Will You Please Get a Room? Please?

Dear Mr. Dad: We have two boys, ages four and nine. The nine-year-old has no problem sleeping in his own bed, but the four-year-old constantly wants to sleep with my husband and me. I don’t mind an occasional “sleep over”–especially when my husband is away on business and the bed seems so empty. But lately, my son wants to be in our bed every night. That seems a little old to me. Is co-sleeping with a four-year-old okay?

A: I wish I could give you a definitive Yes or No, but the real answer is the completely unsatisfying “It depends.” There’s a lot of controversy out there about co-sleepng (or “the family bed” or “bed sharing” or whatever else you want to call it). Some authorities, such as the Children’s Health Network and the American Academy of Pediatrics say the practice is dangerous and they point to studies that show that the incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is higher when babies share a bed with parents. Others say that sharing a bed is fine, and they point to the fact that something like 80 percent of the world’s families practice co-sleeping. Unfortunatley, neither of those answers applies to your situation: At four, your son is far too old for you to worry about SIDS. And, like it or not, about 80 percen of the world’s families live in much, much smaller spaces than we do in the U.S., and the option for famiy members to sleep in separate rooms isn’t even on their radar.
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Be a Dad First, Then a Friend

not being a frined

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a single dad and need some advice about my teenage daughter. She’s 13 and It’s just been me and her for the past five years. She is extremely smart and independent and even helps me with household decisions. I admit that I am very laid back in my parenting and our relationship is more of friends and equals than father and daughter. I feel guilty because she does not have the ideal two-parent household and I often work long hours, so I let her get and do pretty much whatever she wants. To complicate things even more, I will be remarrying within the next year to a woman that I have had a long distance relationship with. I am concerned that when she comes to live with us, the new family dynamic will be too much of a change for my daughter. I want to try and restructure our relationship and instill boundaries now before it is too late. Where do I start?

A: The good news is that you’ve already taken the first step: you recognize that there’s a problem and you’ve asked for help. The bad news is that you’ve got a huge amount of catching up to do.

The relationship you have with your daughter is incredibly common among single parents: they feel guilty about putting their children through a divorce and, as you say, for depriving them of the perfect two-parent family. And they feel guilty about working long hours and depriving them of having more time with even one loving parent. As a result these guilt-ridden single moms and dads do exactly what you’re doing: try to make themselves feel better—and make amends to their kids—by backing off on discipline and letting them get away with whatever they want. Big mistake.
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Raising a Self-Reliant Child

[amazon asin=1607743507&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Alanna Levine, author of Raising a Self-Reliant Child.
Topic:
A back-to-basics parenting plan from birth to age six.
Issues: Instilling independence in our children from the start; healthy sleep habits; self-discipline; potty training; conflicts with siblings and friends; problem solving and decision making; the dangers of praising too much.

Nothing to Fear but Overreactions

Dear Mr. Dad: I’ve read stories about people having ID numbers etched into their children’s teeth, and not letting their kids play outside, and those Amber Alerts make it seem as though hundreds of children are being abducted and murdered every day. Like most parents, I want to protect my kids. I don’t mean to sound heartless, but I think we’ve gone overboard. Am I wrong?

A: Nope, I think you’re absolutely right. The reality is that, factoring out the threat of nuclear war, the world is not any more dangerous for children today than it was a few generations ago. But thanks in large part to the media, which repeats stories over and over and over, too many parents are in a panic. And our children are paying the price.

When I was as young as eight, growing up in Oakland, California, I took city busses all over town to visit friends, grandparents, even go bowling. And all the other kids I knew were doing the same thing. But I’m pretty sure that if I put my 10-year old on a bus by herself today, I’d get arrested.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t take reasonable precautions to keep our kids safe. Of course we should. We should teach them to look both ways before they cross streets, wear helmets when they ride their bikes or skateboards, wear seatbelts in the car, and not take candy from strangers. And before sending our kids off on a playdate, we should try to make sure that the adults in charge are responsible and trustworthy. But we can’t protect them from every possible danger. Not letting our kids explore their neighborhood (or even their own backyards), not allowing them to get a few bumps and bruises once in a while, and filling their heads with stories of dangerous strangers lurking behind every tree, we’re keeping them from developing the independence, self-confidence, and ability to made decisions that they’ll need as they stumble toward adulthood.

Part of the problems is that we’re way too concerned with what other people think. Let me give you a few examples. A recent study of more than 3,000 children and parents found that while half of parents played outside at least once a day when they were young, only 23% would allow their own children to do the same. Why? Well, 53% of those parents said they were worried about traffic. And 40% said they were concerned about “stranger danger.” I get both of those, even though the fears are exaggerated. But the statistic that really got me was that 30% of the parents who keep their kids cooped up indoors feel that they’ll be harshly judged by their neighbors if they let the kids play outside unsupervised.
Another recent study was even more horrifying—and tragic. This one talked about how a growing number of daycares have banned physical contact between caregivers and children out of fear that the adults might be accused of molesting the youngsters. We’re talking about toddlers and younger. In some cases, the daycare staff is being told that cuddling small children is bad because it could make them too dependent. What a crock.
Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes around small children knows how much they’re comforted by physical touch. Many experts say that depriving kids of being cuddled or held or, gasp, kissed, increases their stress levels and can have serious, long-term negative consequences for their development. On a less-scientific level, it seems positively cruel.

Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence

[amazon asin=1118228839&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Carl Pickhardt, author of Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence.
Topic:
How to understand, and even enjoy, the rocky road to independence.
Issues: Preparing for the inevitable; a road map to early, mid-, and late adolescence; discipline that does–and doesn’t–work; why constant arguing is better than silence.


Your Teen’s Rocky Road to Independence + Motivating Teens + Best Birth

[amazon asin=1118228839&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Carl Pickhardt, author of Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence.
Topic:
How to understand, and even enjoy, the rocky road to independence.
Issues: Preparing for the inevitable; a road map to early, mid-, and late adolescence; discipline that does–and doesn’t–work; why constant arguing is better than silence.


[amazon asin=B00263J6SQ&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Janine Walker Caffrey, author of Drive.
Topic:
9 ways to motivate your kids to achieve.
Issues: Getting kids excited about learning; encouraging children to seek opportunities beyond their comfort zone; using rewards and consequences to get results; inspiring children to take charge of their own life.


[amazon asin=0738211214&template=thumbleft&chan=default]Sarah McMoyler, coauthor of The Best Birth.
Topic:
A Guide to the safest, healthiest, most satisfying labor and delivery.
Issues: Understanding the causes of pain and pain management approaches; myths about doctors and the medical team (hint: they’re on you’re side); everything you need to know to make the best, most-important decisions on the biggest day of your life.