Growing Pains and a Minihoarder

By Catherine Pearlman

December 3, 2016 4 min read

Dear Family Coach: My 11-year-old son is really starting to be combative in our relationship. I know he's getting older and exploring his independent side, but the change feels abrupt. Part of me wants to straighten out this behavior, and the other part of me says let him be. What's the best way to deal his changing attitude? — Confused

Dear Confused: Many people assume parenting is parenting is parenting. But it isn't. Often, what might work for one child could be the wrong approach for a sibling. For example, one of my children could hug all night long, while the other loathes cuddling. She blows a kiss from afar at bedtime. Similarly, parenting methods that work with a toddler might not work with a teen. Sticking to the same plan without realizing your child is changing is unwise.

You and your son are going through some growing pains. It's good that you noticed it, so now you can adjust. He is not the little boy you've been raising. He's on the cusp of adolescence, and he needs more space and independence.

For the next few weeks, observe the times when your son is giving you some pushback. Then find ways to either avoid those moments or address them in a new way. Start thinking of him as a young man who wants to be treated as someone who can be more responsible. Give him more control in his life in terms of activities, food and clothing. Also, find the balance between what he can do and what he aspires to do but isn't ready to accomplish. Making these changes will help your relationship grow as your son grows.

Dear Family Coach: To my daughter, everything is special. She is only 10 years old, but she is already a minihoarder. She wants to keep every scrap of paper, every sticker and stamp, every stuffed animal and every piece of clothing, even if it no longer fits. She has a total breakdown if I try to get rid of anything. How can I help her part with the less special items so we are not overrun with useless junk? — Cramped Parents

Dear Cramped: There are many reason children like to keep stuff that may appear useless to their parents. Kids, by nature, are collectors. They like cute stuff, little stuff, stuff that rolls and sticky stuff. They just love stuff. Some like it more than others. But there is a fine line between collecting and hoarding. Here are some ways to know the difference and whether your daughter may need some outside help.

Kids who collect love to play with and show off their collections. They like them displayed in some special way. Hoarding kids stockpile their stuff and don't play with it. It's usually mashed into a closet or under the bed. Kids who hoard have an intense attachment to their objects even if they are obviously dirty, torn or ruined. If your daughter is not able to part with anything or if her reactions are overblown, then I would recommend seeking out a therapist who works with children who have anxiety disorders. Children who have hoarding tendencies often don't grow out of them. They can follow them into adulthood. It's better to help her conquer the issue now. A therapist can also help you understand hoarding and how best to support your daughter.

Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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