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Chat with Barbara Meltz -- April 2, 2007

Barbara_Meltz: Parenting chat is open for business -- I know there's lots of buzz about the "Supply & demand" story -- feel free to ask/comment on that, but also don't feel you have to stay on that subject.

Ali__Guest_: I'd like to thank Barbara Meltz for this weekend's "Supply & Demand" piece. It was very balanced, and raised a lot of great points.

Barbara_Meltz: Thanks, Ali. Not surprisingly, not everyone shared your opinion!

Barbara_Meltz: Any nursing mothers in the chat today?

Barbara_Meltz: I'd be interested in stories you might have about comments you get from family & strangers...

Ali__Guest_: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said most families are not open about extended nursing. It happens a lot more than most realize, and there really aren't any statistics to point to, just word of mouth.

Barbara_Meltz: Absolutely. I was pleasantly surprised at how many mothers I found who were willing to talk about it for publication.

Ali__Guest_: I nursed my daughter until last summer, when she was three and a half. We were forced to wean because I needed to take a medication that was incompatible with breastfeeding, and we held a weaning party for her.

Barbara_Meltz: And your family was... supportive?

Ali__Guest_: We were extremely selective about whom we invited, and also about whom we told that she was still nursing.

Barbara_Meltz: That makes sense. One thing that was interesting to me in the reporting was that not all husbands are supportive. One of the mothers I interviewed said when she told her husband that she had weaned (a 5-year-old) he said, "I didn't even know you were still nursing." (She was only nursing at bedtime.)

Ali__Guest_: Some family members were supportive, some were not comfortable but still supprtive, and some were openly horrified.

Barbara_Meltz: So, Ali, any advice for others going through this, especially regardingly the openly horrified ones...?

jmc__Guest_: I have a 2 1/2 year old son. We are going to have a lot of changes around the house - we're having #2 in the fall. I'd like to move my son into a new room with a "big boy" bed and I'd also like to have him potty trained before the new baby arrives (he's already telling me when he's gone to the bathroom and he's very familiar with the potty chair - although he hasn't actually gone in it yet). Do you have any suggestions as to what "new" thing we should attempt first?

Barbara_Meltz: JMC, You've got enough time between now and then to reasonably accomplish both, although, honestly, it's a little young for both, considering he's a boy. But I would probably start with the bed, because you want there to be enough distance in time so that he can't possibly connect being moved out of the crib to making space for the baby. With potty training, it happens faster and easier when the child is really ready and even telling you he wants to use the potty. If you start too soon, before he's really ready, it could drag on. But either way, with both changes, you know there's likely to be regression, right?

lala__Guest_: How did you find mothers to talk to about this for the story? Did you talk with some mothers who were openly against late weaning?

Barbara_Meltz: Lala, as I do with all my stories, I cast a wide net but it was kind of self-selecting -- the folks who were willing to let me use their names were not the people who were against it, by definition.

Ali__Guest_: Well, I would say that - as with every parenting decision - you need to do what works for your family. And with the ones who were not supportive, we made it clear that the topic was not open for debate or discussion.

Pam__Guest_: Your "Supply and Demand" story is great way to share with family members. I personally emailed the link to some of my family members.Often times family members are more open to ideas when they see them discussed in a place like The Boston Globe.

Barbara_Meltz: Pam, that's nice to hear!

zelda__Guest_: i have a question about a story from a few weeks reliable do you think the "self esteem" test results were? couldn't part of the spike in #s mean that teens know that they are supposed to have high self esteem, not that they actually do?

Barbara_Meltz: zelda, The way the study was done (and I assume you're talking about the narcissim story I did), kids were asked 40 questions, each with a range of answers, and then the answers were ranked according to high and low self-esteem. While some questions might be obvious, most were more subtle. So, no, I don't think a teen could purposefully tilt it one way or the other.

janfrel__Guest_: Hi, Ali and Barbara...I'm a mom who nursed two long-term, one to age 6 and another to age 5 (both extremely independent and well-adjusted kids who as teenagers now feel comfortable in their parental support to come to us with their problems). A suggestion I have about coping with unsupportive relatives is to tell them that people find different ways to parent that work for them and it's OK to disagree...but we all agree on the "final product" being a healthy, happy child.

Barbara_Meltz Janfrel, One of the best comments from the professionals I interviwed was a reminder to moms (I think this is in the blog portion of what I wrote) that a relative most likely loves your child, too, and is only asking/commenting, out of concern and love.

meme__Guest_ : What impact (on their lives) does late weaning have on those "openly horrified" by and older child nursing?

Barbara_Meltz: Meme, That's a good point, and a rhetorical question, I assume.

ksk__Guest_: It was nice to see an article about breastfeeding past infancy where the families were not portrayed as freaks. It sometimes helps to remind people that worldwide the average age of weaning is over 4 years. It's our american culture that has a problem.

Barbara_Meltz: Moving to the other end of the age spectrum -- Anybody dealing with college disappointments, or anticipating them?

GeeKnee__Guest_: Thank you for being such a great resource, Barbara. I have a 6 1/2 year old daughter who is doing well academically but not as well socially. She tends to 'melt down' and either cry or whine if a situation doens't play out as she has imagined it will. It is beginning to affect her relationship with classmates/friends. I've tried discussing the ramification of her behavior on her friends as has her teacher and even some older, kind friends. It' s not working. Should we try a child psychologist or any other suggestions? Thank you!

