How do I know a good pediatrician when I find one?

Dear Sara,

My husband and I have just moved about 1,500 miles away from our families so that he could take advantage of a job opportunity. Now I find that I am pregnant with our first baby. Even though it’s unplanned, we are thrilled and excited. I am also scared and missing my family. I looked in the phone book and found a gynecologist close by and I feel confident in her. Now I am concerned about finding a good pediatrician. I don’t want to leave this to chance. What’s a good way to look for someone that I can feel comfortable with?


Dear Abigail,

Congratulations on your new baby! How very difficult it must be to you to be away from your family when you are expecting your very first baby, especially your Mom. I’m sure she would enjoy sharing all of the excitement with you. You will probably enjoy Skype so that you can share your pregnancy and new baby.

It’s important to have a network of friends to share things with and get feedback and support. Check out the local churches and other organizations to meet women in your age group. You could also check the Internet or community bulletin boards for groups where you can meet with other Moms. This would give you women who know the community and have had experience with pediatricians and other resources.

Your gynecologist is also someone who might be helpful in choosing a pediatrician, especially if she has children of her own.

Good luck to you and your husband.


My son keeps trying to escape. How do I stop him?

Dear Sara,

My three year old son Eric is getting to be quite a little escape artist. If he sees any opportunity he will take off running. He also likes to climb and will get up before we do in the morning, pull a chair up and get the cereal box out and help himself. So far he hasn’t been hurt but I am very concerned. He seems to think of things that I haven’t even considered. How can I stay ahead of him?


Dear Carrie,

Eric seem very active so you are right to be concerned. Now is the time your real parenting begins. When Eric was a baby your main jobs were to protect and nurture and basically you had complete control. Now that he can think for himself and is able to get around without your help you need to start setting limits. The problem here is although Eric is able to understand he may not have the self control to be able to behave the way you would like.

At this point you can begin to set limits and reward his good behavior and give consequences for his negative behavior but you also have to make your home baby proof. Since Eric is so active, you might start by putting the chain slide lock at the top of your exterior doors. This will prevent him from going outside when you aren’t looking. They also make child proof locks for kitchen cabinets. You can install them in the kitchen and bathroom. If you don’t mind him eating cereal before you get up you could leave it out where Eric won’t have to climb to get it.

You need to be especially concerned about locking up medication. Kids especially like baby aspirin and chewable vitamins and sometimes even picky eaters will eat colorful pills. Your caution in this area could save you a scary trip to the ER to have Eric’s stomach pumped. Be careful when you have guests and warn them not to leave meds out where Eric can find them.

Here is one last item for you to think about. Since Eric likes to climb, if you have a heavy bookcase you might want to bolt it to the wall so that Eric can’t pull it over on himself. Three year olds are really cute and can be lots of fun but they have no idea of danger. Keeping them safe can be a real challenge.

Good luck.


How can I get my son to focus on his schoolwork?

Dear Sara,

My fourth grade son has a real problem getting his homework done. He starts out OK but he can’t seem to stay on task and ends up drawing or looking around. I check on him from time to time and he will start working again but he is soon off in his own little world again. I don’t want him to fail fourth grade! How can I get him to stay on task?


Dear Sophie,

Some kids are able to stay on task and others have a problem. This doesn’t really relate to their intelligence level but it certainly can affect their grades. Your son may be interested in other things than what he is being taught in school.

Try to keep in contact with his teacher. If he isn’t paying attention in school then he may not know how to do his homework. Try to keep up with what he is learning and help him out at home.
You might want to consider having him tested for ADD. If this is his problem then medication could help. Try to be patient with him. You may have other things you need to do but he needs you one on one right now to help him get on the right track.


How do I punish my children without spanking them?

Dear Sara,

I have two kids ages two and four and I am a stay at home Mom. I don’t want to spank my kids so I am trying time out. For some reason I cannot make it work. As soon as I leave they are up and out of their chair or have a temper tantrum. What is the secret here?


