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Chat with Barbara Meltz -- July 2, 2007

Barbara_Meltz: Welcome to the parenting chat!

mcr__Guest_: how about sibling rivalray - i have two boys 9& 11 and it is getting more difficult not easier
Barbara_Meltz: MCR, Very typical! It's because there's a big disparity in development at this age. A 9-year old probably still likes to spend time with you and family, for instance, and a 11 yo is starting to think that's babyish, even tho part of him still wants to be part of the family. In fact, let me guess: he's calling his brother a baby in lots of ways...It's all about his need to want to begin to separate, including feeling like he might be contaminated by a younger sib.
Barbara_Meltz: My suggestion for dealing with it is to acknowledge privately to your older son that you know he's getting more grown up, and that sometimes it can be a pain to have a younger brother, but then go on to say, are there still some things they can do companionably together; what can you do to help him so they aren't always fighting, etc?
Barbara_Meltz: A similar conversation with the younger one acknowledges that the older is starting to be a preteen, and that can be hard on a younger sib. What can they do together, etc? And then also a conversation with the two of them together: they are still brothers always will be, etc.; Normal to go thru changes, there will be lots more, how can they give each other space and still exist in the same house, save TV room, etc.
Barbara_Meltz: OK you chatters -- I know this is a vacation week and it's a beautiful day so maybe not a lot of people are in the chat room today. Most chats, I have to end before I get to answer all the questions, so for those of you who are here -- this is your chance! Submit now -- there are no qusetions ahead of you!! Fifth chatter gets a night of babysiitting!! JK.
momof3__Guest_: I have 3 children, 10 1/2, 8, and 4. I often worry about the middle child (2girls, boy respectively) being well a middle child. I feel guilty that she gets most of the negative attention since she tends to be the more rambunctous (?sp) of all 3. My biggest concern is how being in the middle will affect her later in life. My sister is a middle child and has seemed to make poor choices in life esp. husband which makes her life so difficult and is difficult to watch. Thank you.
Barbara_Meltz: momof3. Some people put more stock in the significance of birth order than others (consider that study that came out last week) but what's at the heart of it, I think, is the involvement and attention chidlren perceive they are getting from parents. I think the mistake parents make is to always try to be equal and fair. What one child needs is not always the same for another, so that can sometimes backfire. You want your children to have an equal shot at your attention and love, but one may need more scaffolding for hw and the other doesn't, but that one has trouble with nightmares and needs more help at bedtime. The message you want all your kids to get is that you are raising them according to their needs and sometimes that doesn't seem fair.
newtondad__Guest_: Hi. I have started reading your blog almost every day and think it is full of useful stuff. Keep it coming. My kids, ages 7 & 9, are out of school now and have not settled into a good routine yet for the summer. Since school ended and the structure of the days has changed they are driving me, and especially my wife, crazy complaining about boredom. They will be going to day camp in a couple of weeks but what ideas do you have to make it through until then.
Barbara_Meltz: newtondad, glad you like the blog -- and i'm always happy to get suggestions for items from readers. When kids say they are bored during the summer, it's often better to translate it to, "I don't know what to do with myself without structure in my life." So one suggestion is to put in some structure, including posting a daily schedule on the fridge, so the day doesn't seem to stretch so endlessly to them. But be sure to include some time that just says, "Free play"! If that really stumps them, which is a sad thing, you can help by putting out some props -- art supplies (sidewalk chalk?), for instance. It'll get better as summer wears on, I bet.
momof2__Guest_: Would that be the same advice for sibling rivalry for 2 boys ages 7 &3?
Barbara_Meltz: momof2, Sort of. I would definitely acknowledge to the 7 yo that he is at a different stage of development, with different interests, and that sometimes a little brother can be a real pain. That will obviously have occurred to him by now and if you haven't validated that for him, that aloone will certainly go a long way. As long as he can see that you acknowledge and respect the differences, he may be more willing to tolerate some of what he perceives as the pain in the neck part. So yes, I would talk to him about what it means to be a big brother when you don't always want to do the same things, or watch the same shows, etc. Get him to be specific: what kinds of things DO you enjoy doing with your brother?
jane__Guest_: I have an 8-yr old boy who still doesn't seem to understand that his actions (or lack of them) have consequences. Most difficult is getting him to listen better and whine less. Any suggestions? We try hard to be consistent with responses and follow through.
