Health & Fitness

Act if you see sudden change in your child

angry child
There are a number of reasons that can lead to a sudden change in behaviour in your child and parents must look out for early signs. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Qn. “My five-year-old daughter has lately developed a queer habit of unprovoked burst-ups both at home and in school. I have tried figuring out what the problem might be because she is treated well just like her elder sister. What could be wrong with her?”

A change in behaviour in children is often a sign that “something” has happened that might be upsetting or confusing to the minor. In your case, what you call “queer habit of unprovoked burst-up both at home and at school” is a clear invitation for you to investigate what the child is telling you and the world.

Many parents will blame the school or even more commonly one parent will point the finger at the other for “spoiling the child”.

From your question, we must assume that the elder sister is “normal” and that because she is treated well, there is no concern about her behaviour.

As for the five year old, we could assume that she has recently started at school and that is the most significant change in her life. Right there we see a number of challenges that could make the little girl behave in the way that you describe.


Starting at home, it is possible that you, the parents, and her elder sister leave home before six am to cross the city to a private primary school. The little girl is then left in the care of a house help who feels undervalued, harassed and unappreciated by the family. In your home she eats the left overs of your dinner in the kitchen, and sleeps in the sitting room on the floor.

Once in a while, the father of the home staggers home late at night, and “accidentally falls on top of her” causing her much fear and anxiety as he touches her all over as he “tries to get up”. She is too scared to report the matter to the woman of the house because as the sole bread winner in a family of six, the family responsibility is heavy.

When you leave home early in the morning, she feels the need to rest on a comfortable bed (yours) and also to enjoy a hearty breakfast with your daughter. On account of fear, exhaustion, anger and frustration, she is unkind to the little girl who looks so much like her father.

As the morning shouting match between the little girl and the house help rages, words of abuse are uttered and the little girl is gripped with fear as she is told not to tell her mother, or she will be killed if she does.

The extreme fear and anxiety in the child finds manifestation and is the “queer behaviour” both at home and at school! Her behaviour is the result of fear at home.

Children also react in the same way in the event of difficulties at the home front between parents. In a recent case, a five-year-old girl was found in the toilet cutting up a cloth doll she had taken to school. Asked why she was in tears and destroying the doll, she explained that she had heard her father telling her mother that he would cut her up in pieces if she kept coming home late. The girl wanted to see what happens if something was “cut up”. In this case, the queer behaviour was the result of domestic violence.

In yet another case we saw recently, a five-year-old girl had taken to the habit of passing urine on herself as soon as she got to school. When she did so, she was taken back home where she played alone all day. In time, it became clear that the filthy toilets in the school so scared the child that she would, in her child’s mind, rather wet herself than go to the very smelly school toilets!

As you can see, there are many different reasons for a five year old to change in behaviour. You, as a parent must start off by examining any new changes in the child’s home and or school environment. Here, you will often find the easy and early solutions. If only life was that simple!

In some cases, the cause of the queer behaviour could be some other childhood mental or emotional disorder such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety or depression. What you call “queer” behaviour could also be part of the Autistic Spectrum Disorder. It might be worth your while to check with an expert if no easy answers present themselves. Any new and disturbing behaviour in a child calls for your action.