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Children Archives

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Dear Mrs. Web,

My 4-Ĺ year old granddaughter is becoming difficult to discipline. She recently picked up a trinket at a department store. She has begun talking back. She also has hit her teacher at preschool. I need help in determining an approach for her. 

Some of the behaviors you describe are normal for her age.  They do shoplift, on occasion, and need to be watched and guided (They are still in the if-it-is-not-nailed-down-itís-mine phase, which some people never outgrow.). Fours do talk back, at times. It is practice for becoming five.  I recommend reading Your Four-Year-Old for more information about expected behaviors at this age.

The one behavior that causes me concern is that she hit her teacher. This is something not usually seen in older preschoolers. Most of them hold teachers in awe or reverence. Is she spending too much time outside her family in daycare?   She may be away from her parents for too long each day, feeling stress and unable to manage it.

I would approach the child in a kind, loving and firm way. If you give a child one hour of unstructured and undivided attention each day it will give her a solid base to cope with the world. Let the child set the agenda. Just be with her. See if loving attention turns her heart around.



Dear Mrs Web,

My daughter just turned 6. She is not a bedwetter. The other night she got up and urinated in her closet. She then stripped and went back to bed. Her little sister has had two episodes of talking/screaming in her sleep (her eyes were wide open but she was still asleep!). Her dad and uncle both sleepwalked when they were small. Is this something I should be concerned about?

In my opinion, I donít think this is something to be unduly concerned about. It is a one-time event, so far. My focus would be on making sure she is safe. I have always mentioned things like this to my doctor when I see him.

The one question that I would have about this episode, since this is new behavior, is whether she under any new stress in her family or at school? Has anything appreciably changed for her? Sleep changes can be a response to stress.

When a child talks or screams with eyes open but is still not awake it is called "night terrors." My son had them occasionally. Not fun.


Dear Mrs Web,

My stepson is 11. I have been in his life for 7 years. He has begun to steal money from us, not a lot but I am concerned. We have spoken to him about it. 

He is a loner, who enjoys television and computer games. No friends at home but mixes well at school. He has been a good child until recently. 

He has a 6 year old sister who he "hates." He fights or hits her constantly. He is enormously jealous of her natural abilities and cheerful, attention-getting extroverted personality. I fear his stealing is a cry for attention. What should we do? 

I think you are right. The stealing is a symptom of his emptiness and neediness. He is crying for attention and help. He should also be evaluated for depression.

This boy is at the edge of puberty. In your shoes, I would advise putting him into family counseling. His father, you, and his mother will all need to learn how to help, guide, and direct this child. He needs attention.

It is time for the adults in his life to clear their calendars and focus on this child. It will be important to work with the counselor to help this child find a niche and a way to shine in life. You will be surprised at how positive attention will change a childís heart. He is at a good age to catch this isolating, angry behavior and turn it around. However, it is going to take time, attention, and commitment.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My son is five years old and is wetting his bed. He simply does not wake up at night. He will go for stretches up to a week without wetting and then does it two or three nights in a row. Do you know how to train a child to stop bedwetting?

In my family bedwetters have fallen into two different categories. The first category is the wetter who is only dry when liquids are prohibited. He either sleep too heavily or do not have the neurological wiring to successfully wake up when needed. My doctor tells me this child will probably wet through puberty. I comfort myself with the thought that he probably won't wear diapers at his wedding.

The other type of bedwetter at my house has been the unmotivated bedwetter. I made a chart of squares for him and hung it in the bathroom. Each night I walked him to the bathroom before my bedtime. Every dry morning we filled in a block with a sticker and every third sticker was awarded with a gift he wanted. This child is extremely food motivated and a couple of cookies or a hot chocolate would satisfy. Eventually he caught on was dry after about forty stickers.

All children are different. Bedwetting should be evaluated by your doctor. Then relax.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My father is moving in with my nine-year-old son and me. Dad recently had a stroke and is now partially disabled. Dad will need some help around the house and it will be great to have him there when my son comes home from school. My son loves Dad but is upset that he has had to move out of his room to a corner of the living room. We just donít have anymore space.

How wonderful it is that your son be able to spend more time with your father. Your son may be happier if you can give him a corner in the apartment that is his own. It may not be where his bed is but a place where he can have a beanbag chair and be away from the rest of you.

Dear Mrs Web,

My son just went to a birthday party with his fifteen of his classmates from last yearís first grade class. It was an amazing production with two clowns, a magician, pony rides, and a dog act. I kid you not. They even had a lifeguard by the pool.

We had exchanged birthday invitations with this boy and a few other classmates. We had planned a small party and sleepover out in our tent in the yard. I am feeling inadequate right now. What can we do?

People have different tastes and pocketbooks. Do not underestimate the charms of a tenting sleepover. All children from 6 to 60 love that sort of thing. Hot dogs and marshmallows roasted over the grill, birthday cake for desert. Flashlights as gifts to each with their names printed on in marker. An interested and caring adult to supervise and games, songs and stories. Some unstructured playtime. Absolute bliss, count on it.


Dear Mrs. Web,

I have a son who is such a perfectionist that he is afraid to try anything because he is afraid he will fail. He has always gotten good grades but now that he is going into high school he wonít take the harder courses or join any clubs or teams that require work because he said he didnít like losing. He has ability and has always done very well in school. I donít think this is healthy.

Children who have had some experience with failure and are given skills to persevere will better handle the hurdles life presents. As his father, you might want to give your son a crash course on failure and perseverance. 

