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 husband and I have three children, ages 17, 12 and 11. I’ve inherited my father’s business, which is located four hours away from our home. For almost a year now, I have been required to be away from home for several days at a time. My husband also works hard, often six 10-hour days a week.
Our children do nothing around the house, and as a result, it looks like a pigsty. There are clothes, dirty dishes and garbage, etc., on the floor. They admit to being lazy but don’t seem to care. We’ve tried rewards, punishments, yelling, etc., to no avail.
Your children are certainly of the age when they can help out around the house. And hopefully, your work situation is temporary. If Mom and Dad are never home, then it is difficult to have a happy home. The longer this situation continues, the more disconnected your family will be.
Serious problem-solving is in order. You need to explore your options:
- Move closer to work so you don’t have to be out of town for long periods of time.
- Enroll the younger two children in school in the town in which you are working. The three of you will be able to ride together during the mornings and evenings.
- The three of you live there during the week and return home on the weekends.
- Sell your father’s business and invest in something close to home.
Whatever you do, your family has to know that you are working toward a solution. Your problem is more than just that your children are not doing their chores. Your family is functioning without a mother. The amount of time their father is around is not enough either.
The 17-year-old may be OK with the current arrangement, but the younger two are not. The behaviors you are seeing now will worsen and possibly lead to undesirable activities.
The consequences are not working because the parents are not around to enforce them. The children are not motivated to do their chores because there is no one present to monitor them.
Many families who own small businesses include all family members on their staff, and the family members earn wages. If this option is explored, a housekeeper could be paid to keep the house in shape.
The bottom line is: Your family needs to come together to discuss a plan for change.
After a three-year break, I am finally able to return to college this year. I work full-time, have a 2-year-old child and my wife is expecting this fall. I am wondering how to balance it all. Am I neglecting my newborn or setting myself up for failure in school? Am I jeopardizing my health in the process?
It sounds like your family is your priority, so talk to your wife to see how she feels about the mix of work, school and a newborn. Will she need you around more once the baby is born? Both of you have to work together to determine what is best for your family. Listen to her concerns, opinions and encouragement.
Also, talk to your academic advisor at school to see what he or she has recommended to students with similar situations.
You don’t have to go through this alone. Your family and your school’s counselors are there to support you.
I have been a divorced, single mother for three years, and I am concerned that I lack the necessary skills to effectively parent my two girls, ages 11 and 6. I was adopted and raised by my mother and brother. My mom was unavailable to me; she worked and kept her distance emotionally. My older brother was my adult figure, and I was exposed to adult situations when I was far too young. I essentially raised myself and spent a good deal of time with my peers.
Up until now, I thought I was doing an adequate job of parenting my girls. But I am stressed out daily and resort to yelling to be heard. I can ask my girls to do something, and they won’t comply unless I yell. In essence, I have relinquished my role as the authority to them. They are the bosses in the family.
I would like to regain their respect, and I need some concrete tips on how to communicate with them. I feel that if I can reestablish myself as the parent in my older daughter’s eyes, the younger one will follow suit.
I am fearful that my daughters will travel down the same path that I did. Their father is a good provider, but he is not involved in their lives and lacks parenting skills. I do not want them to make the same mistakes that I did by hanging out with the wrong crowd on the streets and picking men who make poor husbands.
One of the most basic skills we encourage parents to focus on is the skill of following instructions. You need to teach your children this skill. First, explain the skill to them so that you are all on the same page regarding what you will be expecting in the future. Convey that you agree that yelling is not acceptable, and that part of the solution for this pattern of behavior on your part is the development of the skill on their part.
Break the skill down into steps. Say “When you are asked to do something, you should …”
- Look at the person so he or she knows you’re paying attention.
- Say “OK” so they know you understand.
- Do the task right away.
- Check back to let the person know you have completed the task.
This is a new expectation. Your girls will need practice and consistency, so follow the above steps each time you ask them to do something. Tell them that each time they do not follow instructions, there will be a consequence such as an additional chore or the removal of a privilege. When they do follow instructions, they will receive a positive consequence.
If the instructions are not followed the first time you ask, issue a negative consequence, reteach the skill, practice it and then ask them to follow the original instruction once again. By following this pattern, you decrease your frustration and thus, your tendency to yell.
Children like visuals. It is helpful to make a chore chart of each of your daughters’ daily expectations. That way there is no room for misunderstanding or “forgetting” on their part. They know exactly what they must do to retain privileges such as cell phones, computer games, etc.
As parents we are teachers. We teach our children the skills that they need to lead happy, productive lives. We also teach them what healthy relationships are. Healthy relationships involve time spent together bonding.
Schedule a family night once a week that is NOT OPTIONAL. Take turns planning activities. This could be a game night, bike ride, picnic in the park, doing make-overs, etc. The activity should allow for conversation and be something that all family members can do.
