The Balancing Act: ‘My Daughter Is Obsessed With The Number 22’
Every other week, Sonali Gupta draws on more than 10 years of experience as a clinical psychologist to answer readers’ questions about parenting, family dynamics, relationships, mental health, and more.
Numbed By Numbers: My 6-year-old daughter is obsessed with the number 22. And all her stories and behaviour have an element of the number. About 3 months back, she started loving the number 22 in her dictation, and she continues to do so. She wants the AC temperature to be on 22. She even wrote the date as 22nd, even though it was 15th, and then hid the notebook. Please help me understand her behaviour.
Sonali: This behaviour can be a matter of concern for a parent. It sounds to me like she has developed a special connection with this number. Have you tried asking her specifically about the significance of the number? You could try asking: What is so special about the number? What would happen if the AC is switched to 23, or 24? Try to be calm, gentle and empathetic as you ask these questions, so she knows it’s OK to be honest; that she hid her notebook could indicate she feels the need to hide her attachment to the number in order to avoid a punishment or scolding.
I would also suggest having a conversation with your daughter’s school teacher to understand if the pattern replicates at school. The number of instances you are quoting does seem to indicate there may be more to her behaviour than just naughtiness or plain liking for the number.
It is very difficult to be conclusive and it’s unfair to reach any clinical diagnosis based on this limited information. Speaking to a clinical psychologist or child psychologist would help you to better understand your child and handle the situation.
Parenting The Ratrace: As a mother, I meet a lot of moms who have kids enrolled in multiple activities. I am talking about friends whose kids are concert-level pianists, golfers, soccer players – all at 7 to 10 years old. The kids are doing well, but … is that parenting? I’d like your insights into parenting styles and what sort of impact they have on the kids in the long run. Do such kids maintain the super-successful graph? How come nobody ever tries to raise happy, well-adjusted and satisfied kids anymore?
Sonali: Thanks for asking the question. I think your question addresses concerns that are very relevant in the age of “Helicopter Parenting” and “Trophy Children.” A lot of psychological literature suggests today’s parents are too concerned about their children’s “genius” status, leading to a parenting style that may be overly anxious, pushy and even micromanaging. It’s also often misfocused: Research by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, suggests that it is more important for parents to praise children for their efforts, than their inherent intellect or abilities. (Read about raising resilient children on The Swaddle.)
I’m not sure if one can be conclusive about how the lives of these overscheduled, exemplary children finally shape up. But Joan Freeman’s book, Gifted Lives: What Happens When Gifted Children Grow Up, explores exactly this, and it’s worth a read. I, personally, feel some of life’s most important lessons are learned beyond the classroom. As parents, it is imperative that we teach children to develop healthy self-esteem, a belief in hard work and persistence, and an ability to graciously accept success as well as failure. (Read about learning how to fail on The Swaddle.)
As Freeman writes in her book, “The love parents give should be without strings, not dependent on achievement. Learn with your child.” Classes or no, this is a parenting philosophy that allows children to find their own potential and grow beautifully without any pressure.