Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Here's your chance to ask parenting questions!


Thank you, everyone, for participating
in this awesome discussion.
We are going to let Brenda get some sleep now,
so I am closing the comments!

Be sure to visit Brenda's website
for more parenting resources.

As promised, today I am excited to welcome a special guest!

Brenda Nixon is an author, speaker, and parenting expert. She speaks on topics near and dear to my heart, such as potty training, raising confident kids, and helping your children succeed in school (check out her website for a complete list of her books and speaking topics). I've enjoyed getting to know her through blogging, and I think you will, too!

Brenda's made the rounds this month on a whirlwind blog tour (go check out her answers to questions about parenting in the early years the other day at Momma (and More)).

Not sure how I ended up as the last stop, but it's probably a good thing, because here's what Brenda has agreed to do for you, my dear blog friends (I asked if she knew what she was getting into, and I was assured she does!). Brenda has agreed to hang around here this week and take your questions!

So here's what you do:
Submit your most burning parenting questions in the form of a comment below. Brenda has promised to answer them ALL within 48 hours!

And here's where it gets good: She will take questions for up to one week!

So you have until next Tuesday, February 5, to submit your question.
To get things started, I sent Brenda some questions people have asked me (thinking I'm the expert - yeah right!) since I've been blogging. Here they are:
I want to make my husband a priority but when he gets home from work the kids attack him! Then, when we try to talk over dinner, they interrupt, and after dinner it's baths and bedtime. By the time the kids are all in bed, he just wants to veg in front of the TV or check email, and I'm too spent to talk or do anything else anyway. Any suggestions for making our evenings go more smoothly?

Brenda's reply:

Good question. I can hear your love for family through your question. Kids need to be taught there are boundaries . . . even on your attention. So, at dinner, you and hubby talk. When/if the kids interrupt, simply instruct them, "It's mommy and daddy's turn to talk. You just listen now." Then go back to your adult conversation. It may take repeated episodes, but do not break down and give your kids attention or enter into any discussion with them, or you've just sabotaged your efforts to have an adult conversation. This will teach them that you have boundaries and also that they can learn social behaviors.

My son and daughter are three years apart (12 and 9). They do not get along, and really never have. They argue over the pettiest things, correct each other, and it just seems like they are constantly looking for an opportunity to fight. It makes me so sad because I feel like there is no hope of them ever becoming friends or for our family to have a meal together that does not end in strife. I know the age difference makes it hard, but I'd appreciate any suggestions on how I can help them learn to get along.

Brenda's reply:

Take heart, age difference has little to do with it. My daughters are 5 years apart and grew up with the typical sibling rivalry and now, as young adults, are friends. There are many reasons kids don't get along and space here restricts my answer. To make it short; ask yourself if it's really a fight, or are they just nit-picking at each other? And ask yourself, if they really do not get along or if you have a high expectation about their relationship? During these years, keep your ears open to verbal aggression that is painful and won't be tolerated, but beyond that, don't interfere. Kids need to work out their own differences and relationship. It could be they will get along better as they mature. Lastly, be a role model of how to negotiate, compromise, and live in harmony. When kids see you as a model of getting along with others (husband, in-laws, neighbors, etc) they will absorb your teaching.

Good stuff, huh?

Okay, so now it's your turn!

Let's welcome Brenda and let her know how much we appreciate all she does helping moms and dads become better parents. You have one week to submit your question, but please submit it as a comment on THIS POST (even if I post on a different topic tomorrow).

I'm looking forward to learning along with you!


Queen to my 3 Boys said...

Hi Brenda - Thanks for the chance to ask questions!

I have a 5-yr-old boy who has a strong personality & has since birth. He is highly intellectual. For some reason, he has a problem submitting to authority. I am confused, as we have never let him think that bucking authority is okay. Many times when we speak to him, we get an argument or sassiness. The way he often conducts himself, it seems as if he thinks he is an adult; at the same level as us. Does this make any sense? I am concerned, as he will need to submit to God's authority and any authority seems to get him stirred up. Any suggestions on what to do?

I have read many parenting books, but there are few that come from a Christian standpoint.

BTW, he is a delightful child in most aspects...just has this submission issue.

Wani said...

