Four-Year-Olds Don’t Need a Psychologist

This past summer, I was sitting in a McDonald’s within a Walmart, enjoying a break from the day and a Quarter Pounder meal. But partway through, my lunch was disrupted when a mother, her three boys, and her friend sat down at a table next to me. The boys were energetic, fidgety, quite vocal, and (intentionally or not) annoying. I didn’t blame their mom for being a bit frazzled.

But as their meal went by, I was increasingly irritated by the mother. I can understand the usual fast food complaints (“This burger is supposed to come with pickles” or “I asked for bacon and they only gave me a single piece”), but she found fault with more than just that… and I’m not referring to the rest of her meal. Her problems with McD’s was nothing.

I’ve described her boys already and mentioned that I wasn’t surprised that their mom was frazzled. But I wasn’t quite ready to discover that her boys were mimicking… her. How do I know? She said this kind of stuff to her boys. “Oh my ___, this is why I hate bringing you guys shopping.” “See, this is why I usually leave you with Grandma when I go out.” “Will you just sit and eat already?!” “No, my friend isn’t here for ‘fun’. She’s here to give me a break for you guys!” And then to her friend, she added, “I’ve taken [the youngest of the boys] to a psychologist, but he still doesn’t behave. Like, he’s going to school next year and he can’t go like this!”

Say what?! That kid is four years old, tops, and she expects a psychologist to get him to stop yelling in public and standing on the bar stool and bugging her to high heaven? Good luck getting that strategy to work on the ten-year-old, much less the preschooler. And may I also mention that mommy-who-is-desperate-for-her-kids-to-behave is every bit as disruptive and disrespectful as her kids?

Children learn by example. They teeter about until they reach the point of walking like their parents. They babble and cry until they are able to form words and sentences to express their thoughts and needs. And they learn to be really loud and irritating if they see enough of it from mom and dad.

Children learn by instruction. If the concept of work-before-play is enforced, they may turn out more diligent. If they’re guided to eat without leaving half of their meals on their faces, shirts, and the floor, they’ll make less mess. If their manners go uncorrected, they’ll have all sorts of traits that anyone will consider undesirable.

Can a child veer away from the examples set and the instructions laid out for him? Of course. Every bundle of joy is its own bundle of sin. But is a child influenced by those around him, especially mom and dad? Big time.

So please, lady, before you send your preschooler to a shrink again, do yourself (and everyone else) a favour and consider getting your own act together and seeing if that makes a difference. Sounds like you could use some time to relax on a couch and tell somebody what’s up. Doesn’t even have to be a psychologist. (Though I hear the Great Physician is great at listening and equally great at working with you to bring about results because He understands the human mind, heart, and soul better than anyone.)

Because your four-year-old doesn’t need a psychologist. He needs a healthy example to follow, a mother to love and respect, and a good foundation for his future.


PS: I just found this song a couple days ago. And wow, it hits the nail on the head.


One thought on “Four-Year-Olds Don’t Need a Psychologist

  1. An excellent take on that sad experience. There is a reason Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” However, if you train them up in the way they should NOT go, they will also follow that. To think that the way to deal with minor (at most) misbehaviour is to take a child to a psychologist seems severely misguided. God created the family structure the way He did for a reason.

    Also, that is a great song. I am not much for country music, but the message is excellent.


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