Sept. 2, 2008 -- Barbara Meltz parenting chat
Barbara_Meltz: Hi everyone -- I'm a few minutes late getting started so I'm just gonna dig right in. Send your questions/thoughts along!
laurie__Guest_: Any ideas on how to deal with the .competition/anxiety of identical twins going to the same college,choosing the same small major? One is worried he will have to "carry" the othe one
Barbara_Meltz: Hi Laurie -- It surprises me that at this point in their twinship, these two wouldn't be able to talk about just about everything together, including a hard topic like this. However, it's not unusual -- in fact, absolutely recommended -- for parents sending any child off to college, to have a conversation (sometimes via letter) in which you spell out your hopes for this child in his/her new life away from home. That would typically include a conversation about staying safe sexually (email me for a column I've written about this, if you're interested) as well as staying healthy in other ways; about study habits, etc. With twins, the subject of autonomy and independence would be appropriate for either; the twin who is worried about having to "carry" the other may need to have your "permission," so to speak, to lead his own life and to not feel responsible for the other, and with the other twin, to be able to say something similiar. I'm not saying these would be easy conversations, and the fact that it is coming up at all suggests that there is reason to suspect this could well be an issue. So getting it out on the table is all the more important.
NoPatienceforThis__Guest_: How can I get my depressed, adult child (28) to help himself, then leave my home? Any advice?
Barbara_Meltz: No patience for this, You know, there's a terrific new book out that may be just what you need. It's called "Don't Bite Your Tongue, How to Foster rewarding relationships with your adult children" by Ruth Nemzoff.
levi_johnson__Guest_: Do you think the pregnancy of Bristol Palin is a great opportunity for parents to talk to their kids about sex and about the costs and responsibilities involved?
Barbara_Meltz: Levi, Boy, if ever! (Frankly, there's practically nothing in life that isn't a teachable moment, but that's another subject.) Of course, the conversation you have depends on the age of your child and his/her stage of development. The trick, from a parenting perspective, is to have this conversation without getting into the politics involved, hard as that may be. (OK, and now I can't help myself, because it makes me so spitting angry. I find it plain WRONG that any parent would put her child on the public stage in this way, and unconsciencable that McCain would be willing to sacrifice a 17-year-old in this way.) So yes, this is a conversation I would absolutely have with a child older than 10 or so, and I'd begin it by asking a question, "Have you heard that the vice presidential candidate for the Republicans has a daughter who is 17 and pregnant, and not married?" Because what you want to do is have the conversation at the child's level, and not on moralistic terms (that will be a turn-off) but rather on, as you said in your question, the costs and responsbilities. Some teens will turn you off and just say yeah, but I don't want to talk about it. In which case you need to leave the door ajar but saying, "Well, if you have any thoughts on the subject, I'd be interested in hearing them." Many kids will say, "Yeah, how stupid is she," or, "Yeah, her life is gonna suck," and then your job is to keep the conversastion going by continuing to come bacvk with questions, like, "Well, what do you mean?" There will be a teen who will express admiration for Bristol, who sees a teen pregnancy as a way to have someone to love, or as an escape for school. The starting point for that parent is along the lines of, "What do you think her life will be like...?"
newdad__Guest_: Hi Barbara, I have a 7-month old. He was sleeping throught the night when he was 3-5 months or so but he has regressed from that significantly. He has been once or more per night since then. His 5th tooth just broke through yesterday, do you think teething is our issue?
Barbara_Meltz: Newdad, Bingo. Sounds like a good guess to me. Babies do go in and out of stages of good and less good sleeping. He's still pretty young, so I would just assume that he will get back on a good schedule. It's hard, though, I know.
nick__Guest_: There seems to be a lot of concern about bullying these days. Not the physical kind, but whispering, sprending rumors, excluding someone from events. Is it ever useful to talk to the parents?
Barbara_Meltz: Hi Nick -- Not generally. If you know them well, and you can approach it along the lines of, "I think this is soemthing you would want to know about..," it's worth a try. But the less well you know them, the harder a direct approach is and the more you are potentially adding fuel to the fire (what if the parent is a bully, too?)
