My 4-year-old daughter is very attached to her father. Every morning, she throws a crying fit, pleading with him not to go to work. She does not behave like that when I leave for work or when I drop her off at school. What can we do?
It’s very common for little girls to have difficulty separating from their fathers. This type of behavior is called "over-attachment." While it may seem like it will never end, this truly is a phase and it will pass. She may always be a "Daddy's girl," but the crying and begging will end, especially if you don't make a big deal out of it.
My 2-year-old daughter does not want anything to do with her father. She screams whenever he talks to her, and she refuses to show him any affection – even a hug. My husband is in the Air Force, and he was deployed around our daughter’s first birthday. He is back now, and I have tried to suggest that he just give her time and space. His response is that as her father, she should do what he says. I am at my wits’ end. Last night my husband actually yelled and cussed at her when she would not let him help her with her coat. What do I do?
It sounds like your husband’s feelings are getting hurt, and this is completely understandable. Keep trying to encourage him to not take her actions personally, even though that is very difficult. You are correct to advise him to take things slowly. Just his presence in your home is a huge change for your daughter. It may be causing her to feel a little uncomfortable. But yelling at her is only increasing her discomfort.
Though his frustration is understandable, remind him to be patient with her. She is observing him and needs to feel safe with him. Have him assist you with your household tasks so your daughter can see you trusting and interacting with him. When you are interacting with her, have your husband in the room so she knows that if you are there, it is OK for him to be there as well.
She will continue to want you to do things for her because that is normal for her. Eventually, your husband will become “normal,” too, and she will approach him for assistance. But if he continues to push for her affection and raise his voice in frustration, she will continue to withdraw from him.
My 2-year-old started going to a Montessori school and adjusted very well at first. But with time, she has not shown the development that her classmates have demonstrated. In fact, it seems that she has regressed. She can sing her assigned poems at home, but in school she just cries and clings to me. I want to be a better mother and teacher at home. How can I help her be more social and responsive at school?
We have a few questions for you to consider. Is your daughter the same age as the other children in her class? How many children are in the class? Are other parents involved in the class? Does your daughter have separation issues? Does she respond in a tearful or shy manner in other social situations?
As parents, we often compare our children to others. But each child develops at a different rate, so please try not to compare her to her peers. It may be that at age 2, she is not ready for a classroom setting. This does not mean that she will never be ready.
How your daughter responds to certain social situations is not an indicator that you need to be a better parent. You obviously are a good mother who is involved in your daughter’s learning and development. She is responding to you at home, which shows that she is learning the material. She just may not feel comfortable at this time in this type of classroom environment.
Talk to her teacher. He or she has most likely had similar situations occur in the past and may have some suggestions for you. You may also seek recommendations from your daughter’s pediatrician. Another possible option is to continue the Montessori curriculum at home or with a smaller group of children with which your daughter would feel more comfortable participating.
If this is not possible, consider other types of activities in which to involve your daughter, such as story time at the library, music classes and play groups. These types of activities afford your daughter the chance to interact with other children in perhaps a less stressful way for her.
I have a 7-year-old son who easily cries when he is teased or when he is made an example of. For instance, his teacher recently corrected him and when his classmates looked at him, he burst into tears. Little things like that will set him off. I am concerned that he will be the brunt of bullying since his peers know they can make him cry.
Children often react strongly when placed in situations that they are not expecting. If your son has tender feelings and is sensitive in social situations, you will have numerous opportunities to help him deal with these situations appropriately.
We recommend that you use a three-step approach:
- Describe the positive behavior you want your child to have. Be clear, be specific and demonstrate it if necessary.
- Give him a reason to do it this way. Make the reason a “kid” reason, meaning that you show him how doing it this new way will benefit him.
- Have him practice. Make it fun, keep it brief and do it frequently.
Parents use this Preventive Teaching practice in two situations: When there is a new behavior you are teaching, and when you want to correct a past problem behavior. In doing so, you are helping your son achieve success.
Present the new behavior during a neutral time when emotions are not running high. Tell your son you are teaching him this new behavior to help him be ready for unexpected situations. Compare it to something he already understands such as a fire drill. You have to learn what to do when there isn’t the threat of fire (step one) so everyone remains safe (step two) and knows how to respond appropriately by practicing (step three). This way, if the time comes when there really is danger, people can respond in a calm and effective manner.
