Q. I am a Dad to 2 boys, a 4
year old and a 21 month old. They are all boy, very active and aggresive.
My 4 year old has recently had a number of instances where he is
hitting other kids in daycare. The daycare center is trying to reward
him for good behavior and asking us to take things away from him
at home (well after the incident has occured). This approach is
not working very well. Any other suggestions?
A. First of all what do you mean
your sons are all boy? You either are a boy or you are a girl. And
if you want to get really technical about it boys really can't be
all boy because they have both an x and a y chromosome whereas girls
can be all girls because they have only x chromosomes. I guess what
I am saying is that perhaps you need to re-evaluate what you believe
about what being a boy means. Perhaps focus your efforts on heping
them be kind, thoughtful, respectful, confident, and responsible
people rather than proving to the world that they are all boy.
Now that I'm off my soapbox, let's talk about
your son's aggressive behavior. I would recommend that you watch
closely the kinds of things your son is viewing on TV, movies, and
videogames. Talk with your son at a time when things are going well
about his angry feelings. Tell him what is acceptable to do about
these feelings. Perhaps when he is angry is can go out and kick
a ball, run around the yard as fast as he can, go in his room and
close the door and scream as loud as he can, punch some clay or
playdoh, punch a pillow, or whatever you and your wife decide is
OK for him to do. Tell him that you expect him to make these other
choices but that if he forgets you will have to stop him from hitting
and help him remember to show his feelings in better ways. Then
when he cools off, talk to him about what happened and how he might
handle such situations in the future to avoid getting angry or to
make a better decision about what to do with his anger in the first
Anger is a secondary emotion, meaning there is
always another feeling that was experienced first. This initial
feeling is usually one that leaves the person feeling vulnerable
and powerless so rather than deal with it they become angry because
it makes them feel more powerful and more in control. Sort of like
the way some birds ruffle up their feathers to look bigger when
they are trying to ward off predators. Anger is usually used to
hide feelings such as fear, embarrassment, jealousy, loneliness,
insecurity, frustration and such. More importantly, be sure that
you and your wife are providing your sons with good role models
for appropriately expressing feelings. Maybe you could share with
him what you do when you are angry, only those examples that you
would want him to follow of course. I wish you the best in dealing
with this situation and hope that this is helpful. You and your
wife might also want to read "Without
Spanking or Spoiling" by Elizabeth Crary.
Q. "Is there a chart that
lists all the age-appropriate chores for children? I have
a six-year old and a two-year old, and I would like to know what
chores would be appropriate for their ages."
A. There is an excellent book
that addresses the issue of teaching children about being responsible
and helping in the family. The title is "Pick
Up Your Socks" by Elizabeth Crary. Go to the Bookstore
for more information about this book. There is a chart on page 51
that outline which chores children should be able to accomplish
and at which ages. It also tells whether they will need help, will
need reminding or supervision, or can do it without supervision.
There are very few if any chores that a 2 year
old can accomplish without help or supervision. Six year olds can
probably do the following with help: brush teeth, bathe self, pick
up belongings, put dirty clothes away, hang up clean clothes, make
bed, tidy room, wipe spills, vacuum floors, take out trash, care
for pet, do laundry, set table, fix snack. They can do the following
with reminding or supervision: dress self. Remember that any time
you introduce a chore you must take time to teach them how to do
it. They will not be able to do it at the same standard as you right
away. Be patient and remember the goal which is self reliance and
Q. "I have a 12 year old
boy in the 7th grade, only child and naturally am having some typical
adolescent problems. I am looking for a good book or articles to
help myself and my husband (and my 12 year old) specifically in
getting through difficult and emotional times."
"We naturally the best for my son and I myself
long for the little boy on one hand but am excited for what's up
ahead for him. Can use as much help as possible."
A. One of my favorite resource
for adolescent/parent relationship issues is "Positive
Discipline for Teenagers" by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott.
It will be most beneficial if both you and your husband read these
books, so that you have a chance to discuss your reactions and are
coming from the same place when addressing situations with your
son. Other books that you might find helpful a "The Magic of
Encouragement" by Stephanie Marston, "How
to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk"
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, "Systematic
Training for Effective Parenting of Adolescents" by Don
Dinkmeyer and associates, and "A Parents' Guide to Teenage
Sexuality" by Jay Gale.
Remember that teenagers still need parenting just
like younger children, however they need parenting in a different
way. You have to be careful not to be too anxious to be your son's
buddy. He still needs you to be his parents. This does not mean
you cannot also be a friend. It just means that you have to also
be willing to do things that he may not like. Remember that your
goal is to help your son become a person capable of establishing
and maintaining relationships. The relationship you and your husband
have with your son is the foundation for every other relationship
he will ever have. The books in this I mention here are available
in the Bookstore.
Q. "My wife and I have 2
boys (3 yrs and 9 mos), a dog, and many bills (mortgage, student
loans, daycare, etc, etc, etc). We couldn't survive financially
if we weren't both working full time. I don't know how I do it,
and I do about half of what my wife does. She's about to have a
nervous breakdown. How can we stay sane and make life enjoyable
for us and our kids?"
A. If you have not already read
it, I would refer you to my Parents' Toolbox column titled "Fulltime
Parenting on a Partime Schedule". You might also look under
Pastoral Parenting at "A Model for Marriage" or the Parents'
Toolbox at "Making Sure Your Marriage Survives the Bliss of
I don't know what your particular financial situation
is, however I do know that oftentimes we get our needs confused
with our wants, and that what kids need and want most is time with
their parents. They don't need all the accoutrements that the media
tries to convince them and us of. Research has shown time and again
that when children are asked what they want most, they respond,
"To spend time with my parents." In short, the most important
thing you can spend on your children is your time. Some other quick
suggestions, share in household chores, involve the three year old
in things he can do just so he can be with you. Quality time with
children or spouse does not have to occur away from home or be some
major planned event. The most significant times we have with family
members often occur while folding clothes, washing dishes or washing
the car. Remember that nobody on their death bed regrets not having
spent more time at the office.