Barbara_Meltz: Jane, first of all, email me for a column I've written on whining. Secondly, ask yourself this question: are you an enabler? You are if you: don't let him see the natural consequences of his behaviors, if you constantly come to his rescue, or if you say there will be a consequence and then you change your mind. One of the biggest reasons kids whine is for the attention it gets them. They don't care that it's negative attention. Lastly, just telling him, Don't whine, isn't helpful because kids don't know specifically what they are doing. Define it for him and tell him how it makes you feel: when you talk in that high pitched, sing-songy voice, it makes me .....
lovemykids__Guest_: Hi Barbara -- Thanks for chatting! What's the latest on the cloth diapers vs. disposable diapers debate? I'm expecting a baby in August and want to be prepared :)
Barbara_Meltz: lovemykids, Since you asked: I HATE the Diaper Genie, or any of those so-called diaper systems that only add one more layer of plastic to our landfills. Personally, I thought about using cloth diapers but succumbed to the ease of disposalable ones. But that doesn't mean you have go to the extent of the Diaper Genie. Good old-fashioned diaper pails are perfectly adequate. What are you thinking of doing?
ffr__Guest_: My 13 year old son is exhibiting a lot of self confidence issues--he doesnt have a lot of friends (has a few), suffered through a difficult first year of junior high because of peer difficulties, and is hard on himself about his looks, athletic abilities etc. He lost his father a couple of years ago. He is very talented in many ways (computers, cooking etc). He is a great kid. How can i help him with his self confidence? No matter what i say he doesnt seem to want to hear/believe it. He refuses to go to counseling. Any thoughts?
Barbara_Meltz: FFR, This sounds like a tough situation that is probably greatly exacerbated by the death of his dad. I probably wouldn't leave it to just play out. Just because he refuses counseling, doesn't mean you can't get some parental counseling on how to help him. That's where I would start. Kids this age don't need a lot of freinds; they just need one or two. But they do need activities they enjoy and that make them feel good about themselves. Do you have a relationship with the mom or dad of the friends? That's another point of connection. to see what they can do together, including just having the family of the boys over for a BBQ and sort of brainstorming, all of you together, about what extracurriculars they could do when school starts, for instance. Helping him to find activites he likes, like a cooking class over the summer, or even enlisting a local restauranteur who would let him observe in the kitchen. Think outside the box!
snowy__Guest_: my 4 month old is still waking up every 2-3 hrs. at night and now that I have gone back to work, it is just wiping me out. Any suggestions to help him sleep longer?
Barbara_Meltz: Snowy, 4-months is really too young to do much more than examine the sleep schedule and routine. The typical 6 month old needs 12 1/2 hours of sleep per 24, 9 1/4 of it during the night and 3 1/2 during the day, divided into two naps. So a 4-month old would be slightly more than that, probably a total of 12 3/4 per 24. (At 3 months, the total need is 13 hours per 24.) Too much daytime sleep for instance, can throw off the nighttime sleep. Also, how does he fall asleep? If you rock him to sleep and then move him into the crib, when he wakes up he expects to still be in your arms. That could be why he cries. Better to rock him almost to sleep, then put him down, so that he's awake enough to register, "oh, I'm in the crib," even if it means you have to rub his back and soothe him (but not pick him up again). That way, when he awakens, he's where he expects to be and has a better chance of falling back to sleep on his own.
MLB54_pats_2__Guest_: I am a single Dad of two girls, age 12 and 8. This year, my older daughter started giving me some trouble when shopping for summer clothes and bathing suits. If she tried something on that didn't fit she would say "oh, I must be getting fat" and then start sulking and her whole mood would change. She is not even remotly close to being overweight so I don't really know where this is coming from. Nothing else has changed, eating habits still the same but I am concerned that she is saying these things. She does not watch alot of tv either. Is this something I should be concerned with or is this just her age?
Barbara_Meltz: MLB54, I'd be moderately concerned, yeah. There is such an obsession in our culture, she doesn't have to be watching TV to get it, she gets it from the friends who watch TV. She also needs to know explictly what's happening to her body, including that this is a stage where girls do tend to gain some weight as they body weight shifts. Get her this book: "The what's happening to my Body? Book for Girls," by Lynda Madaras, and use it as a way to talk about the culture and body images and self-esteem. It's definitely a subject you want to talk to her about; even if she rolls her eyes, she's still taking it in.
momof2__Guest_: Also, I read with great interest all of the comments to your infants watching TV article - how about an article on the benefits of reading to babies?
Barbara_Meltz: momof2, Good point. I've written many columns over the years about the benefits of reading (and would be happy to send you one). Maybe time to do it again. Wonder if I can sell that to my editor...
momof2__Guest_: Hi Barbara, I asked this once before but I can't find where I put the saved answer. My 3 1/2 yr old boy, is very outgoing with strangers, people everywhere. It is a great trait but I want to teach him to not always go running up (for safety's sake). I don't want to scare him. Is it too young to start teaching him and what is the proper wording to use without invoking fear of something happening to him? He especially loves chatting it up with men - he's a guy's guy. For example, if we are at the park and a father comes with his child, the father is his new best friend.
Barbara_Meltz: Momof2, (You can sometimes get the chat transcripts) but briefly, no, not too soon to talk to him but rather than saying things like, don't talk to strangers, give him scenarios and rules, so that he has specifics. Sorry I'm out of time.
Barbara_Meltz: Guess I was wrong. Not everyone is on vacation, or enjoying the beautiful day!Thanks for joining the chat. I'll do it again on July 16.