Are video games bringing out the worst in these 12-year-olds?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 29, 2012 06:00 AM

My 12 year old son plays video games with his friends and many times they start picking on him because they think it's funny to make him mad. He gets so angry he starts crying and yelling. How do I teach him to handle this situation and stop what's happening? I tell him to shut off the game but then he feels isolated and wants to play with his friends again.

From: Mamaplanes, Monson, MA


Lies and young friendships

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 27, 2012 06:00 AM

My 5-year-old daughter has a best friend, a girl who is in her kindergarten class and someone she sees quite frequently outside of school. Lately, I've noticed that her friend is often lying to her. It's mostly harmless stuff, like explaining that she was 10 minutes late for school because she was on her way home from Disneyland. Or that she saw a movie that doesn't actually exist. To an adult, it's obvious that she's telling lies in order to impress her friends, but my daughter doesn't understand. Instead, she gets terribly jealous and the girls end up in a heated argument.

I'm trying to help my daughter react in a better way to the lying. Most of the time she knows that she's being lied to, and I've tried to explain to her that her friend is telling lies because they're usually about things that she wishes were true. But in the heat of the moment, she gets very upset, and the fight ensues. How can I help her deal with this?

Then the best friend usually ends it by saying, "I don't like you anymore," or "I don't want to be your best friend." I've told my daughter that she doesn't have to play with this girl and that when her friend says this, she can go find someone else to play with. But she says that this girl is her best friend, and sometimes they do play very nicely together. How can I help her through these rough patches in their friendship?
From: Annie C, Merrimack, NH


Dad's divorce and access to guns isn't a healthy combo for this 13-year-old boy

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 23, 2012 06:00 AM

[This letter has been condensed. Ed.]
I will be married to the most wonderful man I’ve ever known sometime next year. I’ll call him Mr. C. He has been divorced for 4 years after being married for 10. They had one child one year into their marriage. He tells me now that he knew then it was a mistake to marry ....but he had to stay for his son. He said his marriage became unbearable (her infidelity, drinking, etc…).

About 1 year before he filed for divorce, he reached out to me. We started talking on the phone. We used to be lovers over 17 years ago but we were young and dumb and couldn’t make a long distance thing work out, so we broke it off. So yes, I’m an ex-girlfriend and I suspect the woman he later married didn’t like me much....Once he filed and moved out of the bedroom, we did start to... see each other. Big mistake as we should have waited until the divorce was final – which took about 18 months. His ex-wife has used that information, including telling her son lies that we have been seeing each other all through their marriage and THAT is why they are divorced. She has filled this boy’s head with all sorts of adult lies regarding our relationship,[and] this boy hates me. The boy is now 13. I really feel bad for him. I’ve tried so many ways to be kind, loving, and attentive. He is an only child and is a real brat so it’s hard to be nice. I ask God for strength every time we are going to spend time together. The boy is usually low key, looks at me constantly out of the corner of his eye with disdain. When I leave his father’s house to go to my house, as I live in another state, the boy has an emotional meltdown; crying and saying I was mean to him, yelled at him, etc... The boy will call his mom and his mom will in turn Mr. C and ream him out for allowing ‘the whore to abuse’ her son. I’m afraid of this kid. My fear is that he’ll take one of his dad’s guns or crossbow and hurt me. This kid loves guns, ammo, all things weapon.

My question: should I go forward with this marriage? ... I read the horror stories associated with a stepkid who reeks havoc in a family. I have no children of my own, but I will eventually have my mother and disabled sister living with me. I do not want to subject them to this kind of stress. Mr. C is a wonderful father, but I think he lets his brat son get away with a lot of bad behavior. Mr. C excuses his son’s emotional outbursts by saying he’s going through a hard time and just needs time and counseling. Well, it’s been 4 yrs since their divorce. A lot of kids go through a divorce. Does this boy have other psychological problems?

From: Soon-to-be-Mrs.C, Fort Wayne, IN


When little one keeps popping out of bed

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 21, 2012 06:00 AM

Dear Barbara,

We recently transitioned my 26-month old to a twin bed (she had been climbing out of her crib). She loves the idea of it, and once she falls asleep, is fine all night long. However she hysterically freaks out if we don't lay down with her until she's completely asleep - which takes anywhere from 30 min to two hours. She was an excellent sleeper in her crib - would allow us to put her down awake and would fall asleep very quickly on her own. When she was younger we did end up letting her "cry it out" which was emotionally trying but did work! Is that type of method recommended for toddles as well - especially when she can get out of the bed and roam around the room at will? (Her room is childproofed) How else can/should we get her to go sleep on her own? Please help!

From: Exhausted, Medford, MA
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Before you make that Thanksgiving trip.....

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 19, 2012 06:00 AM

Hi Barbara,
You probably get this question every year at Thanksgiving, but what advice do you have for traveling with young children? Until now, our family came to us. But this year, gps are infirm (all 4 of them -- yikes! at least they live in the same city) and we are going there and will be doing a lot of visiting to various homes of family members. But we have three kids, and it's our first 5-hour drive. I'm also wondering about their sleep schedules once we are there.
From: TW, Riverdale, NY


Strategies for stubbornness

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 15, 2012 06:00 AM

Hi Barbara,

What are some tried and true ways to manage kids who seem to be quite stubborn, while also keeping as cool a head as possible? Kids who consistently do exactly what you asked them not to. This behavior is not constant 24/7, yet almost 80-90 percent of the time, I can count on some type of battle. I.e. please stop abusing your sibling; no, you can't use the computer when it's time to read before bed; no, you can't eat because it's time to go to bed; no, sorry it's time to turn off the TV . The list goes on. It is also difficult when one parent is going at it alone (husband works late at night.) Finally, not to be defeatist, but I have a somewhat stubborn streak for certain things and my husband absolutely does as well. Perhaps it's inherited and we just have to live with it?

