How do I get my son to stop throwing temper tantrums?

Dear Sara,

My son Dylan, age four, has been having temper tantrums since he was about two years old. He lies on the floor and kicks and screams and sometimes bangs his head until he gets his way. This can go on for ten minutes or more. How can I get him to stop doing this? It gets bad enough that I am afraid for his safety. Please help.


Dear Misty,

Dylan is doing what works for him. He has found out that if he keeps on long enough and makes you scared enough, that you will eventually give in and let him have his way. He is not only getting his way but he is getting your attention as well. Children crave attention even if it is negative attention.

Your plan needs to be to give Dylan attention when he is behaving like you want him to behave and ignore the temper tantrums. He may very well escalate his behavior. Your goal is to remain calm and ignore his tantrum.

This has worked for Dylan in the past so he won’t be quick to give it up.
He may even try this behavior on other people.

When he finally calms down (without being rewarded by attention or getting his way) make sure that he gets attention for his positive behavior. If he gets attention by sitting with you and being read to or helping you make cookies or other things that he finds enjoyable, he will eventually give up his tantrums.

Dylan has gotten his way by having tantrums for two years so it will take a while for him to get the idea that they don’t work anymore. Don’t give up.


My niece needs someone to be a good influence on her, how can I help?

Dear Sara,

My brother’s daughter is sixteen. He doesn’t pay much attention to her and she is running wild. She wears lots of makeup and tight low cut shirts and goes out whenever she wants to. I don’t know how she’s doing in school but at least she is still going to school. She’s cute and pretty and has always been a favorite of mine. Her Mom isn’t in the picture anymore. Is there any way I can help her?


Dear Nora,

Sometimes when a girl’s Dad doesn’t pay much attention to her she will seek attention from the guys around her. You could have a talk with your brother and let him know what you think but he may not appreciate your interference. You seem fond of this girl so why don’t you try to see if you can be a good influence on her.

Maybe you could invite her to spend the weekend with you and do some girl things together. If you took her shopping maybe you could help her find some clothes that are a little less revealing and she might like a makeover at the cosmetic counter.

It’s really not a good idea to be critical of a teen because they really think they know everything. Just try to head her in the right direction. Since she doesn’t have a Mom at home she might need someone to confide in. Try to be a good listener and keep her confidences.

She needs you.


How do I stop my children from smoking?

Dear Sara,

I’m a smoker and have been since I was about fourteen. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to smoke but I wanted to fit in with my group and didn’t realize the consequences. I have tried to quit but I end up going back to smoking after a while. I have two children ages eight and ten and I don’t want them to start smoking. How can I tell them not to smoke when they can see me smoking?


Dear Ann,

Children don’t realize how addictive cigarettes are. Try to talk to your two preteens about the problems that you are having trying to quit. Let them smell your clothes and hair and ask them if they want to smell like an ashtray. You could let them know about any problems you have had like asthma or shortness of breath. Look for teachable moments to explain to them about how dangerous and addictive cigarettes are. You can tell them that smoking has been linked to cancer, heart disease and emphysema not to mention early wrinkles. You may already hove created a problem if you smoked while you were pregnant. Smoking during pregnancy biologically primes your unborn baby to smoke.

Maybe you could let your children be your cheerleaders as you try to quit. They love you and want you to be around for a long time.


How do I know I will be a good parent?

Dear Sara,

I am expecting my first baby in about four months. I was raised in a really disfunctional family. My Mom was schizophrenic and my Dad wasn’t involved and often wasn’t there. Our neighbor looked after my sister and me when Mom was in the hospital. When we were at her house we mostly watched TV when we weren’t in school. I want to be a good parent but I don’t know how. What should I do? I’m scared.


Dear Lily,

I can understand how scary this is for you. You are already feeling love for your baby and want what is best for him or her so you are on the right track.

You might feel more confident if you take a parenting class. Check around. Hospitals often have them for new parents. The first baby is certainly a learning process. You have learned that neglect is painful so pay attention and listen to your child. He or she will try to let you know from the start what they need. Later on they can express themselves better and need to know that you are listening.

Consider establishing family rituals. Celebrate holidays and birthdays. Your kids will cherish the good memories. There are plenty of parenting books out there. Every stage of a child’s life is covered. You will have lots of questions with your first child, Everybody does. A good
pediatrician will be a big help.

Even if you didn’t have a good example for parenting, try to be the kind of parent you would have wanted.

Good luck.


Dear Sara, my child was sexually assaulted…

Dear Sara,

My ten year old son has been sexually molested by a sixteen year old neighbor. I know for sure because I caught them in our garage. According to both boys it was consensual. I talked to the sixteen year old’s parents and we decided that both boys would go for counseling. My son won’t talk about this at all. Not to me and not to the counselor. It just seems like he wants to ignore it. What can I do to help him?


Dear Mariah,

To be caught in such an act is probably embarrassing for your son. Maybe it was doubly embarrassing since it was his mother who saw him. He may not be able to discuss this with anyone and you may be making things worse for him by trying to get him to discuss his actions.

Kids tend to experiment sexually and to make a big deal out of it may be more hurtful than it would be ordinarily. Right now he wants to try to forget what went on with this other boy. Let him deal with this on his own for now. If you feel that he is getting depressed or acting out with some other child then you can seek further help with a child psychiatrist.


