Forced Babysitter

Dear Sara,

I am the grandmother of four wonderful grandchildren, all preschoolers ages six months to five years. My daughter wants to go back to work and wants me to keep them. She said that she has an education and she feels that she should work instead of staying home with the kids. I don’t work, but I have things that I like to do. I love my grandkids but I don’t want to baby sit them five days a week. She’s insisting. How can I tell her “no.”
-Carol Ann

Dear Carol Ann,

It sounds like you haven’t said “no” to your daughter very often in the past. She seems to think that you should be willing to do whatever she wants without question, so it may be really hard to make her see that this is a real imposition on you.

It looks like she will be angry with you if you tell her no. Are you willing to deal with that? You could let her know that you would be willing to keep the children if they were sick and couldn’t go to daycare but she should find full time care elsewhere. If you don’t want this responsibility, you will have to stand up to her and her anger. Raising four kids is a full time job and it’s your daughter’s responsibility. Maybe she could wait another six years to go back to work.

Boundaries For Toddlers

Dear Sara,

My first child is a boy and he has just turned two. He is talking some and his favorite word is “no.” He is also having temper tantrums and throws himself on the floor and screams. I don’t know where he learned this. His tantrums have gotten longer and louder and I don’t know what to do except give him what he wants. How do I get him to stop?

Dear Barbara,

This is not unusual behavior for a two year old. They are learning how other people react to what they do. Look at it from his point of view. He wants something and you won’t give it to him so he gets mad at you, this doesn’t work so he cries and screams. When he escalates this to a full blown tantrum you give in and give him what he wants. Now if he wants his way he knows how to get it.

If you want his behavior to stop, the best thing you can do is ignore it. He won’t give in right away but if his behavior isn’t rewarded, he will eventually learn that he won’t get his way by acting like this. If he learns he can manipulate you he will be more difficult as he gets older. Hang in there, this won’t last forever.

Keeping Daughter Out Of Trouble

Dear Sara,

My twelve year old daughter is maturing physically very quickly. Apparently she is going to be voluptuous. She doesn’t seem to understand that when she wears short shorts and a low cut blouse that she attracts the wrong kind of attention. She is not allowed to date but she has a boyfriend who rides the same school bus. How can I keep her out of trouble?

Dear Zoe,

Probably the first thing to do is make sure that she understands the “facts of life.” She needs to know what happens to men (especially teen age boys) when they see a young woman who displays herself in a revealing way. She may like the attention but she has to be aware that she could have the reputation of being a girl who is thought of as “easy.”

Try to get her into some activity like sports or ballet or whatever her interest may be so she will have something to occupy her time. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open so that she can talk to you without feeling judged.

Good luck.

Limits for Teen Drivers

Dear Sara,

My daughter is fifteen, almost sixteen, and is very anxious to drive. I have let her try it out in my car in the parking lot at school and she scares me. She will be eligible for a learners permit soon and I really dread it. She thinks that when she’s a senior she should have her own car. This is not going to happen. I plan to have her take a drivers training class but she thinks this is totally unnecessary. I also feel that I will have less control if she starts to drive and I’m not sure that I can trust her out on her own. She is going to be angry when I set limits on her driving. How do I handle this?

Dear Chuck,

This is your daughter. You have a perfect right to set limits. She has to follow your rules and she will probably be mad at you for a lot of things. This is her way of trying to get her own way. She can either do things your way or no license.

It sounds like she thinks she will be totally independent if she has her own car. How does she plan to pay for it or the gas and insurance? The insurance for teen drivers is probably pretty high. The rate would probably be better if she takes the drivers training class. Your daughter doesn’t sound very mature. You are right to slow her down.

Good luck.

Long Lost Daughter

Dear Sara,

I had a baby when I was fifteen almost thirty years ago. I gave her up for adoption. It was difficult but my Mom insisted that it was for the best. I am married now and have three children. I am happy with my life but often think about the baby I gave up. I know where my daughter lives and would like to contact her. One of my problems is that my husband and children don’t know about my first child. Should I tell my family and contact her or should I just leave things as they are?

Dear Chloe,

An adopted child is bound to be curious about their natural parent. No matter what the adoptive parents tell them maybe there is a sense of abandonment.

One option would be to contact her and see how things go. If she wants to see you and have a relationship then you could let your family know that they have another sibling. After thirty years she probably has a family of her own and may be able to understand why a fifteen year old wasn’t able to care for a baby.

Take it slowly and see how things go. Your daughter may have some feelings of disloyalty to her adoptive parents if she forms a relationship with you. Don’t have any expectations of a wonderful magical reunion. Take things as they come and let her take the lead when you meet.

