“So, what can I do to make you feel better?”, I asked the 6 year old sitting across from me. Sitting up straight, feet dangling, arms planted firmly on the rests of a chair that all but swallowed him up, little Zac (not his real name) was looking straight at me.“Give me a nice medicine to make me not hurt anybody,” came back the reply without a moment’s hesitation. “You hurt people?,” I asked with only slightly feigned surprise. “Yes. I banged a block on Logan at school because I didn’t want him touching my blocks. I’ll hurt my sister when we get in fights, too.” “And, why do you fight with your sister?” “I try to steal her money.” “No wonder you get in fights. Why do you try to steal her money?” “I want it.”
“Give him A for honesty”, I thought to myself. This fellow seemed like he doesn’t pull his punches in any respect… “What else would you like the medicine to do for you?” “I want a strong medicine” “A strong medicine?” “Yes, a medicine to make me stronger. I want to be able to pick up heavy things. I want to be as strong as a train.”
I am often asked how one selects a homeopathic remedy for a child. In actuality, it isn’t that much different than an adult. The key in either case is to understand what are the attributes of the person, his condition and his symptoms that are unique, distinctive or that in some way define him as an individual. “Characteristic” or “strange, rare and peculiar” are the terms the old homeopaths used.
As with any homeopathic case, the chief complaint itself must be understood in the context of a larger picture, the picture of the child’s individuality. A great majority of parents who bring children labeled with attention disorders, for example, will say that their child gets distracted easily or can’t focus. It is essential to get beyond these symptoms that are common to the problem, to find out who that child is and how he or she is different than any other child similarly labeled.
In both children and adults alike these can sometimes be easy to see – or they can be maddeningly difficult to perceive. With a preverbal, timid or obstinately tight-lipped child, one has to be prepared to extract the necessary information by way of observation, parental comments and from the nature of the symptoms themselves.
A newborn infant can be successfully treated for, let’s say, colic or constipation or irritability by knowing just one or two characteristic symptoms that point to a remedy. A more complicated case with more severe problems or pathology will entail not only understanding the symptoms the child is experiencing along with the his or her disposition, but also the nature of one or both parents plus the history of the pregnancy and the birth.
Often the greatest challenge is be open to the ways a child communicates. If a child isn’t verbally expressive or feels put upon by answering questions or otherwise talking with an unknown adult, drawing pictures or playing with toys might be more productive and a parent can give fill in the picture.
One case that taught me a lot was a very recalcitrant, disruptive child who refused to engage with me for months until we hit upon playing a version of ’20 Questions’. Now, that is our regular way of interacting when we meet and I have learned a lot more about him from what he talks about during the game than during previous attempts at homeopathic questioning.
Now, Zac didn’t present such problems. In fact, his forthright way of expressing himself to anybody was quite characteristic of him. That also included things like telling kids to get off the swing at the playground or he’d push them off because he wanted to use it, or just plain attacking them for no apparent reason at all.
Zac had a very competitive streak that came out when playing soccer. “I don’t like to lose. I want to win and get prizes.” That competitiveness ran very deep. Once he told his mother that he wanted to kill all girls so that he would be the only person left in the world. “That way, nobody would hurt me.”
He was even more aggressive with girls. It was an aggression with a sexual undertone unusual for a child his age. This sexuality was even more apparent at home in interactions with his mother and sister. On the other hand, he also played well with his sister. In one favorite role, he would be a fireman, and she would take on the role of his wife. Together they would play house with dolls as children. During this play, his mother noticed he was very calm and well behaved. (Although he might ‘discipline’ his children with a good smack if they ‘misbehaved’.)
Intellectually, Zac was very adept. He loved math and figuring things out in general. But above all, he had a passion for trains, especially the locomotives. “They carry things really fast. They can drive really fast and they are strong.” When given paper and crayon while I talked with his mother, he drew trains, frontal pictures of big black locomotives moving out toward you from the paper.
And that is what he wanted to be like: strong like a train “so I can move, lift and push heavy things”. And actually, Zac was quite strong. He’d move furniture in his room by himself or do bike rides unusually long for his age.
While there were a number of other aspects to his case, these were the things that stood out: direct, aggressive, competitive, dominating, sexual but also with a domestic, nurturing side. From a homeopathic perspective, this suggested a remedy made from the milk of a mammal, which is characterized by a strong need to be dominant (or submissive) in a group (a family, a herd, a community), as well as take care of others within that group.
The question was which mammal? After mulling it over a good bit, it came to me while looking at those drawings that Zac’s energy – his directness, the head-on power of the locomotives he drew, and his precocious sexuality – was best matched by a homeopathic preparation of ‘Lac Caprinum’, or goat’s milk.
Although people needing this remedy are most noted for a heightened sexuality - like the highly sensual half-man, half-goat Satyr of ancient Greek mythology, there is also an aggressive forcefulness, a straight ahead strength that reflects how goats vie for rank within the herd by butting heads and knocking horns.
Zac’s mother and teacher – as well as Zac himself (and probably his sister, too) - are grateful that he did very well with the remedy. While still an active, direct, and ‘strong’ fellow, he no longer feels the urge to hurt people and is more socially appropriate at school and home. This will surely stand him in good stead as he develops into a mature adult and beyond.