Help! My Child Is Obsessed!

Help! My Child Is Obsessed!


frozen-disney01What Does It Mean When Your Child Develops A Fixation

Do you start to flinch when you hear the strains of ‘Let It Go’ ?

(Maryam Kia-Keating, Yalda T Uhls, “The psychology of why little kids are completely obsessed with ‘Frozen’” The Washington Post, Jan 2015)

Can you recite, word-for-word, ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’?

Have you gone out of your way, and resorted to extremely inventive distraction techniques, to prevent your child from seeing a toy tractor?

Your child has developed an all-consuming obsession with something, and it’s driving you up the wall.

What can you do about it? Do you need to worry about it? Will this madness ever end?



Don’t worry.  If you’re facing a frustrating childhood obsession, here are a few things to bear in mind…


It’s Probably Nothing To Worry About

For an adult, an all-consuming obsession is generally looked at askance – particularly when it’s pursued with the kind of repetition and total focus which little children use for their obsessions.

So some parents may think that the fixations their children develop could be signs of darker psychological issues.

It is true that certain illnesses and conditions do involve obsessive behaviour and fixations.

Autistic children, for example, often display single-minded and sometimes obsessive passions for certain things  and obsessive thoughts can also be a sign of anxiety disorders like OCD, however,  obsessions are not nearly so abnormal for a child as they are for an adult.kids_dancing

(The National Autistic Society, “Obsessions, repetitive behaviour and routines”   )
(PsychGuides, “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Symptoms, Causes and Effects”  )

If your child is not evidently distressed by or feeling ‘forced’ to follow their obsessions, they are unlikely to be suffering from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

If their fixations make them happy and give them joy, there is probably nothing to worry about. Should your child become exceedingly distressed if they are forbidden to indulge their obsession, this may be a sign that they need to see a behavioural specialist – but it is in all fairness perfectly normal for kids to tantrum when their favourite programme or toy is denied them.

All children develop intense fixations with things – it’s part of being a child.

If you’re worried about the extent of your child’s obsession, take them to see a specialist. Even if it should transpire that there are deeper reasons behind your child’s fixation, the fixation itself need not be a problem for you at all.

It’s just something you’ll have to learn to work into your life, and to manage in a way which makes your child happy while simultaneously learning to function without it.


This is How Kids Learn

Ok, but why do kids get so obsessed with certain things? We all have favourite books and favourite films, but we don’t feel the need to read/watch them over and over and over and over and over and over again!

How can a child watch ‘Frozen’ eighty million times (conservative estimate) in a row without getting sick to the back teeth of Elsa and Anna? Well, nobody is entirely sure, but it’s probably evolution’s way of encouraging kids to learn.

(Jenafer Medina, “Why It’s Awesome Your Kid Is Obsessed With Stuff”, Dorling Kindersley)

We get an evolutionary ‘kick’ out of the physical things we need to do to survive (eating, for example) because this encourages us to continue doing them.

(Dina Spector, “An Evolutionary Explanation For Why We Crave Sugar”, Business Insider, Apr 2014)

With something as ephemeral as learning, however, it’s a bit different. When we’re children, our ‘job’ is to learn how to become productive and happy adults. But what we need to learn varies from culture to culture.

Unable to give us a specific physical ‘drive’ to learn, evolution instead gave children a rather more complex psychological motivation: in essence, it made the malleable brains of children more likely to develop ‘obsessions’ than those of adults.

Being fixated on something means that (as many parents know all too well) you’re likely to repeat it many times over – and it’s that act of repetition which makes vital information sink deep into your brain, where it remains firmly locked in for decades.13011454361973456359cartoon-family-holding-hands-hi

(Amanda Moritz-Saladino, “Repetition is the mother of all learning”, Brainscape, Oct 2015)

Obsession also makes you zone in on whatever you’re obsessed with, to the exclusion of all distractions.

In a ‘wild’ situation, children may have fixated on things like gathering certain fruits, or playing hunting games. In the modern world, their minds have much, much more to choose from.

But the ‘learning’ mindset is still there, and still provoking the fixations it needs in order to build up a strong set of adult skills.

If your child gets fixated on things, it probably means that all of their learning ‘software’ is in great working order.


This Too Shall Pass

In general, the obsessions of our children don’t last that long. Ok, it may seem like you’ve been trapped in a small room with Olaf et al for about forty years, but in real time terms, children’s obsessions tend to peak and wane over the course of a few months. All_Characters-2717820411-O

They may retain a fondness for whatever they were obsessed with, but the serious fixation won’t last for that long. Bad news is that the reason one obsession fades out tends to be because something else crops up to take its place.

( Matt Gardner, “School life: top 12 playground crazes”, The Telegraph)


Have fun with that – Article by Gemma Cain  


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