I am a SAHM with two beautiful sons (2 1/2 and 10mos). I feel like my two year old doesn't listen to a thing I say. The second I leave the room he is getting into things that are off limits, playing rough w/ little brother, eating crayons, and on and on. Every day seems like a cycle of time outs and spankings. I try to be consistent but I get so exhausted and frustrated from repeating the same scenario over and over again. Is this normal or am I expecting too much from him at this age?

Anonymous said...

I emailed this question coincidentally to Katherine yesterday but for the sake of making this a little easier I'll repeat it here. I have a newly widowed friend with 7 and 11 yr old girls. She's having problems with the 11 yr old disrespecting her. I think it's doubly difficult for her now that her husband isn't there to back her. She wants to talk to me and I feel so inadequate. I have a 14 yr old and we did go through some rough times and I can share from experience but not totally due to her loss. Plus I homeschool and I feel that really helped us get through it. Of course her kids are in public school. I'm not sure how to advise about that - you know, how do you make sure she's hanging around the right kind of kids etc. Any words of wisdom would be appreciated.

Elspeth said...

We've potty training our 18 month old but it is not going well. I'm wondering if maybe she's too young? Every time she goes (whether #1 or #2, if you follow me), she always grabs her pull-up or panties (she occasionally wears regular undies to help her along) and says "ughh" to let me know that she wants the offending garment taken off of her immediately. However, she never goes potty ON the potty! Help!

Anonymous said...

Good question wani. Part of your son's behavior is typical (smile)and part is a cry for rules, boundaries and limitations, which youngsters translate as LOVE.

First, it's normal to be rough because, at this age, he still doesn't have the ability to empathasize. This means he doesn't fully understand that he can hurt his little brother (nor would he care!). He'll develop empathy and compassion, but it's a matter of time and brain development. In the meanwhile, I suggest you supervise when the two are in the same room together. When you say, "be gentle," show him what you mean by stroking his baby brother.
Now, for constant time-outs and spanking, maybe you can try some other discipline method. In my presentaiton, "Creative Discipine" I reveal 8 ways to get kids to mind, because not every method works with every child. This info is also available on a 1-hr CD which you can order from me at

I suggest you "catch him being good." Remember, all kids behave and act right at times. When your son behaves or shows self-control, you must notice and comment on it. This is positive discipline because it's teaching him how you want him to act. For example, when he colors with crayons rather than eats them, say, "Oh, I like the way you're coloring. That's how we use crayons."
You are not expecting too much my dear, you're just a tired mom of two youngsters. Parenting is a tiring job, but a short-lived one. One of these days, you'll be going to soccer games with them, and watching your sons go on their first date. I encourage you to embrace this short season of your life with the attitude that you're their first and most influential teacher. Adopt an instructional attitude when they misbehave. They need your help knowing the right ways to act. And that will take repeated attempts before it sinks in.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda (and Katherine!),

My hubby and I have five children - 2 boys and 3 girls, all under the age of nine. About a year ago we realized that we were being far too 'hands-on', mediating every squabble and disagreement. Reading advice from experts about the importance of letting children work things out on their own, we've intentionally distanced ourselves and had our kids try to work things through on their own.

Here's the thing - it seems to have worsened the fighting! There is now much more arguing, and their relationships certainly are worse than before (particularly between two of them).

I feel quite discouraged. When we chose to always get involved, our kids were awful tattlers...but now that we leave them to work it out, the fighting is awful. They don't 'work it out'. Things don't get reconciled. There are no apologies made...and their sibling friendships seem to be deteriorating.


Anonymous said...

I've thought about this a lot. There are so many questions I want to ask, but I think this one is a very important one. I am a SAHM with 5 children, ages 6, 5, 4, 3, and 1. It is hard for me to maintain a routine around here! With so many children to take care of, my own routine, and my husbands schedule, I have a hard time being consistent. What works one day is total chaos the next! I just end up being frustrated because nothing seems to work and I never get time for myself. How can I keep a manigable schedule for my family, or am I expecting too much for them at this age?

Anonymous said...

I've thought about this a lot. There are so many questions I want to ask, but I think this one is a very important one. I am a SAHM with 5 children, ages 6, 5, 4, 3, and 1. It is hard for me to maintain a routine around here! With so many children to take care of, my own routine, and my husbands schedule, I have a hard time being consistent. What works one day is total chaos the next! I just end up being frustrated because nothing seems to work and I never get time for myself. How can I keep a manigable schedule for my family, or am I expecting too much for them at this age?