KMC2112__Guest_: Hi Barbara - my daughter turned 2 in July and I'm starting to think about potty training. I have no idea how to start this task or figure out if she's even ready. Any tips?
Back_to_School___Guest_: My son is going into to first and all ready the peer pressure is starting. Who has the cool clothes, the "right
Barbara_Meltz: KMC2112, The best advise is to wait until your child shows signs of readiness. Ideally, she'll tell you, I want to use the potty. That does happen! Because when it happens on her agenda rather than on yours, it will go smoother. T. Berry Brazelton says there are 7 signs of readiness and they aren't what parents typically expect, that is, they are more developmental abilities (has receptive langauge, for instance, or is beginning to show a sense of orderliness, that is, she knows where things belong in her room, say, and likes to put them away; that indicates that she will have interest in putting her poop and pee in the place they belong, ie, the potty) than simply readiness about toileting itself. Other tips include that she recognize the need to poop or pee, and that there is some regularity to those functions so you can reliably suggest the potty at appropriate times. Is she talking about the process? That's an important sign of readiness, esp a sense of excitement along with it, like announcing, "Mommy, I pooped!" Brazelton's boook, "Toilet Training the Brazelton Way" is my favorite on the subject.
Barbara_Meltz: HEre's a classic sign that a child is not ready:
Barbara_Meltz: He stands at the potty and pees on the floor. Your job, shoudl that happen, is not to laugh and not to be upset. Just say, "When you're ready to try again, let me know." The more matter of fact you are about all of this, the better.
Back_to_School___Guest_: Oops I was cut off. I meant to write that all ready he is feeling the pressure to wear the cool clothes, carry the "right" water bottle. How do I keep his self esteem intact while letting him know that we can't afford all those things? I remember the shame of wearing handmedowns and never having the right things. Memories of school are filled with anxiety and shame and I want my son to have a better experience than I did.
Barbara_Meltz: Back to school, Children at this age are often just noticing things: John has brown hair and mine is black. But it doesn't mean that they are ascribing value to what they notice (John's hair is better than mine) or coming to conclusions as a result (John is smarter). In these cases, the trick is to be a good reflective listener: "Oh, so John wears XX sneakers..." In other words, your baggage is showing. It's one thing for you to be sensitive to a child, quite another to impose your baggage on him. On the other hand, if he is actually putting these statements out there -- John's sneakers are cool and mine aren't; John's water bottle is better than mine, I want that one -- it's fine for you to acknowledge differences in a non-judgmental way. For isntance, "every family is different. In John's family, they wear XX sneakers, in our family, we wear XY. What sneakers does Tim's family wear?" At some point, it is appropriate to talk about what families can afford. I would base that on a child's ability to grasp these differences of all kinds, and try hard to keep it a matter-of-fact conversation.
doyboy__Guest_: I'm looking for talking points/suggestion on a new kindegartener who is basically hates it right now (day #3). Starts at bedtime talking about not going and is crying at the breakfast table.
Barbara_Meltz: Doyboy, Oh boy! Call the school today. You need to find out as best you can as quickly as you can what's going on. The goal is to figure out if this is a separation issue or if there is something about K that she doesn't like. You can also have a conversation with your daughter. Don't have it in the morning, or at bedtime. Best time is when she comes home from school, or when a parent first reunites with her. Begin by asking, "Tell me about kindergarten. What's your favorite part? What's your least favorite part?" When you call the school -- did I say to do that this afternoon? -- try to reach the teacher. If that's not possible, speak to the principal and see if she can reach the teacher for you and have her call you. (It's important that you go through the chain of command; you don't want the teacher thinking you called the principal because you thought she was doing a bad job.) Ask the teacher, What has she noticed? (It's possible that your daughter is fine during school, that it's only the anticipation, so the teacher may be suprised.) What suggestions does she have? One of the things you need to figuire out is whether she's having a hard time because of separation (is there a history of that?) or whether there is something about K that she doesn't like. That will help you know what to do. But the key is to approach this as a team, school & parent.
mommingitup__Guest_: Hi Barbara! My son is now 14 months old. We've had a great breastfeeding relationship since he was born, but in the past month or so, has turned in a "boobaholic." Every time he's around me, he's pushing up my shirt. God help if my breasts are exposed because he will latch on, even if he's not drinking that much. I'm wondering if this is developmentally normal and what it could signal. Is he saying he wants more bonding time? Is he just an opportunist?
