Dear Sara, how do I help my child’s stuttering?

Dear Sara,

My three year old son Bradley has started stuttering. It gets worse when he’s tired and cranky. Apparently his grandfather on his Dad’s side had a stuttering problem all his life. I don’t want this to happen to my son. Is there treatment available? Is he going to be afflicted with this all of his whole life?


Dear Sylvia,

Children often outgrow stuttering. What you need to keep in mind for now is that Bradley doesn’t need any pressure. If you can provide a relaxed home environment and give him plenty of time to complete his sentences, he will be less apt to stutter. Try not to demand perfection or act negatively when he stutter. Since some kids outgrow their stuttering, you may want to wait three to six months to have Bradley evaluated by a speech-language pathologist. With your patience and some time, it’s possible that his stuttering will clear up on its own. If his problem continues, the treatment is usually speech therapy with the speech-language pathologist. Apparently the experts have decided that drug therapy isn’t very effective and has some risk. Boys are more likely to have stuttering problems than girls and stuttering is a speech problem rather than an emotional or psychological problem. Your best way to deal with this right now is to take a wait and see attitude, be patient and supportive, make sure that others don’t pressure Bradley and seek treatment if the problem doesn’t clear up in a few months.


Dear Sara, how can I improve the relationship between my teen and I?

Dear Sara,

I am a single Mom with a 14 year old. Tracy used 
to be really easy to get along with but lately she
has been really critical of me. She wants to hang 
out with friends and is away from home a lot now. We
used to do things together but now it feels like 
she avoids me. How can I get our relationship back to
the way it used to be?


Dear Wendy,

In order to grow up kids need to separate from their 
parents and form their own identities. It sounds like
you and Tracy have been dependent on each other for 
a long time and she has a need to make some changes so 
that she can be her own person.
As Tracy gets older she will appreciate you more and 
your relationship will improve especially when she gets
married and has her own children. Until then don't push
her and try to find something that will make your life 
more satisfying.


Dear Sara, my children love my boyfriend, but I want to break up with him…

Dear Sara,

I have two sons, ages eight and ten. Their father died
before the eight year old was born so neither boy has 
ever had a Dad that they can remember. I am dating a man
now who they are crazy about. He takes them fishing and
to places like ball games and the zoo and gives them lots
of attention. The problem is that I am not so sure about
my relationship with  him. He drinks quite a bit, can't 
hold a job for more than six months and has had to borrow
money from me to pay his rent. What should I do? When I 
break up with him I know it will hurt my boys.


Dear Lena,

At this point in time you are sure that you don't want to
marry this man. The kids might really like having fun with
him but he is definitely not a good role model. If you break
up with him slowly or suddenly it won't make much difference
to your boys, it's still going to happen.
If I were you I would be somewhat concerned about his abundance 
of attention to  your boys. This is a way a pedophile works. 
You don't seem to be the focus of his attention except when 
he needs help financially. Check around on line or with his
friends or relatives to see if there is anything suspicious.
During the period of time when you are breaking up with this 
man, try to give your boys some extra attention. They may also
need some new activities to help them adjust. I hope you will
find someone to be in your life who will be a better example 
of fatherhood.


Dear Sara, my daugher is in an abusive relationship…

Dear Sara,

I think that my 15 year old daughter Taylor is in an 
abusive relationship. She has come home with bruises
on her arms a couple of times (she denied he did it)
but there is mostly an emotional abuse going on. If
she doesn't cooperate then he pulls away emotionally 
and puts her in the deep freeze. This seems to be
effective with her. He insults her and tells her that
she is stupid and doesn't deserve him in text messages
that I have seen. I know that this isn't good for her
but how do I stop it?


Dear Roxanne,

Taylor really needs your support right now. Give her
the opportunity to talk things out. If she thinks you
are being critical of the boyfriend then she won't want
to talk about him, so you need to be careful. Just feed
back to her in a gentle what she tells you and try to 
talk about what a good relationship looks like, how loving 
caring people relate to each other. She needs to know that
people who love each other are supportive of each other
and give compliments and encouragement rather than insults
and put downs.
You could point out people who have good relationships. 
Include her friends in this as she may not see older 
couples as relevant. If she decides that she doesn't 
want this kind of relationship, her boyfriend may up 
the ante to control her by being more abusive. She will
need your protection then. You may want to set curfews
and limit her cell phone and computer use. Take away 
her cell phone if she is being harassed. If he stalks 
her or threatens her, call the police. Be very aware of
what goes on in Taylor's life until he is out of the picture.
It's difficult for a teen to give up a relationship like 
this because she will begin to believe the negative input.
Taylor may need a therapist experienced with abusive 
relationships. Ask your family doctor or local mental 
health facility for a referral. Good luck.


