Dear Sara, My Four year old daughter has terribly tantrums at daycare…

Dear Sara,

I have a four year old daughter who will be five in September and lately it has been a job in itself to get her to listen. It has been on and off for months where she is taking “spells” of kicking, screaming, hitting and even throwing things at her daycare providers. We have tried time out, taking things away and talking to her and nothing seems to get through to her. I am a first time parent and everyone I have talked to just keeps telling me they don’t know what to recommend. She acts this way sometimes at home as well, but mainly at daycare. I have talked to her doctors and they are saying it is regular tantrums and she will grow out of them. If this is so, how do I get her to behave long enough to go to daycare? I really hope you have some suggestions.


Dear Christina,

It sounds like you are more effective in your parenting than the daycare is in providing appropriate discipline. Some children find out that they can get what they want by having a tantrum. Kids figure out fairly quickly that if something works then do it again to see if they can control the situation again. It doesn’t take long for them gain the upper hand and get their own way.

Maybe you should have a talk with whoever is in charge at daycare to see if they follow through with appropriate discipline techniques. You might even want to spend some time observing at your daughter’s daycare to see how they handle her behavior.

A four year old isn’t verbal enough to tell you what is going on at daycare so acting out may be the only way she can let you know that something is wrong there. It could be that another child is acting out and hitting her or taking her toys or one of her caregivers is behaving inappropriately. This is another good reason to ask the daycare center if you can spend some time observing.

Keep up with your good parenting techniques at home and if you find the daycare center is lacking then it’s time for a change to a new one.


Dear Sara, One of my daughters seems to get more attention than the other…

Dear Sara,

I have two daughters, Jane age eleven and Melanie, eight. Jane is very outgoing and gets lots of attention while Melanie would rather read or play on the computer while her sister gets to be the star. I don’t think that it is fair to Melanie for Jane to get all the attention. How do I make things more equitable?


Dear Sheila,

Your girls seem to have very different personalities. This is probably not going to change. Apparently Jane likes to interact with people and enjoys the attention. This isn’t true for everybody. Each person has their own boundary for interacting with others. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are shy, it just means that they are more comfortable with less stimulation.

As Melanie gets older this could change. You don’t want her to be a recluse, so it’s a good idea to encourage her to do some social things. She need to develop the necessary social skills so that she can interact successfully with others. It’s not a matter of competing with Jane for attention but rather for Melanie to develop her social skills.

You could try to find out what activities the other kids in her grade at school are doing by talking to their Moms. Then you could encourage Melanie to participate so that she would have more interaction with the kids her age. As she begins to interact with the other children she may become more confident.

You may not be able to change Melanie’s personality but giving her an opportunity to make friends and interact with others is important. Ay eight years old she still has time to grow physically and socially. She may never be the outgoing young lady that her sister Jane is but if she is not constantly compared to Jane, she will be able to grow into her own personality.


Dear Sara, I’m worried my kids aren’t getting enough exercise…

Dear Sara,

I have three children ages six, nine and thirteen. I am a waitress working at a busy restaurant from 8 AM until 4 PM. When I come home I am really tired. I am worried that my kids aren’t getting enough exercise. They are only interested in their computers, phones and TV. My nine year old is gaining weight. I know that I should get outside and play with them but I just don’t have the energy most days. Any suggestions?


Dear Carrie,

It sounds like you are overwhelmed and overloaded. You could be surprised at how much some regular exercise could benefit you as well as your children. Why don’t you try a family membership at your local YMCA? Your children won’t go if you don’t go. They need you to be their leader. You might want to try some beginning Yoga to see if this will de-stress you.

Your kids really need regular exercise at their ages to help them keep bones and muscle in good shape.

If you can’t be the leader, then encourage them to be active in sports at school This will probably be extra work for you as you will have to pick them up and attend their activities. I know it will be difficult for you but it won’t last forever.

There are too many overweight and out of shape kids out there. Don’t let yours be part of that crowd. Limit the electronics and either lead or encourage a more active lifestyle for your kids.


Dear Sara, my 13 year old daughter Brianna is very dissatisfied with the way she looks…

Dear Sara,

My 13 year old daughter Brianna is very dissatisfied with the way she looks. She thinks she’s too fat (she’s not), too tall (she’s 5’7″) and that her nose is too big (some kid in her class made a comment about it). Her concept of herself is that she is ugly. She has nice hair and good posture and up until now has been a happy little girl. What can I do to give her a more realistic image of herself? She doesn’t believe me when I tell her she looks good.