Should my teenage son give his baby up for adoption?

Dear Sara,

My teenage son has gotten his girlfriend pregnant. We have had numerous talks about abstinence, safe sex and not getting a girl pregnant. He’s too young to get married and his girlfriend is too immature to raise a child. I don’t want my grandchild to be put up for adoption but I have a full time job that I need to support me and my son. The other grandmother doesn’t want to raise this child. What can I do?


Dear Carrie. This may be out of your hands and I think that you already know this. If your son’s girlfriend is willing to give up her baby for adoption then this is probably what will happen. Her Mom knows her daughter best and can also see her immaturity. It may be important to the Mom that her daughter continue school without the distraction of a baby. It is also a big full time job to raise a baby and she is unwilling to take on this responsibility. This is a teenage romance and the two teens may not even be together by the time they are ready for college.

Whatever happens now, you don’t really have a choice but the baby will always have a place in your heart. All you can do is be supportive of your son and his girlfriend and hope that everything will work out for the best.


Am I ready to have a baby?

Dear Sara,

I have been married two years and I am beginning to think about having a baby. I am concerned about it because my brother has an autistic child. He is a handful and my brother and his wife have to be constantly on duty to care for him. I don’t know if I could handle this. Should I just give up on having a baby?


Dear Jenny,

I can certainly understand your fear. I guess it depends on how strong you feel about wanting a baby. Studies have found that boys are more apt to be affected by autism than girls. Apparently there is a gene mutation behind autism that can be passed from parent to child with about 500 genes involved.

You might consider taking folic acid if you get pregnant. There was a study done in Norway brought about by a dramatic increase in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders which affect 1 in 88 children. The critical window for taking folic acid was 4 weeks before conception through the eighth week of pregnancy. Women who took supplements during this window were 27% less likely than others to have a baby with autism spectrum disorders.

So if you decide to have a baby you might want to consider this as an option. Be sure to discuss this with you doctor of course.
Good luck.


How do I get out of this rut?

Dear Sara,

I am getting really depressed. I have four year old twins who are into everything and my husband travels all of the time to places that sound fun and exciting and I can’t go. My house is a mess because I am too tired to clean it. If I complain I get no sympathy at all. All of my friends that I used to hang out with have jobs. I used to be a fun person. How can I get out of this trap?


Dear Darlene,

You sound like you are seriously depressed and nobody is listening to you. It’s up to you to change things. Probably the first thing to do is see your doctor. She may want to prescribe an antidepressant just to get you out of this black hole you seem to be in. You may also want to talk to a therapist so that you will have someone who can help you figure out some options.
You didn’t really say what you wanted. Is it really important to you to stay home with your twins? Maybe you need a babysitter or daycare for them a few days a week so that you can have a break. Do you want to go back to work so that you can be with adults more? It would probably be difficult with your husband gone so much but your mental health is important.

Apparently you’ve discussed some of these things with your husband and others and have gotten no sympathy. This means that you will have to decide on your own what will work for you. Don’t let this depression go on. Take some steps to get some help.

Good luck.


How do I cope with no longer being number one?

Dear Sara,

My wife is having a baby. We didn’t plan it but my wife is excited and happy. I’m petrified and don’t really want the responsibility of a baby. This is really going to change our lives. The baby will be the most important thing and I will no longer be the first in my wife’s eyes. I want and need our special times together. I guess I have to accept this new baby but I wish I could be happy about it like she is. What can I do to get over these bad feelings?


Dear Dave,

The first thing to do is to tell your wife about the way you are feeling. She needs to know about your anxiety, if you haven’t already shared with her. She can probably reassure you that your bond will be even closer when you have your baby. The baby will take up a lot of her time but she won’t love you any less.

You might think about a class in the care of new babies. If taking care of a baby scares you, you can gain some confidence in this way. You may also find some other men to talk to who share your fears.

Your wife really needs your support and love right now. This isn’t easy for her either but women have hormones that put them in the right frame of mind to accept and love a baby. As she gets bigger and it gets harder for her to get around, try to spoil her a little bit, she won’t forget and she will love you for this.

I know that this is a difficult time for you but try to relax and get used to the idea of having a baby. I hope that when you first see your baby you can fall in love with him or her and find how special it is to have your very own baby.


How can I teach my kids to clean up after their own mess?

Dear Sara,

My house is a mess! My three preschoolers (two year old twins and a four year old) seem to go from one thing to another pulling out things to play with and abandoning them. I can’t keep up with them much less clean anything. It seems like my life is full of laundry and dirty dishes. We sure can’t afford to pay someone to help with the cleaning. I feel overwhelmed. How can I deal with all of this mess?


Dear Sherry,

Please don’t beat up on yourself for not having a perfect home. Things will get better eventually. Your kids won’t stay little long. Try to enjoy them now.

You can start teaching them how to pick up and put away their things. This is something that will help you out later on. Try to make things fun for them. Make a game out of it, maybe see who can put the most toys in the toy box or sing silly songs to make things more like fun.

Try to have a routine. Kids sometimes will do things if they “always do it.” Every morning we make our beds, before nap time we put away our toys. Sometimes it’s hard to make this effort all of the time every day but it will be worth it in the long run.

Do the best you can for now and try to focus on how wonderful your little ones are.