MamaBear said...

Hi Brenda and Katherine,
I'm a work-at-home mom of 3, ages 8, 6, and 4. As a working mom, I need all the help I can get and want my kids to learn the value of work and an organized home early in life. We have done chore lists for the past few years, trying to keep their assigned jobs age appropriate and shifting them around occasionally, so no one gets "stuck" with a job they don't like forever. The problem is that even with consistency, they still grumble and complain about having to help around the house. Messes do not bother them at all, and the expectation seems to be that I should do everything and they should be responsible for nothing. I try turning on music sometimes for fun when we work, but so far I feel like I have failed in teaching them that work CAN be fun and that the benefits of living in a tidy home are worth the work involved. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Dear Queen, thanks for your question. It’s obvious you care deeply for your children. One thing to remember though, 5-y/o children are usually sassy, argumentative, and like to push the envelope. While this behavior isn’t pleasant, and it’s not to be encouraged, it is to be expected as part of God’s design in early childhood development.
My question to you is, is he your firstborn? If so, know that firstborn children are typically determined, perfectionist, and bossy. So, if this describes your son and he’s your first, then that explains some of his behaviors, too.
Now, to the heart of your question about submission. Let me ask you to consider this; does your son argue with you, but turn around and obey? If so, don’t worry. He’s still doing what he was told. Even God has children who argue or negotiate with Him, but eventually submit to His will, right?
My advice is twofold: (1) always be a model of obedience . . . to God. . . to the law of your land. When children see parents obey those in authority, they will absorb that lesson and become the same. Don’t worry that your son’s childish conduct is a predictor of his defiance to God. (2) When your son acts like he is an adult or on the same level as adults, you educate him otherwise. Gently teach him by saying something like, “This is an adult issue. You don’t need to be a part of it,” or “Mommy is talking to another adult now. You go play.” Children need help knowing their boundaries.
Hope this helps Queen (and any others). Feel free to enjoy the free parenting articles on my site

Anonymous said...

You must be a good friend, Angela, for your newly widowed friend to seek your help. Even though you feel inadequate or at a loss for words, just being available as a compassionate, listening ear may be all your she needs.
My guess is that her 11 y/o is “disrespecting” her mom because she’s (a) acting out stress over the death, and (b) typical 11 y/o behavior. Remind your friend that while it isn’t pleasant, 11 y/o girls can be sassy and go through rough times with their moms. Often they are already ovulating and having PMS, even if they aren’t having a period yet. I know – I have two daughters!
And remind her that children grieve differently than adults. I suspect the stress and disruption of your friend becoming a widow is affecting her children. Point your friend to my article, “Guiding Kids Through Grief” at She’ll find some insight and tips to help her girls. And also, encourage her to talk with the girls’ school teachers so they can be teammates in helping the girls at this difficult time.
When I'm asked to present, "Stop the Stress" (my presentation on children's behavior related to stress), I tell audiences that death in the family is huge with kids. They feel the grief and it stress them. The way kids act out stress is through misbehavior.

Anonymous said...

Help is here Terry! I suggest you do a couple things: (1) always say, “Let’s go to the potty.” NEVER ask an 18-month-old, “Do you want to go potty?” Dah! They’re always going to say, “No.” So make it a statement of expectation. Then whether she goes or not, compliment her for trying. Toilet teaching must be pleasant and not a painful experience. From what you tell me, your daughter is exhibiting some of the signs of readiness. Space here prohibits me from going into much detail, but rest assured you’re having a common problem. If you want all the signs of readiness, how to transition from diapers to panties, and other tips for a successful teaching experience, you can order my 1-hr CD, “Finally, No More Diapers” by sending me an email.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous and thanks for your question. My ‘o my, five children all under nine, you do have your hands full. *grins* Siblings will argue. In fact, recent research reveals that kids who argue as youngsters, grow up to be close as adults. I agree with letting children work thing out, however, you must intervene when there is nasty name-calling or physical aggression. I allowed my daughters to argue, but whenever they stooped to name-calling, I told them they owed me a quarter. After several times of giving me a quarter they found another way to argue without names.
Now remember tattling is different than sibling rivalry. If you think about it, tattling is nothing more than kids wanting to hook parents into their side of the story. Don’t listen to tattling. Instead, turn to the tattler and say, “Mom has enough love for all five of you.” That may sound off subject, but behind most tattling is a child’s need to be reassured of love from Mom or Dad. Plus, when you say that you have enough love, it gently tells the tattler that you’re not taking sides.
Give this a try, and I hope my answer encourages you.

