Retention is never an easy decision

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 28, 2013 06:00 AM

[This letter has been condensed. BFM]
Hi Barbara, my son Alex is 6 1/2 and will turn 7 in June 22... He has an IEP [Individual Educational Plan] for speech, sensory integration and developmental delay. He was recently diagnosed as having ADHD. He is now fully potty trained and has been since May 2012. He is extremely tiny for his age (both weight and height are in the 1% for his age) and not only appears much younger than his peers but is also perceived as a 5 year old by most adults and peers...Also, Alex tends to gravitate to children younger than him. Along with being developmentally delayed, Alex is chronologically and extremely academically behind.

Here is my problem. Regardless of these delays, the school is quite adamant about social promotion and will not retain him... I feel that he is at a disadvantage because of his IEP. I have done tons of research and am quite aware of the negative effects of retaining a child. I feel that my son does not fall into this category. There must be some evidence that retention would benefit some children like my son Alex. Please advise.

From: Tracey, Windham, NH


She will grow out of her fear of the potty, honest!

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 27, 2013 06:00 AM

My daughter is 3 years 4 months, bright, articulate, wonderful in every way. She has been potty trained since 20 months and does not have accidents. (She is a heavy sleeper though and wears a pullup at night which is wet every morning. Naps are underwear and dry.) But, she has never, not even once, pooped in the potty. She asks for a diaper when she has to go and goes to her "window spot" to do it. Then I clean her up and she is back in underwear.

She has a genuine and deep fear of pooping on the potty. She is not constipated, goes almost daily (almost at the same time most days) and eats healthy with lots of fiber. I've tried "running out of diapers" but she withholds for days. We tried this recently and she held it in for 3 days and genuinely tried to poop on the potty but whimpered and sobbed that she is too scared. I know withholding can lead to constipation and other issues so I gave in. She won't say why she is scared exactly, just that she is scared of the poop coming out while she's on the potty. We tried not talking about it but she is somewhat obsessed with it herself (talks about her friends and stuffed animals pooping on the potty). She absolutely knows what she is supposed to do but is just too scared to do it. She sees her friends do it at school but says she's just not ready. Tried bribery, showing her presents that she can get when she poops on the potty - does not work. She has little potty, big potty, you name it. She is happy to have the poop be put into the potty from the diaper and knows that is where it is supposed to go. Her baby sister, who is 17 months, has actually started telling when she is going poop so my older daughter is trying to teach her how to poop in the potty even though she won't do it herself! I am at my wit's end and when I read about this issue online I see that there are many kids who have this problem and it can continue until they are 5 or 6!! We have made ZERO progress with all our efforts. She won't even do it in the bathroom, just screams that she needs her window spot. I don't think it's a "control" issue but a real fear. She is otherwise a delight. Has control over lots of choices in her life. Any ideas other than just waiting for it to resolve itself, which I fear may take until she's in real school?

From: Boston Mom, Boston


Why can't 6-year-old stay alone upstairs?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 21, 2013 10:44 AM

I have a six year-old daughter. I somehow got into the habit (years back) of staying upstairs with her after bedtime, until she falls asleep. I stay in my room, not in hers. She says she's scared to be upstairs alone, I do believe her. She's also scared to go downstairs alone or even go to another part of the house than I'm in after dark. And once in a while, she even says she's scared to stay in her room alone. I do feel I should point out that if she's watching TV, she's fine and doesn't seem to mind being alone downstairs. Not sure if this negates her fear, or just distracts her.

While I don't want to traumatize her, it sometimes takes her quite a while to fall asleep. I really can't continue to be trapped up there with her when I have so many other things that need to be done - laundry, making lunches, letting the dog out, whatever.

Any suggestions? Thanks!
From: Trapped Mom, Abington, MA


Only child who's a perfectionist and a quitter? Maybe not

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 20, 2013 06:00 AM

Hi Barbara,
My son is turning 7 this month and is an only child by choice. He is displaying some personality traits that I am a little worried about and I am wondering if it's is because he's an only.

He is a perfectionist to the point that the teacher has emailed me numerous times about it. He has a hard time finishing projects at school if it isn't "perfect." Other kids have moved on to other things while he's still sitting there working on the same project. The teacher has actually given him an assignment to just scribble things so he can see it's ok that nothing on the paper makes sense. He's also a quitter. If he isn't great at the activity he's doing, he quits. He quit Jiu Jitsu last summer after he was moved up to the kid's class after being in the junior class and it happened last night at skating lessons. His friends all moved up to Youth 2 and he was placed back in Youth 1. He was devastated and crying, saying he hates it so we left.

