Dear Sara, My mom keeps interfering with how I discipline my 15 year old…

Dear Sara,

My 15 year old daughter defies my rules all of the time. If I try to discipline her, she runs to her grandmother who takes her side. My mother has always been critical of the way I parent my children and says that I am too hard on them. My husband won’t back me up and said he wants to stay out of it. How can I make my Mom see that I am the parent and need to be in charge without her interference?


Dear Ann,

Usually we learn some of our parenting skills by doing things the way our parents did. For some reason it seems that you have taken a different direction and have a more structured way of parenting than your Mom. Your mother doesn’t have the right to interfere. Let her know that if she continues to sabotage your parenting you will have to limit your daughter’s contact with her.

Sit down with your daughter and have a talk about the rules. See if you can come to some agreement about what she wants and what you expect. At fifteen she is beginning to have her own opinions and you need to take them into consideration. If you can give a little and she is willing to make some changes then maybe things will go more smoothly.

If you and your daughter can’t come to a compromise, you might want to try some family counseling. Your husband doesn’t want to be involved in your dispute with your mother but he needs to be part of the parenting team. Family counseling might be a way to get him more involved.


Dear Sara, my four year old daughter seems overweight and I would like to help her…

Dear Sara,

My four year old daughter Gracie seems overweight to me. She is 36 inches tall and weighs 43 pounds. I don’t want her to grow up with weight and health problems but she seems hungry and wants to eat often. How can I help her get to a normal weight.


Dear Leslie,

You are right that Gracie is overweight. At four years old she should be about 37 inches tall and weigh between 35 and 37 pounds. Right now you have control over the food she eats. Try to educate yourself about the calorie count of different foods and when you shop, look at the nutrition information on the labels of the food you buy. Gracie may not be hungry as much as she is just craving sweets. The way to control this is just not to have these things in the house.

Something to keep in mind is that kids who sit and watch TV are not using up many calories. Make sure that Gracie is getting at least an hour or so of some kind of activity every day. She won’t be inclined to do this on her own so you will have to join her. You could do things like going for a walk or play Frisbee. Anything that will keep her active.

Keep in mind that the food in fast food restaurants is very high in calories. The rate of obesity has gone up in the last sixty years when they first became popular.

The key to weight loss is fewer calories and more activity. You need to be the role model for Gracie. She will want to be like you. If you sit and watch TV and eat high calorie snacks, this is what she will do. If you eat healthy food and get plenty of exercise, she will follow your lead.

Good luck.


Dear Sara, My 16 year old wants to have an abortion but I don’t want her to…

Dear Sara,

I have six kids. They have all been good kids and I haven’t had any problems until now. My youngest daughter Rachel who is sixteen told me yesterday that she took a pregnancy test from the drugstore and that she is pregnant. She claims she doesn’t know who the father is. She has decided that she wants an abortion. I want her to have the baby and give it up for adoption. Should I let her make her own decision?


Dear Susan,

Probably the first thing to do is to take Rachel to a gynecologist and see for sure if she is really pregnant. You are both in a lot of emotional distress right now and need some time to cool down and think about the best way to proceed.

You have had six children, so you know what Rachel will have to go through during pregnancy and child birth. This isn’t easy plus she would have to go through the emotional pain of giving up a child that she has carried for nine months. If she decides on her own that she is willing to do this and that this is right for her, she will be better able to cope with the emotional and physical pain.

As her parent you may have the right to make this decision for her, but as her mother and a woman you might want to be more understanding of the problems that Rachel will face.

Either way Rachel may feel a lot of guilt. Help her to get counseling if she needs it.


Dear Sara, My 9 year old son Zack sometimes has staring spells and kind of zones out a bit…

Dear Sara,

My youngest son Zack is nine years old. Sometimes he has staring spells and kind of zones out for a while. Other than this he seems OK and seems to be doing well in school and socially. Is this something to be worried about?