Anonymous said...

I love SAHMs Anonymous; I was one myself. No, you’re not expecting too much, but perhaps you’re expecting too much too soon, or expecting too much every day. Right now, things will be chaotic with 5 tots. However, try to continue eating regular meals together, put the kids to bed at the same hour, and have a day-to-day schedule. Routine doesn’t mean rigid -- it’s OK to be flexible, but in general, do the same things most days, because kids thrive on routine.
At this point in your life my dear, with five youngsters under foot, eliminate anything unnecessary like, extra sports activities, church commitments, etc. Your congregation IS your family now. Put your attention and energy on them only. I find in my work with parents today, that many of them are burdened to be all things, go everywhere, and be involved in everything.
Just relax and enjoy your kids. Give ‘em time to play out in the back yard or “get bored.” It’s good for ‘em.
I hope your husband helps with the childcare, too. A chapter in my book talks about the value of dads, and how their daily investment in childcare improves a child’s development and future success.
If possible, hire a babysitter one night a week, and you and hubby go out on a date. When my daughters were young, we were dirt poor. Even hiring a babysitter was sometimes beyond our financial ability. So, I did co-op care with a circle of girlfriends. That way I got a much-needed break from mothering. I know you love your kids. I love mine too, so don’t get me wrong here, but you do deserve a break from mothering now ‘n then. Remember, you’re a mother, not a martyr.

Anonymous said...

To MamaBear, I’ve also been a work-at home mom, so I understand your situation. Good for you for wanting to teach your kids the value of work and organization. Kids grumble & complain – it’s their job. Ha ha You’re right, messes don’t bother kids because they don’t pay mortgage on the house. When they grow up and have apartments of their own and must do laundry and housework, then it’ll matter more….hopefully. I like your music technique to make the work fun. Here’s another tip; break up the chores into 5-minute blocks. Say to them, “For the next 5 minutes, let see how much we can get done.” Set a timer and go to work. Then take a break, and do something else. Later in the day, repeat the 5-minute chore time. Sometimes I do that now and it’s surprising what I can put away or dust in only a short time. When my daughters complained about doing age-appropriate chores, I simply reminded them that they’re a part of the family and this is their way to contributing to the family. Then I ignored their whines.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I really appreciate you taking the time to help so many of us!

I have a 3 year-old daughter who is bright (her daycare teacher says) but does have a bit of a stubborn streak. I'm noticing this more now with attempts at potty training. She just "doesn't want to". How in the world do I get past this? She doesn't want to get big, she wants to be little, etc. I know she can do this but i can't get her to start. Last attempt - she held it in for more than 3 hours; during a time she definitely should have been able to. I've tried most tricks but I'm still stuck at wanting her to do this. Any help would be greatly appreciate - so very, very appreciated!

Beck said...

Hey! Great!
My eight year old daughter - while actually a very well-behaved, almost painfully good kid - is frequently kind of disrespectful to her parents. When she's told to do something reasonable (pick up her toys or bring her plate to the kitchen, for example) she either ignores us or whines. She refuses to say hi to adults who greet her - and while she is shy, this is something she is certainly capable of doing. How do we deal with this? We feel constantly that we're either overreating or underreacting...

Tarrah said...

Hi Brenda,
I am a SAHM of my 3.5yo daughter and a 1.5yo son. My daughter is a very strong willed child and pushes us all the time. We do not give into her and are pretty consistant with our punnishments. But still she is constantly whinning and crying if she doesnt get her way. I don't know how to make it stop :) We do not listen to her if she whinnes to us or we tell her we can't hear her through the whinning. When she's trying to get dressed or do something and gets frustrated she just completely flips out instead of using her words to let us know what she's having trouble with. We let her know we will not help her until she uses her words. If she does ever use her words properly we always praise her for it. Is there anything else we can do to get the whinning and flipping out and not taking our no's for an answer.