Dating Dilemma

Dear Sara,

My fourteen year old daughter has been invited to a school dance by a sixteen year old boy. He has his license and is allowed to drive his parent’s car so he could pick her up and take her to the dance. My husband and I can’t decide if we want her to start dating this early. We don’t know the boy or his parents so we’re unsure about what kind of person he is. Our daughter says he’s a great guy and we would really like him. I’m worried that she is infatuated with him and could make some poor choices. Do you think it’s OK for her to go to this dance with him?

Dear Isabel,

I’m sure it’s thrilling for your daughter to be asked out by a sixteen year old boy. She is going to be very disappointed and angry if you say she can’t go to this dance. Fourteen year olds often think of themselves as mature and grown up but they lack the experience to make good choices.

Maybe you could compromise a little. You could take her to the dance and pick her up afterward so that she could meet him there. She probably won’t like this option but it might be a compromise that you could both live with. If you tell your daughter that she can’t see her young man at all, she may be tempted to sneak out to meet him and then you would have a difficult situation to deal with. If she wants to see him later it could be at your home when you are there.

Good luck.

Helping Baby Sleep

Dear Sara,

I am a new Mom. My baby girl is two weeks old now. I decided to bottle feed her because I plan on going back to work. She is sleeping two to four hours at a time in the daytime but she seems to be up every two hours at night. I am planning on going back to work in a couple of weeks and my Mom will take care of her during the day. I can see that this will be very difficult if I can’t get any sleep. How can I get her to sleep at night?

Dear Jan,

It takes a while for a baby to adjust to some sort of schedule. It seems like this phase lasts a long time when you’re not getting any sleep. It’s OK to let her fuss for a while during the night as long as you know her diaper is dry and she was fed recently. She has been brought into a new world where she may not feel comfortable yet. I know that you are tired but don’t be tempted to prop her bottle. She needs to feel you close and hear your heart beat to feel safe. She will grow up very quickly. It shouldn’t be too much longer until she will be able to sleep at least four or five hours at night.

Good luck.

Son Hates Step-Mom

Dear Sara,

I was married for sixteen years and have been divorced for two years. I recently remarried and love my new wife. The problem is that my fifteen year old son Kevin hates her which makes his visits with me barely tolerable. Kevin either won’t talk to my new wife or makes rude comments. She has done nothing to deserve this. How should I handle this?

Dear Rob,

Apparently Kevin was more upset by your divorce than you realize and for some reason blames your new wife for his pain. You can’t make him like her but you can insist that he be polite to her.

Your family may need to sit down with a family therapist and allow Kevin to tell you exactly what he feels and why. He may be able to tell you on his own how he feels but a professional would be better able to help him deal with it. You may also need to include your ex wife at times. For now don’t try to push for a relationship between your new wife and Kevin. He needs time and patience.

Finding The Right Pet

Dear Sara,

I have five year old twins who are pleading for a dog. Their friend has one and they think that it is wonderful. I have a job and between that and taking care of them and the house I have very little spare time. They insist they will take care of the dog but I know better. What kind of dog would be easiest to take care of?

Dear Trudi,

You are right. At the age your kids are, the responsibility will be yours. What you might want to do is insist that they help you until they are old enough to do the chores on their own.

Puppies are really cute but they are a lot of work. Until they are trained you will be cleaning up after them. Why don’t you try the local animal shelter. There are so many older dogs who need homes and they are vet checked, have their immunizations, judged healthy and have been neutered. You might want to look for a dog that is laid back and won’t be jumping on the kids all of the time. The twins might be able to walk a medium sized dog on a leash if he is not too active. I hope there will be one special one that will be perfect for your family.

Caring for a dog can teach a child responsibility. It will need to be fed, watered, walked and taken outside from time to time but a pet’s love and devotion will be remembered long after it is gone. He will be part of your family.

Too Tough vs. Tough Love

Dear Sara,

I have a twelve year old son. I feel that kids today are totally spoiled and receive rewards verbally and otherwise for below average performances. I am trying to raise my son differently. He only receives praise for doing a really exceptional job. He played soccer for a while and I let him know when I didn’t feel like he was trying hard enough. He is in wrestling now and I let him know when he does his best. My friend told me that she thinks I am being too hard on him. I think I am being realistic. Who is right here?

Dear Diane,

Probably you both are right to a certain extent. Your son may be growing up to think he has to be perfect at all times because this is the standard that you have set for him or he could just say to himself “no matter what I do it’s just not good enough.” On the other side, with a lot of undeserved praise a child could think that whatever they do is good enough and they don’t have to try very hard to get what they want. They could end up with an unrealistic view of themselves and be very hard to live with.

Maybe a middle of the road, more diplomatic approach would be better. Children are very sensitive to their parents criticisms. When your son tries hard and fails, it might be good to let him know that you noticed his efforts. If he doesn’t try very hard maybe there could be a reason for that, like lack of interest. Try going for a moderate approach. Praise for effort as well as performance. He needs your love and approval, not just your criticism.