Read biographies together about famous failures like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein. Talk about and explore biographies about the character traits that help people overcome the roadblocks in their lives, perseverance, of course, but also self reflection and evaluation, persistence, faith, hope, courage, and delayed gratification. You would want to nip this behavior now. He will have to learn this lesson and it is better that he learn it now rather than at twenty-nine, or worse, thirty-nine.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My son is eleven and he is a bit of a geek. He is awkward and gawky and he has a rough time of it at school. He dresses a bit differently and actually rather be doing the things that interest him rather than things his peers like to do. He has found a couple of other boys at school like him and they spend time in chess club and on the computer. How can I help him??

Young people with problems such as your son is having are people who do not understand the body cues and verbal cues that others send. Often these kids donít really listen; some times they listen but donít really understand. Moreover, in other instances they donít comprehend those subtle signals, when a person steps back from them they are standing too close and so on. The book Helping the Child Who Doesnít Fit In is a great primer for parents. I have used it and I recommend it.



Dear Mrs. Web,

Our local public schools leave a lot to be desired. There is a local private religious school in our area that has an excellent reputation. In addition, the price is within reach of our income. We have been thinking of sending our two children to it. However, we are not at all religious and are afraid of the indoctrination our children might receive.

I would not recommend sending children to a school where you view the deeply-held beliefs of the members as "indoctrination". Many children have been educated successfully in religious schools that are not of the denomination or even faith of the their families. This requires an ability to help the child separate the schoolís beliefs from the familyís beliefs (or lack of beliefs) in a kind, tolerant, and respectful manner. Perhaps homeschooling or a secular private school would be a better option.

Dear Mrs. Web,

My daughter who is twelve is on an established sport travel team. A new family joined this year and the parents are difficult. These parents berate their daughter when her performance does not meet their high standards. The child is now beginning to cry after her participation, apologizing to her parents for her performance. The parents coldly ignore her or worse, say cruel things to her. This is upsetting the other children. 

Yesterday during a game the mother cursed at one of the teammates when she was upset over the position placement of her daughter. We are all angry with this woman and are speaking to the coach about the behavior. The season is over in two weeks.

People who get their needs met by emotionally blackmailing their children are beyond the pale. My heart goes out to this little girl. Your coach definitely needs to be notified. The children who have witnessed this behavior need to be de-briefed about its inappropriateness. The parents of the child who received the curse(s) should speak to the mother directly about the inappropriateness of her behavior as well as discuss this matter with the coach. The final decision will rest with the coach. My hopes are that he would remember that little girl in any decision he makes. In his place, I would let them finish the season for the childís sake and bar them from returning.


Dear Mrs. Web,

My two-year-old is terribly afraid of loud noises, especially thunder and lightening. She cowers in my arms. I canít put her down. What should I do?

Hold her. Rock her, sing to her, and talk in soothing tones. Play music to drown out the sound of thunder. Read storybooks and get her involved in a toy or game. Frequently reassure her and act normally. No shivering under the bed sheets together with flashlights. Talk about the storm in a normal voice. Children usually outgrow their fears in a few years but need to have them taken seriously.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My granddaughter is seven years old and she is hyper. Her parents (my son and his wife) let her do everything. She goes to concerts, nightclubs, and Vegas with them. She stays up until all hours and always looks overtired.  She watches television and says words that would embarrass a truck driver. I feel bad for her. I donít know what to do.

Your granddaughter does not sound neglected, she is, instead, exposed to the inappropriate, the vulgar and the rude. She is not their child; she is an "add-on" feature to their marriage.  Sadly, in the future, she will pay dearly for her parent's irresponsibility.

I would speak to your son about the effects their choices are making on your granddaughter. If you are unsuccessful, you can be a haven for this little girl, taking her on weekends and whenever you can have her. Keep your access to her open, do not alienate the parents. Give her the boundaries she needs when she is with you and show her how other people live their lives. You can be a great help and solid rock of support in her life.


Dear Mrs. Web,

I have a nine-year-old son who has to go to summer school; it was a condition of his promotion into fourth grade. He goes four days a week from nine to noon. He works with two teachers and about twenty other kids. He is balking at continuing at summer school. He does not like the other kids there and is misbehaving in class. I think he just has low self-esteem and it is getting in the way of his learning. Should I take him out and fight to keep him in fourth grade anyhow?

Poor self-esteem is the excuse of the decade and has been used to explain everything from bad haircuts, to drug use to murder. I have found that people arrive at a positive opinion about themselves based on their ability to succeed in some area. I donít know why your son is acting up. He may need a completely different education environment, more tailored to his abilities such as homeschooling, or private schooling. Perhaps he needs an education that is more specialized in his current environment.

I do know that if you keep him where he is, and intervene and force the school to pass him just to keep his self esteem intact, you will end up with an uneducated, under-performing adult with weak character. I am sure you want more for your child.



Dear Mrs. Web, 

My brother, I call him The Reptile, keeps snakes. He feeds them worms and toads he catches in the yard. It is disgusting. My parents donít see anything wrong with this. They think itís ok. I think its gross. He has charts of what they eat and everything they do. When my parents are out he sometimes chases me with one or lets it loose in my room. What should I do?

There is nothing wrong with keeping snakes and feeding them frogs. Many people will agree with you that it is gross. Teasing you with the snakes is a mean thing to do. Talk to your parents. Ask for protection.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My sister is coming to visit. She is involved with a man and obsesses about him all the time. My little girls are getting bigger, seven and ten. I don't really want them to listen to her moan. How do I avoid this?

Easy. You make a deal with your sister. Tell her the kids are too young to hear about him, him, him. After they're in bed promise her nightly gabfests. Hold her to it, nicely though. She's your sister for the rest of your life.




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