And if I can ask one more :)
At bedtime we are having problems praying with her. She used to be good about it, we cater the prayer and thankfullness toward what she did throughout the day and we ask her what she is thankful for and she just says nothing and keeps trying to pray. We tell her that we are praying and letting God know what we're thankful for so she needs to stop playing, then we ask her again what she's thankful for and she just says nothing. I remind her of all the things she did or other little things and ask her if she's thankful for that and she says yes, but I would like to know how to get her interested in praying more.

Thank you so much for doing this!

Angela S said...

I'm totally not loving the advice to tell your kids dinner time is mom and dad time. Isn't that the time when we can engage our children in discussions as a family? Encouraging them to talk?

I can totally understand that mom's concern and even the advice given in that context. But during some of the other times they can do mom/dad time. The kids haven't seen him either and the father child relationship is important.

One idea I was taught (that also happens to work for our family - my husband needs a few minutes to himself) was to let dad be for the first 15 or 20 minutes after he gets home. That way he can have a minute to unwind. I think its great to teach the kids to say hi and that you're setting the timer for dad to breath for a few minutes and then he'll give all his attention to the family. And setting a timer of sorts helps the kids recognize the timing too. Anyway thats my two cents.

Please know I'm not being critical or rude, just the advice seems counter intuitive.

Debbie said...

Hi Brenda,
I think I can relate to the advice of "Mom and Dad talk time" at the dinner table. Our dinner hour used to be nothing more than keeping the kids from arguing and fussing the whole time. Also reminding them about their manners. Consequently, my husband and I seemed like we never really had a chance to chat until after the kids were in bed, then we were too tired. We recently told them that this is now Mom and Dad's time to talk, they can listen in. They will be given their talking privileges back when things improve. They have responded pretty well to this, and dinner time is much more peaceful. So much better for my husband especially who was so discouraged about the whole thing.

Anyhoo, here's my question for you. I am a SAHM of 5 kiddos, ages 4mo, 3 (going on 13), 6, 9 and 10. After homeschooling for 5 years, we recently put our kids in school. So it's been an adjustment w/ the homework and the routine. My daughter(10) seems to feel the time pressure the most, of course because she gets the most homework.

She hates when we remind her to do her homework, or that she has a book report due, etc. She also plays the violin and plays in a youth orchestra, so she is required to practice 1 hr/day. She does not like to be reminded about this either. I hate having to remind her also, but if we didn't remind her, I think she wouldn't get any of it done.

I have tried the approach of just backing off and letting her deal w/ the consequences, but then again, she made a commitment to the orchestra, but balks at practicing. Music lessons are too expensive to just not practice.

She says she really likes being in the orchestra and doesn't want to quit. Also, she wastes time when it's time to do homework....
How do I deal w/ this? It is the cause of many arguments w/ her.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda,
I have a problem, which most people wouldn't say is a problem! My almost six year old son is killing us with kindness. He is constantly thanking us for everything... ex: thank you for opening the door, thank you for taking me to school, thank you for picking me up... He is also constantly apologizing ... sorry I almost hit you, sorry I forgot my toothbrush for the sleep over two months ago... He will say, "I'm sorry." I'll say, "I forgive you." and then he wants to say "Thank you" and me to say "Your welcome." Of course I want him to have good manners, but this is over the top. In an hour, he probably thanks us or apologizes at least 10 times. I don't want to criticize his manners, but I don't want him dwell on sin (or in his case, near sin) either. Any suggestions. Just for reference, we also have a 7 year old (Who thinks this is crazy!)a 2 1/2 year old, and a baby boy due in March. Thanks! Lori

Destiny said...

Hi Brenda & Katherine!
Thank you so much for lending a listening ear and great advice to all of us all over the world, that are connected through blog land.

My questions is this:
I have a son who is almost 3yrs old. He started potty training consistantly 3 1/2 weeks ago. He goes #1 on the potty with out me even reminding him, but when it comes to #2, he REFUSES! He still wears a diaper to bed, and thats when he takes advantage, and goes #2. I've tried everything to get him to go #2 on the potty (that I can think of)- but he tells me he's "scared" or "it hurts". But when he needs to go, he cries for me to put a diaper on him....whats a mommy to do? Thanks so much for any advice you can offer.
Serving God in Uganda-East Africa

Anonymous said...