Any suggestions?? Thank you!!
From: MamiaMia, North of Boston


Baby suffers when parents fight frequently

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 13, 2012 06:00 AM

[My partner and I] argue all the time and my 6 month old son is usually present. How much is this affecting him? I want to leave my partner but he refuses to let us split and won't move out because he thinks we can get better. I'm just scared of the damage this could do to our son.

From: Kat, Birmingham, Alabama


Infants, schedules and that so-called slippery road

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 9, 2012 06:00 AM

Dear Barbara,

How important is it to schedule an infant? I'm a first-time mom of a 5-month-old and I'm struggling with this one.

Sample schedules I've seen -- with strict nap times and lengths, etc -- seem a bit "one-size-fits-all." Admittedly, I'm a bit suspicious of any regimen that tells me what my baby needs without knowing him. "At least an hour of sleep, three times a day, is a must." But what if he is happy and functional with only 20 minutes? What if he doesn't like napping that often?

I'm not opposed to routines. We have a bedtime routine, we stick to it and it works. My baby goes to bed at roughly the same time every night, and he sleeps from about 7:30 to 6:30, with just one wake-up around 4:30 a.m. that he is showing signs of growing out of. He's a predictable sleeper, and I do credit routine and perseverance for getting us there. But we never, ever had to let him cry it out. My husband and I practiced "the pause" (Yes, I read 'Bringing up Bebe') and learned to read his sleep habits before jumping up. It worked.

I stay home with the baby and our days, admittedly, have a loose structure. He hates his crib during the day and doesn't like to nap. He gets in scattered "cat naps" in my lap after breastfeeding at roughly the same time and is a pretty happy, alert baby. I tried to put him on a schedule around three months. I couldn't get him to nap in his crib without him crying his heart out, with some serious tears, so I stopped. He was always so happy after short snoozes so I didn't dwell on the issue. I figured that I just didn't get a napper. Relatives and even his pediatrician agreed. (He's either meeting or ahead of schedule with developmental milestones).

I've also seen scheduled babies who seem so dependent on their schedules that they can't function if they miss a nap by even 10 minutes. I was afraid of that, since that doesn't seem healthy, either.

But now he's getting older and I'm second-guessing myself. I watched with horror one night recently as a mother at a CVS said no to a candy purchase, then frantically gave into her crying child when a scene broke out. It may sound like a huge leap, but I witnessed this scene and wondered, is it a slippery slope? Could this be me someday, because I don't have the backbone to let him cry in his crib? Is a basic daytime structure the beginning to a healthy mother-child relationship, with limits and healthy expectations of what happens next? But at what point am I forcing something on the child, without meeting his needs as an individual?

I'm lost. I'd love to hear your opinion on this matter and would love some recommendations for books on napping that don't assume the baby is also up all night.

And thank you.

From: Struggling with Schedule, Medford, MA


Cultural difference catches parents off-guard about co-sleeping

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 7, 2012 06:00 AM

I am an Asian mom living in the US with my husband and our 4-year-old son. Every night, I sleep with my son. This is normal behavior that both my husband and I understand. Recently my friend who is here for a long time told me this is not normal behavior for Americans. She said it will make my son unhappy and that I must stop. Is she right?

From: Susan, Chicago


Mom asks, How much do I have to push my child to exercise?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 2, 2012 06:00 AM

Dear Barbara,

I have a bright, happy, 8-year-old daughter. She loves school, has some good friends, and is mature and good-natured nearly all the time. Here's the problem: she dislikes any and all physical activity. The only thing she doesn't like about school is PE, she resists attending birthday parties that are sports-oriented, and has one-by-one given up all physical extra-curricular activities (ballet, gymnastics, soccer, karate). She is nowhere near overweight, but she does like to eat, so I worry for her size down the road if she continues to resist physical activity.

The question is, how much do we push her to be involved in a sport/physical activity outside of school? I don't want her to resent it/us, which is my fear if we make her do something she doesn't want to do. How important is it at this age??

From: LouHen, MetroWest, MA



Posted by Barbara F. Meltz November 1, 2012 06:00 AM

Dear Barbara,
I have a question about how much I have to hide my personal frustrations, annoyances, anger, call it what you want, from my kids. I'm not talking about anger management -- not talking about serious anger problems that spill over into abusive language or behavior -- I'm talking about ordinary kinds of things, like this week when I was frustrated that there was no school because of Sandy and I had to stay home for two days and I had so much work to do. I wanted to have it be a fun kind of day, and play board games with my daughters ( 7& 5) but, honestly, I was too frustrated with everything to be fun. The older one actually said, "Mom, what's your problem?" Should I have just been truthful and told her the storm was trying my patience? I think maybe by saying, Oh, nothing, that I made a mistake because I could tell she didn't believe me even though I thought I was somehow protecting her.

From: Sandy-ied-out, north of Boston


About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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