Dear Ron,

This is the age that kids begin to think more about how they look and what other people think about them. Girls especially want to look like the current favorite on TV and compare themselves unfavorably. This is also a time for tears from hormone swings when everything is a drama and the least little thing is terrible.

You are doing the right thing in telling her that she looks good. As her father, at this time in her life, you have the special role of one of the first males that she will interact with and your approval means a great deal.
If Brianna thinks that she is too fat then try to encourage her to eat for health rather than weight change. Fruits and vegetables have a lot less calories than a hamburger and fries at McDonalds and also have the advantage of not causing skin breakouts.

Help her be aware of what normal is. You can buy a book on calorie values to help her see how many calories are in chocolate chip cookies and pizza so that she can at least choose smaller portions.

The problem with being tall at 13 is that most of the 13 year old boys that she hangs out with haven’t hit their growth spurt yet. She may be able to see over their heads. It will take a while for this problem to resolve itself but let her know that the reason that tall women are picked as models is because clothes look better on them.

Encourage Brianna to find and get involved in sports, physical activities or hobbies that she might enjoy. Being active and involved is a good way to use calories and have a positive outlook.

If everyone looked the same, we would have a very boring world. Encourage Brianna to be proud of being unique.


Dear Sara, I want to start a family but I am still single…

Dear Sara,

I am 35 years old, unmarried and no prospects in sight. I love children and I have always thought of myself as being married and having a family. I really want a baby and I am thinking about artificial insemination. I am pretty sure that I would be OK financially since I have enough money saved up to see me through for the first year and to cover my medical expenses. I have this now or never feeling. Does this plan have any chance of working?


Dear Teri,

When a woman feels the need to hold a baby in her arms, this instinct is extremely difficult to resist. Apparently your pull toward this is very strong.

Raising a child under any circumstance can be thankless, frustrating and difficult. You will be facing many challenges alone. If you decide to do this, I hope you have some family for backup when you need help.

You sound like you have made some plans and thought about how you will survive on your own financially. I hope that you will be as conscientious about honing your parenting skills so that you can raise your child to be a successful adult.

You may experience a challenge when it comes time to explain to your son or daughter that their father was anonymous sperm donor; a biological father. There could be some emotional repercussions especially during the teen year when kids are trying to find their own identities. When you get your first question about who “Dad” is, you need to be prepared. There may be a need for some counseling as your offspring starts to deal with a lack of a father in their life.

If you decide to go ahead with your plan (and I think you will because of your strong need) try to be prepared to be very supportive of your child when they are feeling the loss of a father figure.

Good luck,


Dear Sara, My wife is making my son look too dressy for his age…

Dear Sara,

I have a nine year old son. He is well behaved and respectful. My problem is my wife. She dresses him like a sissy. He goes around in Khakis with neat cotton shirts or something similar. He looks good but the other kids his age are in jeans and T-shirts. When you see him in a group, he stands out as different. Can you think of some way to persuade my wife to ease up and let my son be a regular kid?


Dear Jared,

If feels like your son feels comfortable in the clothes your wife chooses. At nine kids don’t really pay much attention to their clothes. When he gets to be a teen he will probably want very strongly to choose his own wardrobe.

Some Saturday you could take your son shopping and see what he chooses to wear. Be willing to sit there and let him make his own choices between Khakis and jeans. If he chooses jeans and T-shirts be willing to back him up if his Mom protests. He seems like a child who will go along with whatever makes everyone happy,so it’s a good thing to have a father who will back him up. If his Mom won’t be reasonable about this, you may need to see a family therapist to help your family resolve the differences of opinion in this matter. You don’t want your son to be torn between you and his Mom.


Dear Sara, We told our 14 year old daughter she couldn’t go to a party but she sneaked out anyways…

Dear Sara,

Our 14 year old daughter Taylor sneaked out Saturday night to go to a party at her friend’s house. She had asked us if she could go and was told that she couldn’t attend because we found out that her friend’s older brother was giving the party and the crowd would be kids who were 16 and 17. She waited until we went to bed and had someone pick her up at the end of our block. I just happened to get up and looked in her room to find that she was gone. She is grounded for now but we wonder if we were being too strict by not letting her go to the party.