Hi Debbie! Super duper response to the “Mom and Dad talk time.” Sounds like you’re a parent who creates a balance of rules and relationship.
Now to your question: You’re on the right track of letting your daughter deal w/consequences to her decisions. A consequence can be a great teacher. I wonder if you might also write her responsibilities on paper or post them on a chart in her bedroom. That way she sees what is necessary without you reminding her. It seems from your post, that your daughter is the oldest (or firstborn) and these children usually drive themselves hard enough. My firstborn has self-imposed standards, and I learned early in her life not to push her because she was already giving herself inner pushes. Perhaps that’s the case with your daughter, too.
Another consequence you might consider is this: if she likes being in orchestra but bulks at practicing, tell her she can help pay for lessons. You see, as long as you’re paying for music lessons, she has no ownership of the need for practice. But, if she helps pay, then she “owns” the lessons and will take more interest in daily practice. Just an idea… Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

With a bright 3-y/o who doesn’t want to potty train, my advice is this. You may not like it and you don’t have to do what I advise, but it will work. At three, she has the motor and cognitive skills to clean up her own mess. If she spills milk, don’t you give her a rag and instruct her to wipe it up? This is teaching a child to take responsibility for her actions. Life is full of us taking responsibility for our own behavior -- likewise in body functions and fluids. When she potties in her panties, take her to the bathroom and supervise while she cleans up her mess. She probably won’t like doing it, but then, neither do you, right? Be matter-of-fact about it as there’s no need to be impatient or annoyed. Simply make the calm statement, “Oh, you wet your panties. Now you’ll need to wipe and change your panties (or diapers or pull-ups or whatever you use).” Don’t pressure or reprimand. What I see here is that you have a power struggle and, believe me your child will win. So back off, my dear, and just start giving your darling daughter the opportunity to be in charge of her potty training by allowing her to clean up potty messes she makes.
Finally, subtly encourage her with statements about the advantages of being a “big girl.” You could benefit from the information and tips on my “Finally, No More Diapers!” CD. To order this helpful CD, send $10 to me at PO Box 1302, Mount Vernon, OH 43050.

Anonymous said...

Hi Beck and thanks for your good question! Actually, you have two different questions; one is about normal eight-year-old behavior and the other is about shyness. While I promised to answer only one question per poster, I’ll try to squeeze both answers into one. Much of parenting is teaching – or instructing – kids about their behavior. Unless we teach otherwise, they’ll believe their behavior is acceptable. So, when your daughter ignores you or whines, you can simply teach her otherwise by saying sometime like, “I need you to pick up your toys.” Then overlook her whining – teach through your actions that whining won’t get her a response. If she doesn’t pick up her toys, repeat your wishes. Now, if she ignores you, touch her arm, look in her eyes and calmly repeat yourself. No need to yell or get angry.

Sometimes people think shyness is low self-esteem, but that’s not always accurate. Shyness is a temperamental trait and temperaments are genetic. While you’re correct in wanting her to be socially polite, it’s not always easy to teach shy kids to acknowledge adults. During neutral times, (not when the other adult is present) talk about manners and the importance of looking people in the eye and saying, “hello.” Also check out some children’s books from your public library about manners. Don’t push or embarrass her, for this will make the situation worse. Also, as her first and most influential teacher, be a good role model of how to greet adults. Your daughter may never be outgoing or gregarious, accept her for that.
Beck, my friend Jill Rigby writes books about teaching manners to kids. Check out Jill's books at

Anonymous said...

Hi Tarrah. With strong-willed children, it’s important to remember that (1) they want control, and (2) they are enamored with decision-making. Both of these are not bad traits, but they can be a challenge to parents. So, I suggest you give your daughter simple, two-part choices all day long. For example, she can have either the red or blue crayon, she can eat either peas or carrots, she can wear her pink or yellow panties. By offering a child two, simple, acceptable choices, she assumes some control of her environment and also get the opportunity to make decisions.

As for whining, it generally begins around this age. Believe it or not, it’s a part of language development, but quickly turns into manipulation and annoying behavior. The way you’re handling it is fine.

Anonymous said...