Our adult daughter and her 3-year-old son are living with my husband and me. We are concerned about her parenting and its adverse effects on our grandson.
Our daughter is very independent and does not welcome advice from us. She works varied hours, comes home tired and is irritable with her son. She is always telling him “no” and even pushes him away. When I call her attention to this, she snaps at me.
She is not willing to go to parenting classes to improve her skills. She has even left her son in our care so she could live with her boyfriend. Our grandson’s father walked out on them, but now my daughter is thinking of getting back together with him. I have discovered that the two of them smoked crack before our grandson was born and that she smoked marijuana while she was pregnant.
Our affectionate, precious grandson is now waking up in the middle of the night crying. He is not wet, hungry, thirsty, etc. We can’t calm him; it is like he is in a trance and is unaware of his surroundings. During the day, he is loving and attached to his grandfather and me, frequently giving us hugs and kisses. He loves to read and draw and has a good attention span.
Has he been hurt by his mother’s prenatal marijuana use? How can we help him through this difficult time with our daughter’s unsettled behavior?
It is likely that the instability your grandson has experienced is now taking a toll on him emotionally and behaviorally. It sounds like there is tension at home. We strongly encourage you to avoid adult conversations in his presence. Wait until he is asleep or is in another room. Children are smart. They pick up on tension and they know when adults are arguing. Overhearing adult conversations can be confusing for them.
It is also important to provide as much structure and stability as you can since this gives children a sense of emotional and physical safety. If your daughter agrees, establish a consistent daily routine. This will create predictability in your grandson’s day, which will be comforting for him. Children crave routine and respond well to schedules. This, in turn, allows him to feel safe as he navigates the world and interacts with those around him.
It is difficult to know exactly why your grandson is crying at night. He may not be able to express why he is upset because he may not even know the reasons himself. He could be experiencing night terrors. Offer him hugs and kisses. Comfort him. Tuck him back into bed and assure him that he is safe and all is well.
If you are concerned about his prenatal exposure to marijuana, have him evaluated by his pediatrician. And continue to offer him your unconditional love and plenty of praise. Hopefully, your daughter will begin to learn from your example and place her son’s needs before her own. If not, you will remain a consistent source of love and support.
My 10-year-old son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 6. He is constantly crying and stealing things from school. He does not take responsibility for his actions when he is in the wrong. Is this a symptom of ADHD? We have been to counselors and have changed his medication, but nothing seems to help.
Daily skills that are easy for us are not always easy for people who have ADHD. This frustration often leads to higher emotions (crying) and impulsive decisions. That being said, stealing itself is not a specific behavior typically associated with mental health disorders. What you will need to focus on during treatment is impulsive behavior and poor decision-making skills.
ADHD is something that requires constant intervention. This involves using different parenting styles to break down instructions and tasks, counseling to teach him additional social skills and extra support and attention at school to help him be successful. It is important that these interventions remain in place until he is able to manage independently. Understand that there will be struggles, which are frustrating for him as well.
If you feel like your son is not “clicking” with his counselor, it is appropriate to find a new one. Once you find a counselor who works well with your son’s needs and personality, you might notice improved behavior and skills. He must feel comfortable with his counselor before change will occur.
I have a 6-year-old boy who cries when he does not get his way. He cries when I leave for work, even after I have explained to him why I must work. I don’t want to raise my voice to him.
Talking to a 6-year-old about why you have to leave is difficult. It is hard for him to understand the importance of making money to pay the bills. When we talk or teach our children, it is important to use “kid reasons” and not “adult reasons.”
For instance, when we tell our child that we want her to clean her room because it looks messy, this is an “adult reason.” Put it in terms a child can appreciate. Say she needs to clean her room so her toys don’t get lost or broken. A child would become upset if a toy was lost or broken. So when you talk to your son about leaving, give him a “kid reason” and keep it positive.