Dear Sara, how do I get my husband to stop being cheap?

Dear Sara,

My husband Brent and I have been married for 10 years.
We have two children ages seven and nine and I am a 
stay at home Mom. Brent has a really good job and we 
are well off financially. However, he doles out money
to me and the kids like we are poor. He belongs to a 
country club and plays golf and cards with his buddies 
but says this is a business expense. I am really tired of
living with this miser. How can I get him to share more
with me and the kids? Life is too short to live this way.


Dear Sandy,

You didn't say what Brent does with the family money after 
household expenses other than his country club. Is he 
investing for the future or putting money away for your
children's college education? Is he keeping the finances 
a secret from you? If you don't know what's going on it's
time to find out. If there is money that Brent is not accounting
for in some way then you have a right to know what is going on.
Be sure to look at your joint tax return before you sign it.
If Brent grew up with very little money, he may have the feeling
that no matter how much he has, he has to be careful so that his
money doesn't disappear. His paranoia has to do with his 
insecurity in this case and he will need some counseling to
overcome this. If his family was irresponsible with money 
he could be over responsible to compensate.
Marriage is a partnership so each person should have an 
equal say in how the money is spent regardless of who earns it.
The person with less or no income will begin to feel controlled
and have reduced self esteem. Resentment over this can be poison
to a marriage. You could start by itemizing you weekly or monthly 
expenses. Put down how much you and the children actually need to 
be comfortable. Present your budget to Brent and let him know how 
dissatisfied and resentful you are. Explain to him that a raise
to meet your financial needs will be much cheaper than a divorce.


Dear Sara, how do I get my daughter-in-law to discipline her kids?

Dear Sara,

My son and his wife Kelly have been married ten years 
and have two beautiful girls ages five and seven. We 
live in the same city so I get to see them often. My
son will make them behave when he is around but he
travels in his job and is gone a couple of weeks a
month. My daughter-in-law seems to have no idea how
to discipline the girls and just lets them run wild. 
The house is a mess and the kids have no schedule except
for school. How can I get Kelly to pay more attention 
to the girls and give them some guidance and discipline?

Dear Julia,

Kelly seems to be on her own with the girls quite a bit. 
For the most part we learn our parenting skills from our 
parents, so she may not have had any good role model. 
There is also a possibility that Kelly has attention deficit
disorder and has a problem getting her act together.
Whatever Kelly's problem is, her girls need some guidance. 
The problem could also be that she is overwhelmed with 
trying to do all the parenting chores by herself, especially
if she is poorly equipped to do this on her own.
Since you live close by you could give Kelly a break and take
the girls for a weekend or overnight when you can. She could
probably also use some help when it comes to taking the girls
to activities and to their friend's homes for overnights.
You can't really take over the parenting and organization 
skills for Kelly but if you see her doing something right,
give her lots of praise. If you have a really good relationship
with her, you could make some suggestions but she may not be open
to anything she considers criticism.
You are right to be concerned but if you want to maintain a good 
relationship with Kelly and have some oversight of your 
granddaughters, you will have to proceed with caution. Your 
best bet is to be supportive and helpful but not to interfere
unless you feel the girls could be in danger.


Dear Sara, what if I’m nervous about having a baby?

Dear Sara,

My wife Sandy and I have been married two years. She is pregnant 
and is due in two months. I really didn't want a baby but she 
wanted one really bad so I agreed. I like hanging out with our
friends and taking weekend trips on the spur of the moment and 
not having too much responsibility. I've never been around babies 
and don't really like them much. How can I deal with this?


