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Three year old killed his fish

My husband woke me up this morning to say that he found our son playing with the water for the beta fish tank, but no fish in sight. Then he says he found a fiew...pieces...of the fish. He said he couldn't deal with it, so he woke me up to do it. So I had him send my son up to my bedroom where I was and my son and I talked. He told me he pinched the fish. He said sorry, but I think that's just because he knew he was in trouble. He almost instantly moved on to talking about other things, and now he's acting like nothing happened and my husband is acting like this is a sign that our son is a sociopath. If you have any advice, please, help!

 
cr8zysweet

Asked by cr8zysweet at 11:42 AM on Aug. 27, 2011 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Level 4 (45 Credits)
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Answers (17)
  • First, you'll find that ALL children, especially toddlers, profile like sociopaths. They're curious, they're still learning right from wrong, they lie to get out of trouble, and many show little remorse for their actions unless they're caught. It's normal. It sounds like your son was curious about what Fishie felt like, then curious about what would happen if he squeezed Fishie, until it ended in a gory mess. Kids this age also tend to squish bugs for fun and mutilate food items in their curiosity to understand them. It doesn't surprise me he doesn't feel remorse over killing the fish; kids that age are completely egocentric--it's all about them. They're unable to see things from another being's point of view, and therefore empathy and/or compassion is very hard for them. He likely doesn't realize what he did hurt the fish. He was curious, he found out, that was it. Tell your husband he has nothing to worry about. :)
    GlowWorm889

    Answer by GlowWorm889 at 2:28 AM on Aug. 28, 2011

  • I think the sociopath label may be a little premature but I can absolutely understand that this would cause some concern.

    At three, he probably doesn't understand the whole life/death concept and, to him, it IS like nothing happened. Did he have responsibilities regarding the fish, like feeding it and cleaning the tank (helping)?
    Brawnwyn

    Answer by Brawnwyn at 11:49 AM on Aug. 27, 2011

  • First of all, 3-4 year olds don't know their own strength. He most likely accidentally squished it by picking it up & found that it was cool & slimey so he squished it more. They really have no concept of the finality of death at that age. He didn't do it on purpose, he was just playing. Now if your son was 8 years old or older & did it then you may have a problem. At this age (3-4) , I would just say don't do that again & not make a big issue of it.
    ILovemyPaulie

    Answer by ILovemyPaulie at 1:28 PM on Aug. 27, 2011

  • I hope this makes you feel better -my son confessed last year that he killed his Beta fish when he was 5!!! He wanted to touch him & then said he "squished him up against the side of the tank to see what would happen". He was sobbing and saying that he was so, so sorry.

    I think boys do this kind of thing for exactly the reason my son said "to see what would happen". They don't understand fully life & death, especially at 3 years old. And since your son is asking where the fish is, he clearly doesn't get it.

    Your son is not a sociopath. Just keep him away from your fish until he is old enough to understand.

    BTW a friend's son peed in their fish tank when he was 3 - again, to see what would happen!

    sweetpotato418

    Answer by sweetpotato418 at 7:25 PM on Aug. 27, 2011

  • My son had a hard time understanding how the fish on Cat in the Hat could live out of water and his couldn't he wanted desperately to touch it and we averted that but he did get a little aggressive with one of the butterflies by touching it before letting it go. I think this is a good time to talk about consquences and why it wasn't a good idea, but really it was just the curiousity and need to feel and touch things that made it happen. If your son is a sociopath as defined by this moment my son will probably be his cellmate someday.
    hotelmom123

    Answer by hotelmom123 at 1:37 PM on Aug. 29, 2011

  • My youngest son accidentally killed a fish when he was about that age. He kept climbing on the couch to get his hand in the fish tank and dumping water everywhere. The final straw was when he grabbed the thermometer and threw it on the bottom of the tank and it landed on a catfish. I duct taped the lid down after that and when he realized he couldn't open it, he lost interest.
    Bethsunshine

    Answer by Bethsunshine at 11:57 AM on Aug. 27, 2011

  • My niece took her fish to bed, put it on the pillow and covered him up. I honestly do not think they have any clue what they are doing. this will be a learning moment for sure.
    adopteekjt

    Answer by adopteekjt at 12:18 PM on Aug. 27, 2011

  • I agree, he doesn't understand. But I bet it doesn't happen again. Like the PP stated, this will be a learning experience.
    Brawnwyn

    Answer by Brawnwyn at 12:49 PM on Aug. 27, 2011

  • I agree with adopteekit, I don't think this is anything you have to worry about regarding your son's mental health.
    misanthropic

    Answer by misanthropic at 7:29 PM on Aug. 27, 2011

  • he liked to watch it, and he helped to feed it, but it was more just a house pet, not a personal pet. I mean, he's never mean to our dog at all. And he'll be four at the end of october, isn't this an old enough age to understand? Because I talked to him about this being bad and all that, and we're downstairs now and suddenly he asks me where the fish is.
    cr8zysweet

    Comment by cr8zysweet (original poster) at 11:52 AM on Aug. 27, 2011

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