Dear Meg,

For time out to be effective you have to be in charge. If your kids figure out they can manipulate you they will. Don’t interact with them when they are in time out. If they call “Mommy is it time yet?” don’t answer. Kids want attention and time out is a way of depriving them of this attention. The main thing about time out or any consequence is to be consistent. They will find out very quickly that you don’t necessarily mean what you say and will push you as far as they can. If you mean what you say every single time and don’t back down they will respect your authority. If your kids don’t respect you then they will do as they please and you won’t have any control.

You are on the right track here. Your kids are at an age where time out should work. Time out doesn’t start until your child is quiet and cooperative. One minute per year of age is the usual minimum but if this isn’t effective you can let them sit a few more minutes.

You need a time out chair in a spot that is quiet and without any entertainment so that their time out is as boring as possible. You will need some kind of timer. If there isn’t one on your stove, you can buy one where you shop.

Don’t interact with them when they are in time out. If they call “Mommy is it time yet?” Don’t answer. Let your kids know that if they don’t cooperate that they will have to go to the time out chair but the time out won’t start until they are sitting quietly. If you have to stand there with you back to them until they learn that you won’t let them up until the timer goes off, this is OK, just don’t interact with them.

Another thing can try is to say “if you don’t do what I say by the time I count to 10, you will have to go to time out. This often works with preschoolers and gives them some time to cooperate. They begin to respond to counting and you don’t have to use time out.

I hope this helps.


How do I get my daughter to eat healthier?

Dear Sara,

Our two year old daughter Amy is thin and tiny. She refuses to eat sometimes and I worry that she isn’t getting the proper nutrition. My husband and I have some weight problems so this is a big contrast. What can I do to make sure that Amy is getting what she needs nutritionally?


Dear Andrea,

It’s not unusual for two year olds to be picky eaters. Your best bet is to offer Amy only healthy foods. Cut out things like candy and potato chips so that when you offer fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods she will be hungry enough to eat them. You can also ask her pediatrician about a vitamin supplement if you are concerned.

I would encourage you to make an effort to read up on proper nutrition as Amy will develop her eating habits by copying you. If you are snacking in front of the TV every night on chips and soft drinks, Amy will want to do the same. She will also see how much you eat at a meal and eventually she will copy you. She could end up overweight just like her parents.

Right now is the time to make some changes. Count your calories and eat a healthy diet so Amy will have good role models. Cut back on the fast food and try to eat healthier for your sake as well as Amy’s


How do I get through to him?

Dear Sara,

Our seventeen year old son is really giving us a hard time. He has quit going to school and I’m sure he’s using drugs. He has taken things of ours to pawn and stolen money from our wallets. I hate to see him waste his life like this. He says he won’t cooperate if we send him to a drug rehab. He’s wrecked our car twice and is not allowed to drive it but he sometimes will wait until we go to bed and sneak out with our car. We feel that he is totally out of control. How can we help him?


Dear Deanna,

How sad for your son that he has lost control of his life to drugs. You may have to take a “tough love” approach. If he wants to stay in your home then you have to set some limits. It’s either go to rehab and give up the drugs or find somewhere else to live.

You may have to pack his bags and change the locks on your home. Even though you are not actively cooperating in his drug abuse, he is able to continue because you continue to support him. This will probably be the hardest thing you will ever have to do. His life won’t change though if he can do what he wants without consequences.

Good luck.


How do I teach my daughter to have a better sense of time?

Dear Sara,

My five year old daughter Shelby is habitually late. She doesn’t seem to be able to focus long enough to get her clothes on all at the same time. She get distracted by TV or a fly crawling up the wall or anything else. When I remind her she gets going again but soon wanders. I need to get her up and out of the house by 7:00 AM so that I can get to work on time. How can I get her to get herself ready so that I won’t be late for work?


