I have a question about the dynamics between my son (4 1/2) and daughter (2) and myself. My son is quiet and slow to warm up with people outside the house, but with me (and nobody else, not even my husband) at home he sometimes blows up screaming and crying when he is frustrated about very small issues. I respond to this by helping him articulate that he's frustrated, telling him this behavior isn't acceptable and that it won't help him get what he wants, and then trying to help him calm down (deep breaths, etc). If he's still freaking out, I send him to his room and tell him to come out again when he's able to have better behavior. I do NOT give in to him, even if it's a reasonable request, until he calms down, I require that he ask me in a polite tone of voice.
In general I feel like my approach is helping... the freak-outs have been fewer and less intense lately, and I haven't had to send him to his room in a while. (He also just started Pre-K, and I think some of the behavior was because he was worried about starting school. Now he's settled in and liking school, he's better.) HOWEVER, I've been noticing that lately his sister sometimes just gives him what he wants as soon as he starts to cry.
For example, they were sharing crayons this morning, and she was using the purple crayon. He wanted the purple crayon. She said no. He screamed, and she threw the crayon at him. He immediately stopped screaming and started coloring with the purple, and she found another color.
I don't want to micromanage the way they interact, I think they need to learn how to do it themselves. But I'm concerned that she is helping to reinforce his idea that screaming/crying is a good way to get what he wants. She's only 2, so I can't really explain to her that she shouldn't give in.
I'd love any thoughts or suggestions you have, Barbara.
Thanks so much,
From: Cfran, Cambridge, MA
I have 6-year-old boy/girl twins. My son is very jealous of his sister, which makes him act very cruelly towards her. He tries to stop her from doing what she likes by taking things from her and making her cry. He is lazy and bored all the time, and now he is beginning to tell me lies. He seems angry and selfish and just doesn't care or have respect for his sister or me. What can I do to make him care and respect us? I am afraid of what he will be like as a teenager and adult if this does not stop.
Single momREAD MORE
My daughter is 14. The girls in her school are so mean to her; they say hateful stuff to her start rumors about her. She is a very beautiful girl, and the boys in that school all seem to like her, but she stays away from them because she is afraid of the drama she will have with the girls.
Recently they took her basketball shoes out of her locked locker and hid them the day before her game. So she did not have them on game day, and these are upper classmen high school girls; she is in junior high (same school). One high school girl told her she saw the two girls do it and made her promise she wouldn't tell. She showed her where they hid them. Is this considered bullying and theft? What to do?
From: Cat, Canon City, CO
My 9-year-old daughter is in third grade. She's been coming home troubled by conflicts with one or two other girls in her grade -- girls she refers to as friends. She mentions that they are "mean" and put her down when she talks.
It breaks my heart, and I know it's completely normal, but I'm sometimes at a loss for how to comfort her or help her deal with these moments and with these girls.
She is very reserved and not comfortable confronting these mean girls, but I want her to feel empowered and have some sense of control over the situation.
From: Lady Di, WestfordREAD MORE
How do you tell a 10-year-old to stop being a bully without the getting the parents mad?
My boyfriend's 10-year-old niece and god-daughter has always gotten her way, as no one wants to deal with her or they don't want the parents to get mad at them.
I've always noticed that she's a brat but lately she's just a bully to her two cousins (girl,10, and boy, 9). For example, last night was the boy's 9th birthday and the family came together for cake and coffee. But instead of focusing on him, she raved (her arm was fractured about 2 weeks ago) that she can now take a shower and doesn't have to wear a sling, and while the other kids were clearing the dishes she was in the living room with the birthday boy watching TV.
Usually for their gifts, we would take them on an outing of their choice. He wanted to go roller skating, but the parents said no, as what would happen if the girl fell. :( So the boy instead chose Plaster Fun Time, which is the girl's favorite and which she'll choose on her birthday as well. So in the end, she gets the attention and her way as well.
What can if anything be said to either her or the parents without riling anyone up?
From: Libby, QuincyREAD MORE
I was just reading your post to a parent who was considering holding back her kindergartner. I have a similar dilemma with a 5th grader getting ready to go to middle school, but the reasons are mainly maturity, not academic.
My son was a very early sight reader, and was really bored in preschool unless there was a pretty challenging curriculum, so I always had him in a class where he was the youngest (he has a late October birthday) and I was able to find a great 4-year-old preschool where they basically covered kindergarten. After that, we moved to Hawaii where the age cutoff for school is December 31st, so he was tested and determined to be fully ready for 1st grade, and not too young there, so he was enrolled in 1st grade at a private school.
He did well there, and we didn't have a lot of issues with school or academics until this year. He has been the object of a lot of verbal bullying lately and seems to have a lot of anxiety about school. His academic performance is still good (he makes mostly B's, some A's in a fairly challenging curriculum), but he has lost interest in a lot of school and other activities.
His Dad is deployed for a year, which definitely doesn't help. Since he is a year younger than many of his peers now in Florida, with an August 31st cutoff, we are considering enrolling him in a private school where he has the option of being in a 5th grade class that does 6th grade work. I really feel that it would be good for him to rebuild his confidence in himself, which seems to be really low right now. He is really adamant that he doesn't want to go to the private school and wants to go to the big public middle school with all of his "friends." I can only name about 3 or 4 of these so called "friends" who haven't been mean to him in some way in the past year.
He is a Korean adoptee in a sea of white people which doesn't help. He has been teased about being Korean, being adopted (one of his so-called friends in a younger grade called him a "poor orphan" yesterday). I want him to feel he has some choice in a life as a military kid where he doesn't have a lot of choices, but on the other hand, I want to be able to look back when he's grown and know I gave him the very best opportunities to thrive and flourish.
If he was your kid, what would you do?
From: Laura, Niceville, FLREAD MORE
How do you know when someone is bullying you? Is it possible that you may be perceiving their actions wrong? Is it bullying or just rude behavior? How can you tell if the person claiming to of been bullied is just insecure or an overly sensitive type?
I have been wondering about this for my own children and at a loss for words.
Bergette, Bellingham, MA
From: Sue, Quincy
How I handled my son being bullied:
My son and his friend in preschool both were handed postcards at school from several girls telling them that the girls didn't like them. The teachers sat the kids down at a table, talked about feelings, and created a list of games they could play together (the incident apparently stemmed from a feud between boys and girls about what types of games to play). My son, frankly, was fairly unfazed by the incident, so after some gentle probing, I let it lie with him. I asked the teachers to next time first talk to me before handling it - unless it was something that was an emergency. I hadn't yet had the opportunity to talk to my son about it, having found the note after dropping him off at school. I also refuted his teachers' suggestion that bullying is a sign of low self esteem.
From: Rachel, Newton
Barbara, Our elementary school does not teach or foster conflict resolution in any grade. It sounds like a small issue but it becomes a big deal as these students move into the higher grades. This has been evident by the recent issues with bullying. Additionally, it contributes to the high school dropout rates (our dropout rate is one of the highest in southern Mass.).
It just seems like it would be very obvious that when two children do not resolve an issue on the playground, it will just create larger issues down the road!
How do you get a school to understand the importance (both long & short) to conflict resolution? It is very frustrating that I need to pursue the topic and it is not the other way around.
From: Hopeless, Westport
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.