When your child is a hoarder

BE isn’t really a hoarder, but she does show a lot of interest in trash. She always wants to pick up things that she finds lying around, such as a broken crayon in her school hallway, or a cracked cell phone case in the grass. In her recent newsletter, Heather Forbes answers a reader’s question about why her adopted daughter hoards, or collects things. She explains:

“It could be that your daughter’s resistance to throwing things away is representative of her perception of not feeling valued and worthy. This resistance is perhaps a way to recreate a new experience for herself.”

Her solution is a real challenge for me. Both my kids, but BE especially, seem to have an unusual addiction to sweets and even having them in the house can cause a real problem. I think that for my kids, this addiction and the hoarding come from the same place. Here’s what Heather said:

“By accepting her desire to have these items and by working with her on this issue, you are giving her the message that she is valuable, that her ideas are worthy, and that she is lovable — the core issues that are behind this behavior to begin with!”

This is really tough because I want to be in control. I just need to work on accepting my kids where they are. I’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot of work to do!

Check out Heather’s newsletter on her Web site.

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14 thoughts on “When your child is a hoarder

  1. i think you are right to step back and accept the behavior, as hard as that would be. i’m a clean freak who hates clutter and that would drive me insane. oh, and the sweets thing sounds normal. a lot of kids don’t have great impulse control. my mom used to hide the sweets and then serve them to us after dinner. except for ice cream, most sweets and snacks would disappear within a couple days of being in the house!

  2. My kids were all like that when they were young. The oldest is now a cleaning throw things away maniac and I laugh at her now. Sounds like you have regular kids to me. Blessings

  3. Wow. That describes both of my kids. Bubaloo loves junk (and I mean if it’s broken, trash or something he finds, he wants to keep it). And it drives us nuts because he has all of this stuff in his room that he doesn’t do anything with and we haul out 5-6 garbage bags at each biannual room cleaning.

    Now sweets, that’s Bella and Bubaloo. Bubaloo likes to save and savour his food. Bella will eat it all as soon as she gets it.

    The thing is that these are not healthy responses. For the first couple of years, we went along with the behaviours, and supported them. But nothing really changed. They just ate and ate junk food until they got repeatedly sick. Bubaloo’s collection of stuff morphed into stealing. I haven’t read the response yet from Heather, but what comes next. What about wanting to change the behaviour?

    • Hi Gus&Otto – thanks for reading and sharing. I’ll forward you Heather’s entire newsletter for more info. She also has a good chapter on hoarding in her book “Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control.”

      • Would you mind sending it again. I checked it wasn’t there. And I just checked again and didn’t see it. I’d love to read it.

        gumshoegirl at gmail dot com

      • I read this a few weeks back and I think I forgot to comment. I was still developing my thoughts on it.

        I guess where I got stuck was around the “what next?”

        What if you embrace the hoarding, work with your kid, develop other systems of coping, but the hoarding never stops?

      • Hi Gus&Otto – thanks for reading and commenting. I think the idea is that kids are hoarding because they have some emotional need that’s not being met. Once they feel that that need is met (through you, the parent), the behavior will decrease. When we first started doing BCLC, I used to worry a lot about the future – “what if they never stop?” “what if they end up on ‘Hoarders’?” But, what I’m working on is realizing that I can only control today. I really can’t worry about what will happen in the future. I have to do my best today and be satisfied with that. I hope I answered your question!

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