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Chat with Barbara Meltz --October 1, 2007

October 1, 2007
Barbara_Meltz: Let's open the parenting chat -- what's on your minds today, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, nanas and grandpas?
Bruce__Guest_: We have a 6 year old son and a 9 year old daughter. We recently set up an allowance program for each where getting allowance is tied to doing their daily routine (including getting ready for school, doing homework and bed time routines) We take away small parts of it if they do not follow the routine. What do you think of such a system? I am a little concerned about focusing on the negative (taking away money for bad behavior) vs. being positive. They do give us a bit of a hard time with these things, but not anythng major.
Barbara_Meltz: Bruce, I am a firm believer in giving kids an allowance that has no strings attached -- not tied to chores -- but also have specified chores that kids are expected they do as their contribution to the family. As you've discovered, when allowance is tied to chores and chores aren't completed, it only sets up a power struggle that typically tends to be more painful for the parents than for the kids. Plus, in every family I know where this happens, kids end up getting the money anyway, or parents end up doing the chore. It's a no-win situation. In the dynamic that I prefer, kids get their allowance no matter what (but there also need to be conversations about how money is spent; that's another topic) AND there are consequences to not doing the chores. Your allowance isn't affected, but priviledges are. They need to be age-appropriate chores, and age-approrpirate consequences, of course. This is a good issue Bruce, I'll try to post something about it on my blog in the next day or so that will include a column I wrote last April on the subject.
momof2__Guest_: I used to live in Cambridge, but have moved far away to a very conservative rural area. My question is about sex education as regards my six-year-old son, who I anticipate might start asking questions soon. I want to give him the facts, but don't want to cause problems for other parents or for my son if he is being told more than other children he knows. Any advice?
Barbara_Meltz: momof2, It's not as if the kids are going to compare notes, although by thhis age, you can bet that questions and statements about sexuality are part of their conversations. So yes, by all means, it's time. The best approach is to let your chid know that you are someone he can talk to about this. You might ask him, for instance, "Have you ever wondered where babies come from?" See what he says. You'll probably be surprised. Whatever he says, from Yeah, the stork brings them, to, they grow in mommy's tummies, it's always best to start with his working knowledge, and to go from there. The main point of an early conversation is to simply let him know that this is something he can talk to you about; that you will give him accurate information (always use correct anatomical names, vagina, penis); and that if he has questions, he can ask them. Keep it simple. The best way to not give more information than he needs is to keep asking him questions, "What do you know about where babies come from?" You know how the joke goes, right, of the 5-year-old who wwanted to know where he came from, and the parent went into a complicated explanation, and then the kid said, "No, mom, I want to know where I came from. Philadelphia or Boston?"
etfonehm: Hi Barbara, I've heard a horrible rumor that you will be leaving the Globe soon; is this true?
Barbara_Meltz: etfonehm, It's true, I am leaving the Globe, my last day will be 10/17. I'll do one more chat after today on 10/15. Although I won't be writing about parenting for the Globe, I'm hoping to continue to work with parents, including (!!) doing some parent coaching.
Mark_s_Mom__Guest_: Hi Barbara, My son is turning 2 at the end of this month and I am expecting my second child in a few weeks. Can you provide me with any advice for his transition? I am not sure he understands what's happening. Thank you!
Barbara_Meltz: mark's mom, You're right, at such a young age he's not getting too much of what's going on. One way to handle the transition is to get him a doll anhd baby carriage (not the one from Pottery Barn, which was just recalled!), cause that will enable him to imitate and act out a bit. Another is to be honest: tell him, "Babies aren't a lot of fun in the beginning. All they do is sleep, and eat and cry." It's better to err on the side of underselling than over-selling. Make a point each day for you and your husband to have time alone with him, even if it's just a few minutes and label it as your time together, when not even the phone or the baby can take you away from him; maintain his routines and schedules as close to possible what they ahve always been. Be prepared to tolerate angry feelings, from, "I don't want a new baby," to "make this baby go away," by voicing for him the things he can't say: "You wish it was like before, don't you, when you had mommy all to yourself." What will be behind most of the acting out is another thought he can't voice, which is this: "Do you still love me even with this baby? Will you still take care of me?" So pretend he's asking that and tell him explictly: "When the baby is here, I'll love you the same as now," Or, "Even though the baby is here, I still love you the same as always. Mom and dad will take care of you just like always."
MomToE__Guest_: Ooops! I wondered if you had any resources to suggest about raising only children. We have not been able to have another child and I really wanted my daughter to have a sibling(I have 6 siblings) I read that you have a son. Any tips? This is all a new way of thinking for me....