Barbara_Meltz: GeeKnee, there's a good chance that this is a maturity issue; some kids take longer to figure out the social implications of their behaviors. But pointing out to her that her playmates don't like her to whine, etc., probably won't work. One way to deal with this is to give her concrete coping mechanisms: If this happens, then this is what you do. You would do that through role-playing with her: If Mary wants to play house and you don't want to, what can you say? And give her some options. Or: If you're feeling frustarted with your playmate, what words can you use? That also means that she's enough aware of her feelings to be able to label and identify them, something you can also help her with. I would try some of this first. A book that might be helpful: "Mom, they're teasing Me, helping sour child solve social problems" by Michael Thompson. Certainly if it will calm and help you, or if you think this more than normal social immaturity, by all means, talk to a professional. Your child's teacher, assuming she's someone whose judgement you trust, is your best benchmark. If she thinks this is beyond typical, it probably is.

sox07__Guest_: Responding to JMC: my two boys are 2 yrs 9 months apart. #1 moved into the "big boy bed" a few months before #2 was born, and that transition was simple. We left the crib in his room for a week, then asked if it was OK to move it, and he said sure. Never looked back. The toilet training was a different story altogether - he kept insisting "When I'm 4!", resisted all attempts at bribery, coercion, peer pressure, etc. And woke up on his 4th birthday, put on underpants, never looked back. Kids do it when they're ready. :)

Barbara_Meltz: sox07, Exactly! By the way, JMC, I have a column I can send you on making the move from crib to bed. Email me after the chat.

Barbara_Meltz: Any thoughts on the day care study that was released last week? It said that kids who are in daycare for a long time are more likely to have a better vocabularly (the good news) but also more likely to exhibit agressive behavior in 6th grade....

abbeydad__Guest_: I'm worried that my high school senior will get bad news on April 15th when his first college choice sends acceptances. Is there anything I can do to prepare her?

Barbara_Meltz: abbeydad, Best advice I can give is to allow her to wallow in her disappointment. As parents, we tend to want to take away their pain and we end up saying things like, "Oh honey, you'll be happy at this other school, it's just as good," etc. If a kid has her heart set on something, that's a very un-understanding response. So validate how upsetting it is, use a lot of reflective comments (oh, you're so disappointed) and stay away from "I" statements. The more you allow her to feel what she's feeling, the more quickly she is liekly to readjust on her own. The kids who take longer to move on tend to be those whose parents a, are very upset themselves and b, don't give the kid permission to be unhappy.

bigmama__Guest_: Hi. I am expecting #2 baby in a matter of days. My 4.5 yr old daughter is excited, yet I have noticed she is acting out alot lately--resisting bedtime unless we snuggle her, fighting over everything all day long. Could this be about the big change that is coming? I've tried to prepare her and let her know we'll still love her. Any thoughts?

Barbara_Meltz: bigmamm, Have you told her about all the things that will stay the same? At this age, she's old enough to wonder, "Will mom and dad still take care of me/still love me/ when the baby is here?" The more you have been referring to her as the "big girl," the more that fuels the potential for that concern. So one strategy, esp in these last few days, is to remind her about all the things that won't change: "You know, when the baby comes, mom and dad will always take care of you, just just we always have." Literally talk about what will be the same, and what will be different: "What will be different is that the baby will cry a lot. What will be the same, is that we will love you as much as alayws; we will snuggle at night, just like always."

sox07__Guest_: Speaking as someone whose kids have been in daycare since they were 3 months old, and they're now in 5th and 7th grades, I tend to disagree. I have seen MUCH more aggressive behavior from neighborhood kids whose moms stayed home than I ever have from either of my two.

Barbara_Meltz: Sox07, My sesne has always been that kids in daycare are pretty wwell socialized, myself. The study, by the way, said the differences were small, but I feel like the media really jumped all over this story and blew it out of proportion.

francis__Guest_: hi barbara. i have no issues with mothers breastfeeding their children until a later age. That is a personal decision. I have more of an issue with the "weaning" party that the couple threw for the 5 yr old. Seems like a party for such a decision is overindulgent and feeds into the "i am so special" generation that many parents seem to be raising. Enjoyed the column though as always.

Barbara_Meltz: francis, that's an interesting thought. I hadn't put the two together in that way.

jmc__Guest_: My thought on that study is - don't read it if you can't do anything about it :) I think children are in daycare mostly because their parents have to work to pay the bills. The majority of my friends would stay home if they could (myself included) but it's just not possible. For those that choose to work, they are entitled to their careers. What are the other options if not daycare?

Barbara_Meltz: JMC, or that maybe we as a society need to work harder to insure that all daycare is high quality; and that teachers receive continuing education, and good education to start with....

sox07__Guest_: p.s. I would agree with the better vocabulary end of things, but attribute that as much to the fact that both of my kids are voracious readers as to anything to do with daycare.

Barbara_Meltz: Lucky you! (That they're great readers.)

meme__Guest_ : It's interesting that even with a better vocabulary, these children were not able to settle their disagreements with words/discussion but instead exhibited agressive behavior. Perhaps when children are constantly with their peers, day in day out, they can learn "pack-like" behaviour?

Barbara_Meltz: My guess is it had more to do with the ratio of teachers to chidlren, in day care, so that teachers weren't available to step in, defuse situations and do a good job of teaching conflict resolution skills

Ali__Guest_: I would disagree strongly with the statement Francis has made. The point of weaning parties is to celebrate a special rite of passage, and the put a positive spin on what, for many nursing dyads, is a bittersweet moment.

Barbara_Meltz: Ali, that echoes what I heard from these moms.

Ali__Guest_: In my daughter's case, where the weaning time was not of our choosing, it was aprticularly important and helpful for her to have a group of friends and family to praise her for taking this big step, and to be supportive.

Barbara_Meltz: Thanks for joining the chat. I'll be chatting again on April 16.