Q: My 18-month-old kicks me and hits me when I try to change his diaper. He doesn’t do this for his father or grandparents. Should I hold his legs down until he gives up or will this worsen things? A: Holding his legs will definitely make matters worse. The solution, of course, is to toilet train him. I know, the current pediatric party line is he’s too young, he hasn’t shown certain “readiness signs,” and if you just leave him to his own devices, he’ll toilet train himself. Baloney.
A 13-year-old Washington state boy was recently arrested, then released to the custody of his parents after making online threats of shooting up and blowing up his middle school. He also threatened to kill one of his teachers, specifically named, and then kill himself. It turns out he didn’t have the means with which to carry out his threats, which prompted officials to close five schools in the area for a day.
Q: Several months back, our just-turned 3-year-old son invented an imaginary friend whom he calls Larry. We’re worried because he seems involved to the point of being obsessed with him. He plays with Larry almost constantly, talking to him all the while. When we go somewhere, I have to pretend that Larry is coming along too. I’ve drawn the line at setting a place at the table for him, explaining to our son that I feed Larry after he’s gone to bed. When our son is with other children his age, he plays well, but has a sort of take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward play dates.
In a recent column I said thumb-sucking is not, as was once thought, a sign of insecurity or other psychological problems. Well-adjusted children suck their thumbs and grow up to be well-adjusted adults. My daughter, who began sucking her thumb minutes after she was born (I think she used it to pass the time in utero), occasionally sucked her thumb to get to sleep when she was in high school. One time, when she was home from college, I checked on her around midnight and there she was, fast asleep with her favorite digit in her mouth.
Q: My 5-year-old is going to Kindergarten soon and still sucks her thumb. We’ve tried everything to get her to stop, even a dental appliance, but she won’t give it up. Do you have a solution for us?
“I’m a yeller,” she said, she being the mother of three young children. “No,” I replied, “you’re not. There is no genetic predisposition toward yelling, and no biochemical or neurological condition that makes yelling inevitable much less irresistible.” “But I yell at my kids all the time it seems.” “I’m not arguing with that.” “Well, why then do I yell?”
Q: Help! We find it almost impossible to finish a restaurant meal when our 18-month-old twins are along, which is always. We give them toys to keep them busy, and they do well for about 30 minutes after which chaos breaks loose. They begin screaming and throwing things and make it very difficult for us to finish our meal much less enjoy conversation with other adults who may be with us. It’s very embarrassing and I generally end up leaving the restaurant with them. How can I be more proactive about this problem?
I often hear real-life parenting stories that evoke two equally strong feelings: on the one hand, sorrow; on the other, gratefulness. I am saddened to hear these stories, always told to me by loving parents who have conscientiously tried to always do the right thing, but they also cause me to be glad beyond measure that I am not raising children today. I got out of the game just in time, it seems.
If my parents told me once, they told me at least one hundred times, “Don’t talk to anyone about their religious or political beliefs.” They meant, of course, that those topics are likely to generate tension and angry conflict. As such, they were not the stuff of polite social conversation. Notwithstanding the fact that I find religion and politics to be the two most interesting of all conversational topics, a third caution should be added to the list: parenting. In other words, don’t talk to anyone about how they are raising their children.
Q: Our 9-year-old daughter is going to the fourth grade next school year. She loves school and has always done very well. She recently took a series of tests and we’ve learned that she qualifies for the gifted and talented program. When we told her, she became very upset and told us she doesn’t want to accept the promotion. We tried to explain the advantages, but she just became more upset. She says none of her friends are in the gifted program and she doesn’t want to be there either. The school counselor says we should not let her make the decision. What should we do?