if I' m wrong and it isn' t just an expression of anger that is inappropriate because of his immaturity (he is only 5 afterall).

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Hi Purple,
With a family history of depression, this might possibly be a part of his future, but isn't typically associated with the sort of thoughts he described to you.
I very very much doubt that you have done anything wrong, and only really responsible parents would be so soul-seaching in such a situation. Obviously it must have been a chilling moment. But a tribute to all you do right that he was able to confide this awful thought to you so trustingly. I think it is part of the repertoire of normal kids to at times have murderous and violent thoughts at times when they feel very angry. The method, of knife throwing may be an echo of something he saw on TV or heard about at school. Putting the knives away out of reach i a good idea in any household, simply because kids may accidentally hurt themselves when using a major knife for a small task. The confession shows both love for and trust in, you and also that he may be a bit more deeply thinking than many kids, in actually seriously thinking about what the Bible says in the Commandments and elsewhere, and taking those seriously. If the subject arises again, you might explore whether such violent thoughts have applied to anyone else, and if they only arise when he is feeling very cross or frustrated, or something he thinks about coolly and at length when calm ( the latter would be a bit more bothersome ). I think to a kid a Mom is something like God --- a loved and feared power figure who knows so much ( at least so it seems to the kid !) and seems responsible for most of what happens, and who thus could also be a target for our wrath when anything goes wrong.

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