4 Year Old Boy Still Breast Feeding and in Diapers

by dad

I'm concerned about my 3 year 10 month old son's social development. He is incredibly advanced verbally, but still in diapers. He has an almost photographic memory, but still breast feeds several times daily.

He is a loving, joke-y and interactive boy, but only with his mommy and daddy. My concern is an apparent lack of social development. Not only does he not want to play with other kids or adults, he does not want his mommy or daddy to even talk to anybody but him.

He yells and interrupts until you take your focus off of whoever you are speaking to and shift it to him, and he does not share. He's an only child, and he's spent every day of his life with his mother- she says he is too young to do anything independently (i.e. swimming lessons, or such).

He's never had a baby-sitter, and even when he asks for one on one time with daddy, he is met with open resistance from mommy. I'm wondering if this is at all healthy for him. He openly states he doesn't want friends, that he will never go to school, that he doesn't ever want to use the potty because he wants us to take care of it for him, and that he will only "do" things if it's with one or both of us.

Mom and he sleep together every night- she goes to bed with him, nurses him to sleep about 7pm, and stays in bed with him until he wakes. Then they spend all day together, to the exclusion of others. Am I wrong to be concerned about his independence?

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Nov 12, 2010
Parenting Book
by: Laura Ramirez

Actually, reading the parenting book will be helpful because it will give you an understanding of child development from birth to death. It is essential for parents to have a grasp of human development so they can see where their child is along the path and develop reasonable expectations for child behavior. It is also important for the parent to understand their own trajectory. We all grow and develop throughout our lives.

Parent coaching is a good alternative to therapy. A coach is a guide who encourages you to find the answers that are already inside of you. Unlike therapy, a coach will give you action steps and hold you accountable for taking them. By taking action and changing your behavior, you change your life and the lives of those around you.

As the wife of a man who has been a marriage and family therapist for over 30 years, I understand that therapy and coaching both have value. Only you can choose the path that is right for you.

Nov 10, 2010
Yes, there is a problem
by: Anonymous

As a child psychologist, yes, this is a problem. Children at this age need both loving shelter AND support to explore and develop their own personality. The issue, of course, is that reading a parenting book will not help you- as the problem is with your wife. She needs counseling to help her let go and provide the stability AND freedom that the child needs to develop healthy social and emotional behaviors. I do not see the nursing, or even the diapers, as particularly problematic. It is that your wife (perhaps I'm making an assumption here) is openly hesitant to allow the child to develop bonds beyond her. The child is ready for pre-school, swim lessons, etc. This is not to say that he should be pushed away, only given opportunities to explore on his own. Children are resilient, and your son can still easily develop appropriate social/emotional skills. The difficult part will be getting your wife to change her ways. Your son is not a pet; he is an individual and it is your job to raise him to be an independent adult. Your wife needs help now - otherwise, your son will be in for a very difficult transition when it comes time to attend school. Further, although resilient, there will come a time when the damage is permanent. I recommend that you see a family therapist as you will need support as an entire family. Change should happen gradually; sudden disconnection would do more harm than good. But with support, and time, your family can get back on track. You do need to make finding help a priority.
Good luck.

Sep 22, 2010
Four Year Old Still Breast Feeds and Wears Diapers
by: Laura Ramirez

You are right to be concerned about a four year old who still breast feeds and wears diapers. Your child has his mommy wrapped around his finger and she has an unhealthy investment in keeping him a baby.

Although a baby's needs are a top priority during the first few years, as the child starts to develop his own identity (around the age of 2), he needs to learn that other people have needs too and that he does not always come first. Your wife is raising your child to believe that it's all about him (at the cost of ignoring your needs too) and you know as a man that this will not serve your son in the future. Although your son adores his mommy now, ultimately, he will end up resenting her because she is not giving him what he needs to thrive.

Worse yet, she is encouraging the development of a personality disorder. Your son demands to be the center of attention and believe me, no one outside your nuclear family is going to put up with this. Although your child's behavior may seem cute right now, if allowed to continue, it will be anything but that in the years to come.

You need help with this. You may want to consider my parenting coach service or look for a therapist in your area. At the very least, get your wife to read my response to your concerns.

You may also want to read my parenting book particularly the chapter that explains child development, as well as your development as a parent.

Whatever you do, don't let this go. Doing so would be a great disservice to your son and will impact him for the rest of his life.

Thank you for having the courage to post your question. Now summon the courage to act.

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