I was so sad for him and kept explaining to him that it's ok not to be the best and everyone has different abilities but he wasn't having any of it. I was sort of quiet the whole night and he came up to me and asked me if I love him anymore. I started crying, it was a sad scene. I told him that my love for him is unconditional and explained what that meant. I started researching a bit on the topic after he went to sleep and I think that subconsciously we are putting too much pressure on him to be perfect because we are always telling him "good job," you "did great!" so he is eager to please. My husband & I agreed that we aren't letting him quit this time. He has to finish out the skating session that we paid for. With Jiu JItsu, he quit mid contract so we were stuck paying $125/mo for the last 5 months!

From: Mom in the 'burbs, west of Boston


Fraternal twins, differing abilities and the descision to separate

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 18, 2013 06:00 AM

[This letter has been condensed.]
Hello Mrs. Meltz,

I have almost 9 year old fraternal twins . They are in an ...International private school [here in Mexico], with a US curriculum....Carolina and Isabella are in the same grade and have always been in different classrooms (six classes of 20 students each in 3rd grade, it is a big school).

Isabella has been struggling since 1st grade. She has been having tutoring since first grade. We work with her during all the school breaks and vacations. However, her work ethics have always saved her. She works very hard. Her twin sister is an excellent student and does not struggle!!

We would like to stop this struggle and always pushing Isabella. We would like to have Isabella to be retained in 3rd year. However, what should we do with Carolina??
I can not think about all the problems that might cause to explain [to] them that they would be in a different grade... and separating them?? However, we are considering retaining also Carolina, even though her reading and writing is very advanced.

Should we retain a child that is excelling?

Thank you for your help.
From: Claudia, Monterrey, Mexico


Talking about sex with a 12-year-old boy

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 15, 2013 06:00 AM

How do I talk to my 12 year old son about where bab[ies] come from and how his body will change as he getting older?

From: Melody, Cincinnati


Maine aunt steps over the line

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 13, 2013 06:00 AM

Dear Barbara,

My 5 and 2-year old sons with their father went to visit their uncle yesterday. My 5 year old was playing with his 20-month old cousin nicely, and suddenly the mother of said child starts yelling at both of my children. They were playing wonderfully, not yelling or hurting one another. She calls my children bullies and says to my husband that we're raising a bunch of bullies and that all our kids do is bully other children. When my son tells her to stop being mean to his siblings and that he knows how she is, she responds to a 5-year old with, "you don't know a f---ing thing, you're only 5" & "i hate all of you".

While she may be 9 months pregnant, I don't believe that gives her an excuse to talk to anybody in this manner, let alone a 5 and a 2 year old. While I do want to point out our 5 year old can be a bit trying sometimes (as all kids sometimes can be), he has never bullied anybody in his life. In our home, there are consequences for bullying or being mean. My husband immediately took my two children out of the situation and left the home. However, now said mother is claiming victim, and blaming my 5 year old and our parenting for her outburst going as far as to say, "You're raising your children to treat people like s--- and I'm not going to let that around my boys, you're self centered and etc..."

My question is what do I do in this kind of a situation where my children were bullied by a family member, besides the obvious of not bringing my children around her. The other unfortunate part is that this woman is married to my brother-in law-who sincerely loves his nephews and niece.

From: Brittany, Deer Isle, ME


Stop that bossiness!

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 11, 2013 06:00 AM

I have a 5 year old son who talks like he is the parent towards his younger sister as well as me and my husband. He is very mean when he talks to us. We do not speak to our children with loud, angry tones.

I'll give you a few examples: We were playing outside and my daughter went around back, I asked him, "Can you please ask her to come up front?" He said, "Yes mom!" Went to the side of the house yelled, "Come up front NOW!!!" I then told him, "You didn't have to yell at her, would you like if I yelled at you and told you the same thing you told her?" He said, "No." I said, "Next time, talk to her like you want to be talked to."
Another example: I was trying to get them inside for lunch, I was telling them, "OK, it's time for lunch, we need to go inside to get washed up." My daughter said NO, I want to stay outside. (She's 2, typical behavior from her.) He then said, "Do you want candy, do you want ice cream?" She says, yes, he says, "Then you have to come in." I was in shock! I then told him, "You do not offer things to your sister to get her to come inside." Another: At dinner their dad was eating and he says, "Dad close your mouth when you're eating, I don't want to see your food." But the anger in his tone was unbelievable. On top of it, he wasn't chewing with his mouth open. I then said, "You do not talk to your dad that way, you do not tell us what to do, you are not an adult. It was mean, and uncalled for now you need to tell your dad your sorry."