Dear Christie,

Your rules are for Taylor’s safety and she has to accept the fact that she can’t defy them and do as she pleases. Apparently her friend invited her since the party was at her house and she felt entitled. The brother might not have been aware of the invitation. At times fourteen year olds tend to think that they are more mature than they really are.

Are you against kids having parties or was this just because the crowd was older? If the parents were at home and there was no alcohol involved, this might have been safe enough for Taylor. Maybe you have a problem with Taylor hanging out with boys who are older than she is. This is a cause for concern in that they may be more experienced and she could end up in a situation that she is not prepared for.

Supervised parties are a way for kids to get together with their friends and become social. They need some safe ways to hang out and have fun. You might consider letting Taylor invite some friends her age to your house. You can provide pizza, soft drinks and whatever entertainment kids that age enjoy and be there to supervise.

For now Taylor deserves to be grounded for defying your rule.


Dear Sara, I’m thinking about letting my new boyfriend move in with me and my two daughters…

Dear Sara,

I’ve been divorced for three years and have two daughters ages four and six. My ex was physically and mentally abusive and there is no way I could have stayed with him. He pays child support but lives in another state. I have a boyfriend now and we have been seeing each other for about six months. He is pressing me to move in with me because he lives about 100 miles away. I really care about him and would like to have him here. What kind of effect would this have on my girls?


Dear Vicki,

You sound like you are looking for an excuse not to let your new boyfriend move in. You have had a bad experience with being married, so maybe you have a need right now to be cautious. Six months isn’t enough time to get to know someone and evaluate how they might fit into your life.

Even if it would be more convenient for you new boyfriend to live with you, it’s a matter of concern that he would put pressure on you to do this. It really needs to be your idea and that you are sure that what you really want is to have someone live in your home and share your life. If you feel the least bit uneasy about letting him live with you then it’s OK to say no.

You might also consider his role in your girl’s life. Would he be a co-parent or just an observer. What happens if you decide that this isn’t what you really want after the fact? You have a lot of things to consider here and you seem to have some reservations. Go with your gut instinct and postpone the living together arrangement until you are really sure that this is what you really want.


Dear Sara, My five year old daughter is obsessing about death…

Dear Sara,

My five year old daughter is obsessing about death. We have lost several family members to death recently, one a beloved grandmother who spoiled her and another, a child who was only two who died of meningitis. She wants to know if she is going to die and what happens to people after they die and won’t stop talking about the people who died. She follows me around asking questions. How can I reassure her and get her to quit focusing on death?


Dear Lilly,

It sounds like your daughter is very much afraid of dying and needs to know what is going to happen to her if she does. At her age she will accept whatever you decide to tell her. Keep things simple and let her know your beliefs about life after death. Be patient and keep letting her know that you will try your best to keep her safe from harm.

You might try to distract her by reading to her or taking her for a walk and talking about other things. If she continues with her questions, answer her questions simply and let her know that everything is OK and that she is safe and change the subject. She may not give up until she has explored every option.

Be patient and give her some time. If she doesn’t seem to be able to focus on anything else she may need to talk to a therapist who has experience with children.


Dear Sara, My 3 year old daughter is having terrible nightmares…

Dear Sara,

My three year old daughter Meg had a nightmare a couple of weeks ago. She keeps talking about bears and wolves and is afraid to go to bed at night. We have reassured her but she screams and cries at bedtime. We have been letting her go to sleep on the couch and putting her to bed after she is asleep. Any suggestions on ways to reassure her?


Dear Sonia,

Three year olds can be pretty dramatic when they are fearful. Meg thinks she has a valid reason for being afraid but at this age kids pretty much will take whatever their parents say to be the truth.

You might want to help her attack and kill these imaginary bears and wolves. Get Meg involved in a way to do this. Tap into her imagination and help her get control of her fears by letting her attack her imaginary animals before she goes to bed. She may imagine them to be under the bed or in the closet so you could help her find them and do away with them.

Make it a nightly ritual to find and fight these animals until she reassures herself that they are all conquered. She could then be brave enough and begin to see this exercise as a nightly game. For a while you may need to sit with her in the bedroom until she falls asleep . If you haven’t used a night light before, this would certainly help so that she can see that all is well.

Move slowly and don’t force Meg into anything that she’s not ready for. Let her take her time to overcome her fears.