Boys Town offers Common Sense Parenting classes that you might find helpful. You can also learn more about the book “Common Sense Parenting” at our website boystownpress.org. If you ever need to talk, many states have family help lines to assist parents with parenting concerns. You can also call the Boys Town hotline at 800-448-3000 24/7 to talk to a counselor for support.
My ex-husband’s mother is my daughter’s day care provider. My former mother-in-law does not treat my daughter like the rest of the kids she cares for. She favors her, giving her everything that she wants. This concerns me, especially since she is becoming a certified preschool teacher so she can teach my daughter. I would rather my daughter be in a preschool with other children so she can learn independence. I don’t know how to approach the subject with my ex-husband without starting a fight.
My daughter has also been throwing major temper tantrums, sometimes to the point where I cannot get her to calm down. When I put her in time-out, she will stay there but acts like she is trying to leave.
If your mother-in-law becomes certified, she will have to follow a strict preschool curriculum. In this structured environment, she will be less likely to display favoritism toward your daughter. The best you can do is research your preschool options, make an informed decision on what program would be best for your daughter and present this information to your ex-husband in a calm manner.
As far as the tantrums go, they are not unusual but need to be addressed. Your daughter needs to be taught a more acceptable way to act when she is feeling angry or frustrated. Putting her in time-out perhaps is being used as a way for her to calm down or as a negative consequence for inappropriate behavior. The differences between the two can sometimes be confused.
If she has a tantrum and is put in time-out to calm down, then she should have a separate consequence for the tantrum. Or once she is calm, she can sit in time-out quietly for three minutes as a consequence before she is allowed to return to playing.
Teaching her calming techniques should be the focus right now. One well-received technique for children her age is to have her hold up as many fingers as she has had birthdays. When she is angry, she blows on each finger and folds it down. This is referred to as “blowing out her birthday candles.”
Regulating a person’s breathing helps with emotions and has a calming effect. Getting her favorite blanket or stuffed toy to hold close is another calming technique that is effective with children her age. Teach her these techniques when she is calm, and practice them so she is familiar with them when she is upset.
My husband and I have been married for seven years. My daughter was 3 and my son was 4 when we were married and my husband adopted my children. My daughter and husband are very close, but over the years, my husband and son have grown to hate each other. My husband snaps at my son for every little thing: what he says, how he walks, when he acts goofy, etc.
It breaks my heart to witness this tension. I love my husband, but I want to protect my son and thus, I feel torn. The constant fighting and cutting remarks need to stop. How do I help them do this?
There is a lot of societal pressure for the father-son relationship to be perfect, but as with any relationship, it rarely is. Relationships take time and energy to establish and nurture. You can help the men in your life do this.
If your husband has interests or hobbies such as playing golf, for example, ask him to take your son along and hit a bucket of balls at a driving range. Likewise, ask your son to explain one of his particular interests to his father and see if he would like to join him for an hour to experience it with him. You must lay the groundwork for these outings. Ask them both separately to be kind and patient with one another, even if they are not interested or do not perform the hobby well.
Another thought is that when your son needs you to take him to a team practice, a lesson or the store, make up an excuse why you cannot do it and have his father do it instead. Then tell your son to show his appreciation with a thank you or comment about how nice it is to spend time with his dad.
If your schedule allows, pick a night when you and your daughter make dinner and the men clean up. Then switch tasks another night so Dad and son make dinner and the women clean up. Of course, all of this takes planning, time and energy. But the relationships are worth it.
As far as the unkind comments go, tell them that when you hear either of them use a voice tone that is negative with one another that you are going to intervene. This simply has to stop. The negativity it is creating in your home is not healthy, and it is making home life unhappy for everyone involved.
Talk with them together about your plan to intervene. Perhaps they will agree to it and the consequences you establish. These consequences can be a simple apology followed by doing a chore together. You can either implement this part of the plan immediately or wait until some of the mutual activities mentioned above have taken place.
My 17-year-old son is an angry young man who experiences dramatic mood swings. He has become so angry in the past that he has punched and kicked holes in a wall. He calls me names, is disobedient and flips me off on a daily basis. He refuses to participate in family holiday gatherings – including his own birthday – and he is earning either failing or very low grades in school.
We recently moved in with my sister. She lives 10 miles away from his close group of friends, whom he still sees about three times a week. His father has drug and anger problems and is not present in our son’s life. There is much sorrow and instability in my ex-husband’s life, including the murder of his daughter from a different marriage. When I was attending school full-time, his father and older siblings cared for him.
I have called the police twice. They have taken my son to mental health facilities, where he acts calmly and says he will accept counseling. Both times he reverted back to his angry ways once he was home. I have also taken him to counseling, but he refuses to go back and will not have the necessary blood work done for the doctor to prescribe medication.