Lori (aka anonymous), here’s my answer about your six-year-old son. You’re right and astute in recognizing that your son’s behavior is “over the top.” A couple things could be going on: he could be stressing over the upcoming birth of another sibling; there could be an unpleasant situation occurring at his school, church, or with playmates; he could be using this as attention-getting behavior; as the firstborn he’s trying too hard to please you; or he has an emotional problem with over-pleasing. I’m not sure…only you are his expert and can decide. Remember, childish, immature behavior is just that, and not sin. God certainly understands our humanness.
Point out to your son times when you forgot, or did human stuff, and this might help him realize that even Mom makes mistakes.

Anonymous said...

Welcome Destiny from Uganda-East Africa! Thanks for your confidence in me and question. I’m humbled by all these wonderful, thought-provoking questions here. Wish I could sit down with each of you on this blog and offer an hour of consultation. But, this short venue will have to do, right?

When children refuse to do #2, then it suggests to me a control issue. And believe me, kids will win. I advise you back off and act unbothered about it (“act” is the operative word). If children sense parents are demanding elimination in the toilet, then they resist -- even if that means withholding stool. I’ve known children who are constipated, impacted, and worse all because of a power struggle over toilet learning.

When your son says, “it hurts,” it’s probably because he’s constipated and the stool is hard. Give him lots of fiber foods and water to help soften the stool. Claiming he’s “scared” may be true, too. Sometimes children are frightened of the big toilet or of being flushed down the toilet. It’s part of normal development for 3 – 5 year-olds to develop irrational (usually temporary) fears.

Be gentle and patient with your son. Compliment him for doing #1 and casually remind him that #2 goes in the potty as well. Like I advised another poster here, a bright three-year-old has the motor and cognitive skills to help clean up him mess. I suggest you begin involving your son in cleaning up his own #2. When he takes ownership of his body and his stool (and you show no pressure) then he’ll make other choices to put it in the potty – where it belongs.

Believe it or not, Potty Training is one of my most highly requested presentations. I've spoken at churches, hospitals, preschools, childcare conferences, and to parent groups on this topic.

Dana said...

Hi Brenda!

My 4-year-old son has never really slept well at night. We have tried various methods of getting him to sleep all night or at least stay in his bed. Now he is scared to be in his bed at night. He is imagining all kinds of creative, scary things. He no longer wakes me up, though, knowing that I will put him right back to bed, instead, he crawls in bed with one of his 5 sisters, causing them to not sleep well. He's such a cutie and is usually a pretty obedient little guy. How can we calm his fears, help him to sleep, thereby helping the girlies to sleep as well?

Thanks so much!

Dana, Mommy to 6 Kids (17, 12, 10, 7, 4 and 2)

Laura said...

I'm interested to know what your take on dating is and when/if your teen should be allowed. My daughter is only 11 but I know this question will come up for us before we know it!


Anonymous said...

Hi Dana. Good bedtime question, and it sounds like you’re handling it well. I suggest the book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem, by Dr. Richard Ferber. Here’s the link to the book:
Also, check out some books on bedtime habits from your local library.

It’s not uncommon for 4 y/o children, with their vivid imaginations, to think of scary things. I wrote about my daughter’s “monster in the closet” in my book, Parenting Power in the Early Years, and how we resolved the issue.

Anonymous said...

Hi org junkie. You’re smart to prepare now for that dating question. In our home, we didn’t allow dating until our girls were 16-years-old. But, I advise each parent to know their own child and his/her level of maturity as well as the type friends they choose. Those two indicators will tell parents when they can allow dating. You see, each child matures at a different age (although 11 is too young), and the type friends they choose will reveal what type of dating partner they choose. If a child habitually hangs with the wrong crowd, then I’d be skeptical to allow dating until they were 18 or out of my home.
Every home is different. I know one family where there’s no dating at all – the parents only allow dating when it’s with the intent of marriage. Talk to other parents in your church to get an idea of a good answer to give your daughter.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda! Thank you for taking time for our questions. A lot of mine have been answered just by reading the other parent's questions. My question came up again this morning.