Try pre-teaching about the situation before you leave. Say something like “OK, honey, in a little bit Mommy has to go to work. When it is time, you can come give Mommy a kiss and hug and then go back and play with your toys. Let’s practice.” Then role-play the situation with him. Always remind him that you will be back soon to play with him.
My daughter is a bright 7-year-old, but she has a strange habit of barricading the doors and crying uncontrollably when it is raining and thundering outside and is dark. My mother says she was probably scared as a baby. Should I bring my daughter to a psychiatrist?
Before you make an appointment with a psychiatrist, think about talking to her pediatrician first if you have not done so already. There may be oversensitivity with her hearing. She may also be more willing to open up with her doctor and confide in him or her about what is scaring her. If the pediatrician is stumped, ask him or her to recommend a therapist or psychologist who works with children.
Have you asked her what scares her? When she barricades the door, what does she think will come in? Is she afraid the dark might come in? Why is she afraid that the outside will get a “shower” when it rains like she does when she bathes? Usually when children are afraid of the dark, a simple night light will help.
Explanations of the noise thunder makes can ease anxiety. If you know a storm is coming, review with her these explanations and remind her of all the ways she is safe. When she sees lightning and hears thunder, talk about why they are occurring. Turn the storm into a learning experience rather than a traumatic one.
Have these discussions on sunny days, not when it is storming and she is crying. Typically, 7-year-olds are able to express their emotions and process the reasons why they have them.
I have a baby girl who cries for no apparent reason. Her doctor says she is fine, but I don’t think she is. What should I do?
Parenting babies is challenging because they cannot tell us what is troubling them. Their only means of communicating discomfort is crying. You were correct to take her to the doctor to eliminate a medical cause for her crying. But as you know, sometimes there is no medical source of our crying. Sometimes we simply feel sad or bad.
Your baby is used to being in a comfortable environment in which she was suspended in fluid (your womb). To replicate this cozy environment outside the womb, make certain she is warm or cool enough and that her diaper is clean and dry.
Perhaps she requires body contact. Some babies need more cuddling than others. You have many options for carrying your daughter close to you. One option is a sling, or a holder that offers her the comfort she needs, yet keeps your hands free. Your movement as you go about your daily tasks simulates the movement she was used to while in your womb.
See if more physical contact with you is at the root of her crying. When you hold her close to you, you will most likely stroke or rub her gently. This is calming and reassuring to your daughter, and will help alleviate her crying. Keep in mind that her bouts of crying are most likely a phase that she will grow out of.
My children throw horrible tantrums at bedtime and when I take them out for a meal. One of my children is four years-old and the other is two. My two year-old cries so hard at bedtime that she sometimes makes herself throw up. She will scream for hours until I put her into my bed. I am tired of not sleeping and not being able to take my children out. Please help.
Thanks for writing in with the parenting challenges that you are currently facing. Parenting young children can be exhilarating and exhausting. It sounds like you are spending a lot of time feeling exhausted.
First, you have to decide specific behaviors that you want to see them exhibit in each of these settings. Let's take the going out to dinner setting. It should have specific behavioral steps that can be observed and practiced such as:
1. Stay touching Mommy's leg at all times.
2. Use an inside or quiet voice while in the restaurant.
3. Stay seated at all times.
4. Use your fork and spoon to eat unless the food is "finger food."
This skill should be taught and practiced frequently. At home, you can pretend that you are in a restaurant. Show and tell them the behaviors you want to see. Then have them practice making sure to keep the practice fun and brief. Praise your children when they display the desired behavior with high-fives, clapping or whatever encourages them. It will take some time but if you are consistent, your children will learn better behaviors.
The bedtime issue is a bit more complex. Start by establishing a routine that includes a regular bedtime. About an hour before bedtime stop everything else and began following a nightly ritual that involves activities such as a snack, a bath, pajamas and reading a story while rocking the children on your lap. Place them in their beds, sing softly to them or whisper a few prayers. A kiss good night should be the last thing before walking out the door.
If they begin to cry, you can go back in and repeat the last couple of steps. Lay them back down, rub or pat their back and sing or pray, then walk out. Do this consistently to establish a new bedtime routine. Be patient and understand that if you get upset, the little one will only become more upset, and it will not result in a positive outcome.