Barbara_Meltz: mommyingitup, It could be he wants more bonding, esp if there are any kind of changes in the family, or if there has been more separation than usual. It could also just be a stage. You need to be able to set a gentle but firm limit: "It's not time to nurse." and gently guide him to some other activity that you can do together, including reading a book, or cuddling, if that's what he needs. It's perfectly OK to let him know that there are good and bad times for nursing. But meanwhile, I'm wondering: Are ready to be done nursing? Maybe it's time to think about that....?
Outonalimb__Guest_: We live too close to a very shy girl who is 10 months older than our outgoing friendly 5 year old girl. They interupt our dinner time, bedtime and family time routines and contstanly ask for playdates/seepovers? In addition the girl who is older present information and idea's we would rather not deal with at this time. We are fearful that continuing the relationship will be damaging to our child. Is there any diplomatic way to separate and how does one do that? At what age is it approprate if EVER for children to have sleepovers?
Barbara_Meltz: outonalimb, the beginning of a new school year offers an excellent opportunity for you to put a wedge in the friendship, by suggesting she invite home some new friends from her new classroom, or from a new activity, or to enroll her in a new activity where she will meet new friends. I'm assuming that with this age difference, they are not in the same grade, so this will begin to happen on its own anyway, if there are after school activities that they do that is different. And yes, there is a time for sleep-overs, most girls start to want them before 10.
Audra__Guest_: My 2 1/2 year old son is a biter-he has stopped biting other children but still bites his father and me. Any advice-time outs are not proving effective. thanks
Barbara_Meltz: Audra, time out is not working because he's too young. Try (1) anticipating when he is getting frustrated or whatevern it is that leads him to bite and distract him to some other activity; (2) let's say he's on your lap and he succeeds in biting you. IMMEDIATELY stand up, putting him safely on the floor, and tell him, "Biting is no. I can't be with you if you bite me." You ahve to be willing to tolerate his unhappiness. Let him run through his tantrum. Tell him, "When you are ready to sit on my lap and not bite, we can try again." If he bites, do the samer thing again. Steay calm but be firm and consistent. Once he realizes that he cannot have your attention if he is going to bite, it will abate. There's a great book on biting and I even wrote a blurb for it, but I can't think of the title, sorry...I have also written a column that might help you.
firstgradeblues__Guest_: My son has been very difficult to handle at home ever since starting back to school (first grade) last week. His teacher says he is wonderful in class but he is torturing his two little brothers (and me) the moment he gets home. Any advice?
Barbara_Meltz: first grade blues, he's holdidng himself together at school and falling apart at home because home is where he feels safest. This will likely pass as he gets more comfrotable (did you know that first grade is the most stressful of all the years for kids?), but meanwhile, what he needs at home is the same consistency and limit-setting as always. If he's nasty to a sib, let him know, "That's not OK." You might also try to have some kind of new routine for when he comes home that enables him to get rid of his frustration and energy (or whatever) in a safe way, for isntance, stopping at the playground, or having outside time immediately when he gets home. Also, give him some alone time with you, even if it's just a few minutes; that may help him reconnect. And also ask him some open-ended questions: what's your favorite part of first-grade? What your worst part? Also ask him to draw a picture for you about firste grade, and get him to tell you a story about it.
Barbara_Meltz: Yikes, I've gone way over my time. Such good questions! Apologies that I couldn't get to them all. I'll be back again on the 15th. Thanks again for joining the chat!