These are all from today, there have been so many other times where he is acting like he is the parent. I don't know what else to do to make him understand he is not the parent, he does not tell his sister what to do or us. And to talk to others how you would like to be talked to.

From: Yvonne, Livingston, NJ


First grade boy can't focus. Is it ADHD?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 8, 2013 06:00 AM

I have a 6.5 yo son in First Grade. Reports from teachers uniformly say that he is "bright" or "intelligent"... but they also _always_ say that he is slow to do his work.

Kindergarten started well last year, but the second half was torture -- in the end the teacher felt so unsuccessful with him that she recommended he retake kindergarten with a different teacher.

We had him tested for grade level over the summer and he was on track so we did not hold him back. The beginning of 1st grade was great. The teacher agreed he was in the right class and though he worked slowly, he was doing things well. The second half of the school year started a few weeks ago and tonight I got an email from his teacher saying that his working speed appears to be slowing down and she's looking for ideas to get him back on track. She's concerned that if he doesn't figure out how to complete all of his work this year, that he's going to have a difficult time succeeding next year when there is less free time built into the school day. She is not concerned that he is not learning the material (he is still on track in terms of knowledge gained), she is just concerned that he is not completing the worksheets and written evaluations.

At home, he never has a hard time answering the questions on his homework, but *doing* his homework almost seems painful sometimes. (Think of the feeling you get when you're filing taxes. You have all of the information and it's not that hard to work through. But sometimes it takes a herculean effort to push through -- and the temptation to check facebook or get up and see if there's something worth eating in the refrigerator is so distracting that you find yourself in the kitchen before you know you've left your computer. Substitute spelling for taxes and Legos for a snack and you have what I see some days when he's doing his homework.)

Lack of focus is a problem in other areas of his life as well. At both swim lessons and tae kwondo we get reports about him being distracted easily. At home, we've built in generous transition and distraction times to our schedule. We've talked with our pediatrician and a developmental pediatrician and both of them offer ADHD meds and reminders to use positive reinforcement, but not much else. We make sure he gets between 10 and 11 hours of sleep, he eats a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and I've started adding a daily vitamin in case the midwinter burnout is related to vitamin D.

I was wondering if you have any suggestions for helping a child of this age learn to own his work and complete it quickly. How do we make the decision of whether or not to medicate? Is this pattern of burnout midway through the year common at this age? Should we be looking into other schooling options where there might be less focus on worksheets and other written feedback? Is there any hope that he will mature out of this?

Thank you for your help!
From: Rosa, Portland, OR


When a parent travels, magical thinking can fuel worries

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 6, 2013 06:00 AM

Barbara -

My husband is a consultant and travels during the work week when he has a client - usually for a 3-5 months at a time. He travels home every weekend and we usually Skype with him once in the middle of the week. When he doesn't have a client, he is home pretty full-time with little or no work. This is the life my 1st grader has always known. But as she gets older the transitions are getting a bit harder. Or perhaps, I'm not as good at helping her through them as I was when she was younger.

Specifically, last weekend, she cried over little things that she would normally not even notice. He was spending lots of time with her and she was enjoying it, but I also think she was mad that it would come to an end on Monday.

She also has trouble (although a bit less) adjusting when he comes back full-time.

Any suggestions to make these transitions easier on her?

Thank you.
From: M to F Single Mom, Boston


Getting the 13-month-old to sleep through the night

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz March 4, 2013 06:00 AM

My 13 month old still won't sleep through the night. She wakes up every 3-5 hours or so and needs a bottle to go back to sleep. I really don't think she's actually hungry, I think it's just the only way she knows to get back to sleep when her normal sleep cycle wakes her up. How do I break the cycle and get her to soothe herself back to sleep? The lack of sleep is wrecking havoc on me. I haven't been able to get more than 3-5 hours of sleep at a time for 13 months now. Please help.

From: Sarah, J, Baltimore


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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