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Bickering writ small: he screams, she gives in

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz October 4, 2012 06:00 AM

Dear Barbara,
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


Should step son meet his half-sib?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz September 11, 2012 06:00 AM

Hi, we have just been contacted by my stepson's half brother's father. My ss's brother is still an infant. We are conflicted because he and his partner want the two children to meet. The father of ss's brother is still in contact with the Bio Mother and that situation is very volatile at best. We don't trust the father's motives. Would introducing the children be wise? What ill effects can this have on the children?

From: Tilly, Australia


Sister's sexual orientation unclear

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

My younger sister (who is 16 now) is questioning her sexuality. She told me that she sometimes gets crushes on girls and that she is afraid of it because she doesn't know what to do.Our parents and our family in general is very unsupportive and we never had a bisexual or gay/lesbian person in our family or friend circle. She said that she didn't sleep with a girl but that she would if she was in love with one. I've tried to tell her that it's okay to feel that way and that she shouldn't worry about anything yet because the feelings might change. But even if they don't, I will still be there for her, supporting her no matter what. My question is - Is it normal for her to feel that way? She said that she likes 60% of boys and 40% girls and it's been like that since she was really young. Does this mean she's bisexual? or bi-curious?
Thank you!

From: Loreen, Nottingham, UK


Single mom, "secret" son

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

[Editor's note: this letter has been condensed.]
I'm worried about my son's relationship with his father. His father and I split when I was only 4 months pregnant. His father is actually married to someone else, during the time of our relationship they were separated, he was living in his own apartment....Upon finding out about my pregnancy, the estranged wife threatened to take his other 3 kids away across the country if he did not come back to live with them and cut ties with me and the baby.

Now our son is a toddler. His father comes to visit a couple times a week (at most) and he pays child support. The problem is that while he wants a relationship with our son, his visitation is unreliable. His other children (ages 4, 6, 8) do not know they have a half sibling, and he keeps his visits secret from his wife. The support agreement has no visitation agreement written into it. When he visits, I often have very little notice or he cancels last minute. The visits are also often very short (like 20 minutes). I'm a single, full-time working mother to a toddler, schedule changes are not easy to accommodate, and they disrupt my son's daily routine. He gets very agitated when his father leaves....

I'm wondering what is best here. I want my son to have a relationship with his father, but I fear the one that he has will only be disruptive and disappointing. I'm also extremely uncomfortable with my son being a "secret." I do not want to enable his father's behavior, but I also do not want to prevent a relationship that maybe in the future could be normal. What is the best course of action here? Thank you for your insight.

From: The Other Son, North Shore, MA


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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