Barbara_Meltz: Momtobe, Yes, I have one child, a son who's turning 20, I still can't believe that even as I type it. The best advice I ever received (as I was writing a column about raising only one) was this: parent the same as if you had more than one. While having one is in many ways a blessing (you have more energy, resources and love to lavish on just one), it can also be a curse, meaning if you give him all your attention, it can be smothering; if you give him an inappropriate portion of your resources, he can be spoiled rotten. You get my point. I'm happy to send yuou some of the columns I've written over the years about raising one child; email me after the chat,
MomToE__Guest_: Oh no! I live out of state and love to read your blog and columns! How will I find you after you leave? Do you have a website or another blog site?
Barbara_Meltz: Momtobe, thanks! I don't have a website of my own, but I hope that I will find a site where I can blog or chat. I'm sure if you google, you'll find me. But don't look right away -- I may take some time off!
Kathode__Guest_: I'm so sorry to hear you will be leaving the Globe. Your chats, columns and blog have been so helpful to me as a mother. Thank you.
Barbara_Meltz: Kathode -- thanks, I can't tell you how much it means to me to hear comments like this. And as I said, I do hope to find some other way/place to continue with parenting advice. Meanwhile, I'm still here for more weeks and one more chat -- so fire away!
Barbara_Meltz: Queue is empty -- anybody out there?
momof2__Guest_: Barbara, we took the pacifier away from our 3.75 yr old boy (he only used it to go to sleep at night and for naps (at school, no pacificier). He has not asked for it back, but he is acting out in different ways - now wants me next to him to go to sleep, he's having a hard time going to sleep (9:30 instead of 8/8:15), no napping on the w/e. General irratability (because of less sleep!). So, last night I told him that if he stayed in bed & went to sleep by himself for all this week, I would take him bowling this w/e - I know it's bad to bribe but I didn't know what else to do. Any suggestions? Anyone else go through this? It's been about 10 days so far of this misery.
Barbara_Meltz: momof2, Poor guy, -- and poor you. You must all be tired. Learning to sleep on his own is a process, probably not something he can be "bribed" into because he just isn't there yet. So I would undo the bribe, just tell him, "You know what, I think we should go bowling no matter what, to celebrate that you don't need your pacifer anymore!" For starters, that gets the subjedt talked about, and it acknowledges that he's doing a hard thing. Then I'd say, "Do you miss your paci? Do you? It seems like you're having a hard time getting to sleep without it. Do you have any ideas about what we could do to help you get used to not having your paci?" And then offer a few: a favorite stuffed animal that he holds; a blankie, etc. Tell him you can't stay with him every night until he's asleep, but you can stay with him every night for a few minutes, until he's ready to sleep. Make it your goal to go from lying with him in the bed, to sitting next to the bed; gradually (over days & weeks) edge your chair to the door of the room. The idea is to defuse this from being a power struggle. The more you are able to give him what he needs -- or enable him to meet his own needs -- the sooner he will move on. This will only happen if you engage him in the process.
JR_s_Mom__Guest_: My 18 month old loves to put the button on his clothes in his mouth. What can I do to discourage this?
Barbara_Meltz: JR'sMom -- Find clothes (for now) that have velcro, snaps and zips -- but no buttons! It's a stage, it'll pass. But you'll make both of you crazy if you have to constantly pull the clothes out of his mouth.
aj__Guest_: Oh no! I have written to you many times and have always gotten such great responses. I am sorry for us readers/writers that you will be leaving. I read your stuff everyday. What a loss for us. Please stay online somehow. You deserve the time off and best of luck but I will miss you!
Barbara_Meltz: AJ, Thanks so much!
MomToE__Guest_: Well, plenty of questions here! My daughter is 2 years 3 months. Just started whining, mostly with me. I am not sure the best way to handle this as it mostly occurs when we get home from daycare and I am trying to make dinner...the witching hour!
Barbara_Meltz: MomtoE, Here's one thing not to do: Don't tell her, "Stop whining." !! Cause kids have no idea what we mean by that. Tell her instead, "I can't answer you when you speak to me in that tone of voice; it's rude..."or however you want to describe it. And then when it happens, remind her her, "Can you use your big girl voice?" If she can't, then turn away and tell her, "When you're ready to talk to me without whining, then I can listen." Since you are able to pinpoint when it happens, it may be that she's hungry (bring a snack in the car when you pick her up) or that she wants time to reconnect with you. Spend a few minutes cuddling before you start getting dinner ready. Make a big announcement: "When we get home today, you and I need some cuddle time, before I start dinner. I really have been looking foward to that. Shall we read a book together?" That, along with the snack, may be just the connection she needs to help her make the transition from daycare back home. Also, I've written a column about whining. Email and I'll send you a copy.
MomToE__Guest_: Well, enjoy that time off! I will miss your extremely useful and informative voice at the Globe. Wish you all the best!!
Barbara_Meltz: That's it for this chat. Join me one last time Oct 15!

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