You will need to establish guidelines for behavior and enforce consequences when these guidelines are not met. It is not OK for him to show you disrespect and disobey rules. When he does these things, take away a privilege and make him earn back the privilege by proving that he can be respectful and follow the rules. Since his friends are important to him, you can take away his time spent with them.
It sounds like your son has been through quite a bit and has unresolved feelings about the upheaval in his life. His initial willingness to open up with counselors indicates that he wants help even though he reverts back to his unhealthy behavior once he is home.
Given the situation, consider in-home family services. An in-home specialist actually comes to your house and works with your family as a whole, while paying individual attention to family members as well. He might be more willing to talk to and open up if someone comes to him. He would not be able to opt out.
Boys Town can help you find services of this nature in your area. Just give us a call. You can also always talk to one of our counselors at 800-448-3000.
I am 27 and I have been dating my older boyfriend for four years. He has a 15- year-old son from a previous marriage. His mother lives in another state.
My problem is that I feel like I am being taken advantage of by both my boyfriend and his son. His son is rude to me and does not have any responsibilities around the house. All he wants to do is play video games in his room.
Understandably, my boyfriend wants me to have a relationship with his son, but his son only converses with me when he wants something such as money, a ride or food. My boyfriend is starting to make me feel bad because his son does not want a true friendship with me.
I work and go to school full-time, yet when I go to their house I spend my precious free time cleaning and taking care of them. I am tired of the situation and feel unappreciated. Do I stay in the relationship or leave now? I’d like to stay, but things cannot continue this way.
You are correct that things must change. Instead of spending time cleaning their house, take time to plan a proposal of how this change will come about.
Start off with a positive point. Let them know that you would like to be part of their lives IF your role is that of a family member. You are not a maid. Then tell them that from your observations, the two of them do not act like a family. Follow up this observation with what you think constitutes a family:
- Families work together, dividing up chores around the house so the house is clean and orderly and laundry is done.
- Meals are cooked and the kitchen is cleaned on a regular basis.
- Family members show respect for one another by speaking appropriately and letting one another know where they are and when they will return.
- House rules exist and consequences are issued when the house rules are not followed.
- Families spend time together having fun. This does not have to cost money. Movie nights or game nights in the living room are easy options.
- Families support each other’s interests and are involved. This is as simple as talking at dinnertime about the 15-year-old’s day at school or attending one of his athletic events.
When you have finished describing these characteristics to them, ask them for their suggestions on how to create a family atmosphere. Then divide up the points, asking each person how he will contribute to executing the plan. Working as a family can begin immediately.
You are not a maid. The more you do, the less they will appreciate your efforts. You may not be your boyfriend’s son’s friend, but you can be a “teacher” who helps him understand what it means to be part of a family.
If they aren’t interested in your proposal, then you have a decision to make: Stay with them under the current conditions or say good-bye.
My 13-year-old nephew is being accused of inappropriately touching a little girl. How do I approach the subject with him, and what do I do if he denies it? If he didn’t do it, what should I do?
From your email, it sounds like you have guardianship of your nephew. But if you don’t, you need to talk to his parents about the accusations. Anytime there is an accusation of physical or sexual abuse, it is best to report it to the local authorities such as the police or Child Protective Services. Their trained professionals will intervene and interview both parties in an attempt to establish the facts about what happened.
If you don’t, you risk having the child tell and retell the story numerous times and misplace the facts or get confused. When children have to repeat a story, they often become fearful that they are in trouble. Thus, they are not as willing to share the truth. Professional help will more likely ensure that accurate information is gathered.
I am divorced and remarried. My son, who is 15, is living with my husband and me and his children. My son is not happy living with me, his stepdad and his stepbrothers. He is failing school and wants to live with his father, with whom he has a good relationship.
However, I am concerned that he only wants to live with his father because he hopes to enjoy more freedom in his father’s house and more attention since he will be the only child there. My ex-husband has not contributed financially toward our son’s upbringing for the last 11 years until the previous two months. I am concerned that his father is not financially responsible or stable. What do I do?
Freedom and increased attention are probably the motivators for your son’s desire to live with his father. What is important is that you and your ex-husband both have established rules that are enforced in both of your homes. The rules may not be exactly the same, but they exist.
Your son has to learn that following the rules is important no matter where he is. This realization is a struggle for many children, but eventually they realize that part of life is following the rules. This comes with maturity and through discovering it on their own.
If he is going to be safe at his father’s, perhaps this is an option. However, if you don’t feel that his dad’s is an appropriate home for him, then you need to make the decision soon. Either way, let your son know that your rules and expectations are not going to change regardless of where he lives. You will still be part of his life and expect him to behave in a way that a mature, responsible young man does.