Dear Ken,

This sounds like Zach could be having something called an absence seizure. This is a type of epilepsy that affects mainly kids. Staring spells are the main symptoms. An incident usually lasts a few seconds and ends as quickly as it begins. The child generally isn’t even aware that the seizure has occurred and it has no after effects.

The good news is that most kids with this condition usually outgrow it. You might want to make Zack’s pediatrician aware of his “zoning out” spells so that he can keep an eye on it.


Dear Sara, My 3 year old son keeps pinching his 18 month old sister…

Dear Sara,

My three year old son Evan has been pinching his 18 month old sister. She runs to me for comfort and it takes me a while to calm her down. I have put Evan in time out but this doesn’t seem to help. Would it be OK to pinch Evan when he does this to his sister?


Dear Meg,

It may be that Evan has found a way to get your attention, even though it is negative attention. You have to think about what you would be teaching him if you decided to pinch him. Kids learn a lot from the way their parents treat them and in this instance Evan would learn that it’s OK to pinch his sister. Another way to deal with this problem would be to reward Evan’s good behavior by noticing him and telling him that he is being good when he is nice to his sister.

Sometimes when kids are jealous of the attention that a younger sibling gets, they will act out toward them. If his sister is getting a lot of attention this could be his way of trying to make sure Mom notices him.

You certainly do want to protect your daughter from abuse, so let Evan know that he will be punished. If the time out isn’t working, you could increase the time out or take away something that he values for a while like TV or a favorite toy. Evan needs to learn to be nice to his sister but pinching him isn’t the way to do it.


Dear Sara, My 8 year old granddaughter keeps acting out in class…

Dear Sara,

My eight year old granddaughter lives with me. She has been through a lot for her age. My question is how do I deal with her being disrespectful, not only to her mother and me but to her teachers as well. She yells out in class and will not stay in her seat. She stomps her feet and disrupts the entire class. She is taking Concerta and the dose has been raised. All of her attitude seems to occur in the mornings, in the afternoon she seems to behave in class. I think she needs a counselor. Thank you for your time.


Dear Cathey,

You are probably right that your granddaughter needs to be in counseling. When kids have problems in their lives that they don’t know how to handle, they often act out. It’s not uncommon for them to be angry, disrespectful and hyperactive. Talk to her pediatrician or your local mental health facility to find someone qualified to work with children who have emotional problems.

Concerta is good because it is a time released tablet and children don’t have to take it but once a day. This means that your granddaughter doesn’t have to stop in the middle of a school day to have someone to help her take her next dose. On the other hand Concerta only delivers about 22% of the initial dose in the morning and the rest of the medication later in the day. Have a talk with her pediatrician to see if there is something that could be changed to help her feel better in the mornings.

She needs your help and understanding but she shouldn’t be allowed to be disrespectful. Let her know that you won’t allow her to disrespect you and her mother and that she will have some consequences if she continues to behave this way. She needs stability and discipline in her life.


Dear Sara, Our 13 year old doesn’t seem to fit into our family very well…

Dear Sara,

I have three teenage sons. The youngest is 13 and very different from the rest of the family. My husband and I are college educated and successful professionals and our two older boys do well in school and plan to go to college. Our 13 year old doesn’t like school and is more interested in drawing and painting. He seems to be off in his own little world most of the time. He isolates himself and won’t be part of family activities because he claims we ignore him, but he just isn’t interested in what the rest of us like to do. How can I make him fit into our family?


Dear Victoria,

You seem to be trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I don’t think your youngest son will ever be like his brothers. His art work seems very important to him so you may have a budding artist in you family. Encourage him in the direction that he wants to grow. Let him know that if he wants to pursue a career in art that he may want to keep up with his school work so that he can continue studying art in college.

Allow him to take art classes outside of school now if they are available. The way to reach him and make him part of your family is to take an interest in his art. He will probably rebel if you expect him to be different than what he is.