You may be expecting more of Shelby than she is capable of at her age. She may be somewhat immature and still needs some help. Sometimes five year olds seem old enough to be independent but they aren’t much more equipped to deal with things than toddlers. Is she immature in other ways? You don’t want to help too much because you want her to be independent but be patient and help by reminding and prompting her. She may need to get up a few minutes earlier as well.

Is Shelby tired in the morning? I know that kids like to stay up and watch TV but if she isn’t getting enough sleep, she may just need to go to bed earlier. It’s going to be difficult in the summer time when it stays light so long. You can try having quiet time and reading to her for a while to get her into bed earlier.

Do you think Shelby is dawdling for a reason? Does she want more attention from you or is she reluctant to go to preschool or a caregiver’s home? Try setting a timer and if she is ready by the time it goes off she can have some kind of reward. Sometimes you just have to try different things to see what works.

Good luck.


How do I tell my friends and family that I do not want to breastfeed?

Dear Sara,

I am eight months pregnant with my first baby. I am really looking forward to holding my baby. My problem is that I don’t think I want to breastfeed. I am really in the minority here. Both of my sisters breastfed their babies and I’ve watched my friends breastfeed their babies. They are really enthusiastic and are more than encouraging (pushing) me to breastfeed. What can I say to them.


Dear Lisa,

There are lots of women who have really enjoyed the experience of breastfeeding. It seems to be the popular method of feeding a baby now. Back in the 50′s, 60′s and 70′s it was very popular to bottle feed a baby.

There are pros and cons to either method. Breast feeding is natures way of feeding a baby and after you and the baby learn how (which can take a while) then you have a ready supply of food for your little one. Feeding on demand is recommended and this involves feeding a baby 8-12 time every 24 hours. Getting up every 2 hours all night could be wearing but when it’s your baby it’s all worth it.

If you decide to bottle feed your baby, you still have to get up every two hours during the night if your baby is hungry but maybe your hubby can take a turn once in a while to give you a break. Letting him take turns gives him a chance for that bonding experience that only you would have if you breast fed your baby.

If you want to try breast feeding for a month or so, it sounds like you will have lots of women to support and coach you. You can then decide if this is good for you or not. However, it sounds like for whatever reason this is not what you want for you and your new baby. You have the right to make this decision. Let your friends and family know that even though they have had a good experience, it’s just not right for you. You can hold your baby when he or she takes the bottle and enjoy cuddling and rocking when he or she takes the bottle while doing things your own way.

Good luck.


Wake up!

Dear Sara,

I have a sixteen year old daughter Samantha. She has to get up in the morning at 6:00AM for school and I am having a terrible time getting her up in the morning. During the summer she stayed up as late as she wanted so she is way off schedule. She needs to go to bed earlier but she says she can’t go to sleep. How can I get her back on to a decent schedule?


Dear Carla,

If Samantha is going to get eight hours of sleep (which is about what she needs) then she needs to go to bed about 10:00PM. She probably needs to start winding down around nine. Let her know that you expect her homework to be done by then. If she is constantly on her cell phone, you might have to take it away to keep her from texting and talking to her friends at night. You might want to monitor her caffeine intake and switch her to drinks without caffeine. This could be one of the reasons she can’t go to sleep.

It won’t be easy for her to get used to the new schedule so try to ease her into it by letting her listen to music or read for a while. Teens who get enough sleep may have a better mood, higher grades and feel better in general. For some reason teens tend to be night owls. Be patient but make her stick to her schedule.


How do I control a temper tantrum?

Dear Sara,

My two year old son has started having temper tantrums when I take him to the grocery store. If I don’t give him candy when we are at checkout then he starts screaming and won’t stop until he gets some. How can I make him stop doing this?


Dear Ginny,

What a smart boy you have! He has already figured out how to get his way. The best way to deal with temper tantrums is to ignore them. If he has gotten his way by having his tantrum, it may take a while for them to extinguish. I realize that it is embarrassing to you to have a screaming child in the store but he will eventually figure out that it doesn’t work any more. Give him lots of praise when he is being cooperative but don’t reward his bad behavior.