Q. "I need help in proper
communcation with my future spouse. I have broken off the engagement
once because things got to hairy with pressures etc.. I want this
marriage to work, this is my second marriage and I have a 10 year
old daughter. I would like some positive communction skills to use."
A. I believe the two of you could
seriously benefit from some premarital counseling with a qualified
marriage and family therapist. Look for a clinical member of the
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
in your yellow pages or ask a friend for a recommendation. You are
absolutely right in seeking suggestions on effective communication.
Look into participating in any couple enrichment programs that might
be offered in your area. I would specifically recommend the Couples
Communication program developed by Sherrod Miller. If this is a
remarriage try reading with your future spouse, "Strengthening
Your Stepfamily" by Elizabeth Einstein and Linda Albert.
Q. I'm trying to figure out how
to get my son motivated to study and improve his grades. He's very
smart but is totally uninterested in school and his grades are terrible.
A. Since I do not know how old
your son is, it is somewhat difficult to create a response. Some
ideas off the top of my head. Be sure your expectations for your
son are realistic. Be sure he is clear on what your expectations
are: That he does the best he can and spends the time it would take
to do that. Help him set up a schedule that would maximize the likelihood
of his success. Avoid allowing him to become overinvolved in extracurricular
activities. Find out what he is interested in and find ways to incorporate
those interests into his school work. Use school resources to create
solutions, stay in touch with his teacher(s) and seek their advice.
Stay involved and be available to help with homework, projects,
etc., but make it clear that it is his job to do the work. Avoid
overemphasizing grades. Focus on effort and progress. Don't let
your son's school performance become the foundation for your relationship
with him. He needs to know that you will love him no matter what.
Q. My kids are 8 and 3. Both
are normal, well-adjusted kids. My question pertains to the 8-year-old,
who is a very bright little boy. He's at the age where he's starting
to question these kinds of things and my level of anxiety is building
in anticipation of him cornering me and asking, "Daddy, is
Santa Claus real?"
A. I will share my personal opinion
and the way I have dealt with this with our son.
When our son began asking questions about whether
or not there was really a Santa Claus, I would respond with, "What
do you think?" As long as he responded with, "I believe
there is", I would not argue or try to persuade him otherwise.
We talked about Santa as though he were real, but avoided making
a big deal about him and trying to focus at least as much on our
Christian reasons for celebrating this holiday. When our son started
expressing skepticism and saying that he really didn't believe there
was a Santa, and that he thought it was me and his Daddy, I asked
him how he would feel about this. His response was that it did not
matter. At that point we had a discussion about the real source
of Santa, the history of St. Nicholas, etc. and the importance of
keeping the spirit of Santa, the spirit of giving, alive for ourselves
and others. He was told that it was now his reponsibility to help
keep Santa alive for his younger cousins (he has no siblings) and
friends who still believe. He has taken this responsibility very
seriously and seems to enjoy it as it allows him the permission
to go on as though he still believes also without appearing silly.
My reason for telling him the truth is that I want him to be able
to always trust me. And I want him to believe in the important things
like God and Christ. There are some things that you can believe
in even though you cannot see them. I want him to know the real
Q. How can I enforce house rules
when their Dad is gone? (their mom is a not custodial parent and
her location is currently unknown)
What part of disciplining should I be engaging
in when a decision or action needs to be taken? i.e.,physical altercation
between the girls or homework time, bed time, need of bathing or
picking up their mess? Their reaction to me is totally different
than to their father's. Although they do not follow rules for him
very well either, they do not react as negatively.
A. Sounds like you are in for
some challenging times. I recommend that you and your husband read,
Your Stepfamily" by Elizabeth Einstein and Linda Albert.
You need to discuss together what both of your expectations are
and whether these match or not with what is realistic to expect
considering the situation. If you are to be left in charge of these
girls, then they need to know from their father that he supports
whatever your decisions are because you have discussed beforehand
how situations will be handled. Step parenting is never simple and
you might all benefit from seeing a qualified marriage and family
therapist together. You would probably benefit from holding family
meetings on a regular (weekly preferably) basis also. See "Active
Parenting" by Michael Popkin for guidelines. You and your spouse
could also read together, "Positive
Discipline for Teenagers" by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott.
Remember that these girls, like any children, want more than anything
the love of their parents, including their mother who may not be
able to give it to them because of emotional reasons. Oftentimes
children resent love from others and will even punish those who
show them love because they cannot understand why their biological
parent cannot love them that way.
Q. In that all-important
sex talk with one's child, what should one say? Need specific talks,
not generalities. Maybe you know some literature with specific examples.
A. When discussing sex with your
children, try to remain calm, but don't be afraid to let them know
that this is not an easy topic to discuss and that you feel a bit
uncomfortable if you do. However, because this is such an important
topic, you are willing to experience the discomfort because you
want your children to know that they can always come to you about
anything, including sex. Educate yourself, but don't think you have
to know everything. If they ask you something you don't know, tell
them that you will have to find out, go find out and then get back
A book I like is "A Parents Guide to Teenage
Sexuality" by Jay Gale. Before you answer a question, be sure
you truly understand what it is your child is asking. You know the
old joke of the child asking where they came from and the parent
going into deep detail only to find that the child was asking what
city they were born in. Answer questions at a level that your child
can understand. There is no such thing as a silly or stupid question.
The most important thing is that your child can trust that you will
take their questions and curiosity seriously and that you make it
clear what your values about sex are and that you are practicing
those values and providing a good role model for your children.