You might want to have him tested to make sure he doesn’t have a learning disability since he is having problems with school. Also you could suggest to him that eventually he will want to support himself if he can’t make a living as an artist so he might want to think about how he can do this.

Good luck,


Dear Sara, I’m not sure what is the proper way to confront my 9 year old son when he steals money from my purse…

Dear Sara,

My nine year old son Cole has been stealing money from my purse. I am not sure what to think about this as he has not done anything like this before. I have not confronted him yet because I want to know the best way to handle this problem. Please help.


Dear Diana,

You definitely need to talk to Cole about his stealing. He may feel that it’s OK to take money from you without asking. Even if this is true you need to straighten him out and let him know that it’s never OK to take someone else’s possessions without their permission. There should also be a consequence for his actions that would fit in with how much money he has taken. If it was only some change, then maybe no TV or games for a couple of days. If he stole a significant amount of money then his punishment should be greater.

Maybe you could also delve into why Cole wanted money. Do his friends have money to spend at the mall? Is there something he wants bad enough to risk your anger? There may be two lessons to be learned here. The first is that there are consequences for taking something that doesn’t belong to you. The second is that if you want something then you need to earn the money to pay for it.

Give Cole some chores to do that are appropriate for a nine year old. He could wash dishes or feed the pets or water your flowers. He will feel better about himself if he is able to earn some money and gain your respect.


Dear Sara, I let me nephew stay with us for the summer but he has been a handful of trouble…

Dear Sara,

My sister has asked me to keep her six year old son for the summer. She has just returned to the work force and is struggling to keep up with work and home duties. I agreed to let my nephew stay with me this summer but he is definitely hard for me to handle. He constantly demands attention, defies my rules and picks fights with my two children. I don’t know if I can last out the summer. How can I make him behave? I would like to help my sister.


Dear Lauren,

If your nephew has always had lots of attention from his parents and is used to getting his way, it may take a while for him to learn to fit in to your household. Kids often have to adapt to various situations and he will have to learn to follow your rules when he stays at your house.

Set up a place with nothing to do or look at, where you can put him in time out when he doesn’t follow the rules or gets aggressive. Be clear with him up front what your rules are and let him know if he doesn’t cooperate he will have to go to time out. The usual time is one minute for each year of age. Be calm with him but very firm and don’t let him try to talk you out of it or get out of it with a temper tantrum. After a while he will begin to learn that you mean business when you say something.

Another thing you can try is to catch Joshua being good and praise him for this. Let him know that you appreciate his cooperation. Six year olds usually respond well to praise. At this point it may take you a while to find the positives. In your nephew you may have to look hard for the least little thing to praise him for. Keep trying.
Whether he is not used to discipline or just unhappy at being away from home, if you can provide some stability that he can count on, it will be easier for him to adjust.


Dear Sara, I’m not sure how to deal with my hyperactive 3 year old…

Dear Sara,

My three year old son Josh is really hyperactive. He doesn’t walk, he runs. He will climb anything. He goes from one thing to the next to see what is going on. I am having trouble keeping up with him. If he takes much of a nap, he doesn’t want to go to bed at night. What’s the best way to deal with a child like this?


Dear Claire,

You sure do have your hands full. The first thing you need to deal with is Josh’s safety. If you haven’t done it already, you need to have one baby proof room. This needs to be close enough that he can see you. You can put gates on the doors and take anything out that he could get hurt on. At least you won’t have to chase him all over the house.

He needs to burn off some of that energy. You could take him for a walk every day but don’t push him in a stroller. If he won’t hold your hand, you might need a harness. Your first concern is to keep him safe. If there is a park nearby, maybe it will have a place for Josh to climb.

When you need for him to calm down, sit with him and read to him. Not only will this help him to be calm, it could give him a love of books. If you play with him, try to see if you can get him to focus on one thing for a while.

Take heart and try to be patient, kids often grow out of this stage.

Good luck.