Los Angeles Times

Young boy’s bad behavior

- Email questions to Amy Dickinson at askamy@ amydickins­on.com.

Dear Amy: My nephew (age 4 1⁄2) is very smart but often seems dysregulat­ed.

He runs around in small circles for about 10 minutes screaming. He can only focus for short amounts of times, avoids eye contact and often does not respond when spoken to directly.

We recently had a situation where his older sister (age 6) built a blanket fort when she wanted/needed some quiet time, and was very happy while building it.

The little one, of course, wanted in on the fort, did not want to build his own, then stepped over the boundaries he’d promised to keep just one minute earlier. He didn’t seem to remember what he’d just promised, which of course made his sister upset, so that she ended up crying.

He then threw a fit, as he often does.

I can’t talk to his parents about the possible need for therapeuti­c help. They don’t want to address this, and everyone is just helpless.

His mother has a lot of issues and feels like she is under a lot of stress, but she is not open to doing therapy or any other kind of self-care, other than stress eating.

I apologize if this sounds uninformed. I am grateful for any advice or input.

Clueless Aunt

Dear Aunt: I am not qualified to diagnose any particular issue with your nephew, although some of what you describe would be familiar to a person on the autism spectrum.

Your nephew’s behavior could be explained by many other factors and dynamics in his household, including his diet, sleep schedule or the inconsiste­nt direction he might be receiving by a stressed and tired parent.

If your nephew is 4 1⁄2, I’m assuming that he has not had any consistent in-person schooling yet. The pandemic has interrupte­d so many childhoods, and his life could be transforme­d by regular contact with other kids his age, as well as skilled teachers who would help to guide him —and his parents.

Your nephew might be exiting a stage where tantrums “worked” for him. Early childhood education is vital to guide kids toward pro-social behavior.

You could help by taking him to the playground for fresh air and exercise, introducin­g him to the wonderful world of bugs, or building things with blocks and Legos. You would learn more about him by spending oneon-one time with him, listening to him and encouragin­g him to explore in his own way, without too much judgment or correction (unless he is hurting someone).

Dear Amy: I have a large group of friends. We all have kids between the ages of 18 and 30 who still live at home for financial reasons. They are in college or working.

Our friends’ adult children stay out several nights a week and sleep at their partners’ homes — and all of them are still living at home.

There seem to be a lot of parents out there who allow this, but our group agrees it doesn’t feel right to shack up in your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s childhood bedroom, having sex, with the parents next door. What is your opinion?

Old-School Moms

Dear Old-School: My attitude toward this depends on the situation. If an adult child is in a long-term relationsh­ip and I know their partner, I welcome the partner to visit, and they can sleep wherever they like.

However, one sure-fire way to coax an adult toward independen­t living is to limit their friends’ access to the bedroom and refrigerat­or.

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