Dear Stan,

You're right, this will be a really big change for you. You will 
need some time to adjust to having this new little person around.
When it's your own baby, sometimes this makes a big difference.
He or she may have a chin like yours or a cowlick that grows the
way yours does and this makes that baby a part of you. Try
holding your new baby and see if there is a bonding experience.
If you don't feel comfortable taking care of your new baby, there
are lots of ways that you can help Sandy so that she can spend 
time taking care of the baby, like cooking cleaning and grocery 
shopping. Your social life may have to change for a while. Your
friends can hang out at your place and there are always baby 
sitters and sometimes doting grandparents. Things won't be as 
carefree but hopefully you can make a place for your new baby
in your home as well as your heart.


Dear Sara, how do I discipline my step-son?

Dear Sara,

My husband Jeff and I have been married for four years and have
a three year old son. This is my husband's second marriage and
he and his first wife have a six year old. Jeff has visitation
every other weekend and he is parenting his son differently from
our three year old. His ex-wife is a lot more lenient than I am
and lets their son get away with a lot of disrespect and gives
in to him when he whines. I don't tolerate this in our three 
year old. Jeff, however, lets his six year old get away with this
at our house and I think this kid should follow the same rules as
our three year old and not be a bad example. How can I convince 
Jeff not to parent his and his ex-wife's son differently?


Dear Marty, 

This is what is commonly what is called "Disney dad." Jeff is 
fearful that his son won't want to come and see him if he is
a strict parent. There is nothing that he can do about his 
ex-wife's parenting skills, so he is stuck between a rock
and a hard place. If Jeff's six year old is left in your 
care, you can explain to him the rules in your home. You have
to remember though that you are not the parent, that Jeff is. 
If you can get Jeff to cooperate then try to tighten up the 
discipline routine. Kids can often accept their role in two 
different households so Jeff's son may be unhappy at times
but won't reject Jeff for being a strong parent. He is 
testing the waters so to speak and may become more 
cooperative at your house than at his mother's. If Jeff 
sees the difference in behavior between the two boys he may
agree that his son needs someone who is a strong parent. If
he doesn't step into the parenting role now, there may be 
bigger problems later on. You have to remember though that 
this is basically has to be dealt with by Jeff and his ex-wife. 


Dear Sara, should I pay my son to cut our grass?

My son Seth is 14 and I think, old enough to cut the grass. I am trying 
to decide which is correct.Should he cut the grass as his contribution
to the family or should he be paid to do this. He gets a small allowance
on a regular basis so he has some money. I haven't discussed this with 
him but I have been really busy and I would like for him to start 
cutting our grass. I can't decide which way is right Help!


Either way is right but if you really want Seth to do this on a regular 
basis you should probably pay him. Maybe not as much as you would pay a 
professional but some kind of reward.When kids are small, things like 
making their bed or taking out the garbage should be expected. They may 
need constant reminders and be reluctant but his is their small part in
keeping up with the housework. Depending on your yard size, cutting the
grass is a much bigger undertaking and Seth is going to complain if he 
is not rewarded in some way, even if he is a good kid. You might start
out by having Seth help you, so that he will know what you want and 
expect. This will be like a training period for him. 
Kids like to have their own money and it is good experience 
for them to have some money to manage.One of the things that kids
need to learn is that hard work brings rewards.Sometime they can learn 
form the example that their parents set but they can also learn by being
rewarded for their own hard work.This isn't about Seth contributing to 
the family or now, it's about teaching him a good work ethic.


Dear Sarah, how do I get my 4 year old to sleep in his own bed?

Dear Sara,

My four year old son has been sleeping in my bed since he was born. 
I breast fed and this was easier for me. I think it's time for him 
to sleep in his own bed now but he really pitches a tantrum when I insist.
What's the best way to get him to sleep in his own bed?


Dear Donna,
Think of this from your son's point of view. He has had a secure 
nest from the day he was born and now you are asking him to give it up.
Maybe you will have to take things gradually.You might try sleeping in 
his "big boy" bed with him for a week or so, letting him know that 
"big boys" sleep in their own beds. After that try going back to your
own bed after he is asleep. If he wakes up and comes back to your bed, 
just go back with him and finish the night in his bed. Give him lots 
of praise when he can finally spend the whole night by himself.
This might take several weeks but he will eventually get used to being 
by himself.Lots of children have a favorite blanket, stuffed animal 
or toy to take to bed with them. 
You may have been your son's "security blanket." 
Just give him plenty of time to feel secure on his own.