I have a 4 year old boy who cries at the drop of a dime. Whenever something seemingly isn't going his way, he turns on the tears. He used to have a problem with hitting but now that we solved that, he has resorted to tears. For example. I reward my children with a sticker if they finish all five of their morning "jobs". This morning he wanted a sticker after completing 2 of the jobs. I explained to him calmly that he had to complete all five to get the sticker, and he immediately started crying. I then calmly told him that he had two choices. 1) Stop crying and complete the rest of the jobs and get a sticker, or
2) Go and sit on his bed until he calmed down.
That worked for a while but then he turned on the tears later when I told him that mommy had to go to the doctor alone this time. It's like that all day. I don't know whether to tell him I won't talk to him when he reacts like that or send him to his room or give him a hug and the attention he obviously wants/needs. I praise him when I catch him doing something good, but he does have 4 other siblings that he's competing with for our attention. We always tell our children that there is enough love to go around for all of them and try to teach them to love each other. Is this just a stage? If so, do you have any advice on how to get him to turn off the tears in a gentle way? (Unless of course they are for a legitamate reason)

Dimple Queen said...

Hey Brenda, like everyone else, I would like to thank you for your time.

Before I ask this question, I want you ALL to know I LOVE my child! But just like there was the excessive politeness of the 6 year old, I have an excessive affectionate 5 year old!

My question concerns my 5 year old son. I CAN NOT leave a room with out giving him a kiss or a hug or both. At bed time he insists that I didn't hug or kiss him the "right way" and gets very upset if I don't do it again. There have been many nights that I have prayed, tucked in, hugged and kissed (a couple times), then get to the bedroom door and he says "Momma, huggy and kisses." I have gotten to a point that I have told him I will hug and kiss him at his bed, but once I walk away he is not to expect me to come back to his bed. I felt terrible about telling him that, but at the same time I felt like if I didn't then he would keep me in there all night.

Then there is preschool. When I drop him and his little sister off, I take him to his room. Then I tell him that I will be right back to give huggs and kisses. When I come back I am flooded with them. (I love it!) But then when I say I have to go, there is always the "need" for several more.

I know that he LOVES his school, and his teachers. He has many friends there and always talks about them at home in a kind manner. THere is a story on my blog about him and his teacher and how she has started helping me a little with this. (titled "Timothy's Sweet Teacher") She is unbelievable!

All of this started about 6 months ago...I feel terrible when I tell him...."T, I just hugged and kissed you...." How should I handle this?

Julie said...

Hi Brenda,

I have a question on discipline. I have a 1 year old daughter who seems to understand when I say "no" or "don't touch" but keeps trying it to make sure I'm serious. What is a good way to start disciplining my daughter? Or is it too early...

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Hi dimple queen. Of course we ALL know you LOVE your son, but you are right in your observation of excessive affection. What I hear is a game of manipulation. Do you see how he gets you back in his room, or holds you at preschool? Do you see how he's controling your behavior and emotions? You were being a skillful mom when you stated he gets one hug/kiss at his bed, then you’re leaving. Period. Just do it. Although none of us like to feel we’re being manipulated, that’s what your darling is doing – it’s just with affection. It’d be easy to spot it if he were throwing a tantrum or some other distasteful behavior, but he’s using physical affection....which all moms love. Now you’re wise to him and know what you must do.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your question about your 1-y/o Julie! Discipline is a common concern with parents of all age kids, and it’s my #1 requested presentation. First, in her language development, your daughter does understand more than she says. It’s called receptive (hearing/understanding) language. I’m just sharing that so you know you’re reasonable in your observations and expectations. (smile). It is not too early to discipline your daughter. But, when I say discipline I mean “teach.” You are teaching her to have self-control and to obey authority.

In Toddlerhood, most conflicts are over safety issues. Make sure your home is “child-friendly” by safety proofing. Eliminate areas of danger and conflict. Praise God she is normal, experimental, and driven by curiosity. But, she has no comprehension of harm, and that’s why you must safety proof and supervise.

Also, use positive phrasing like, “Here honey, touch this,” or “Play with this.” That usually distracts wee ones from the dangerous item/area. If she keeps trying, to make sure you’re serious, show her through actions that you are serious: Get up, go over to her and remove the object from her hands (or remove her body from the area). Julie, hopefully I’ll be asked to speak on discipline at a preschool, church, conference, or library near you. Then you can get more ways to discipline and ask me more questions. You’re welcome to sign up for my free Daily Discipline Tip e-service. Simply subscribe to Discipline Tip at my website

Anonymous said...

Hi anonymous poster. Here’s my advice about your 4-year-old boy who “cries at the drop of a dime.” My guess is that he is sensitive. And, it is OK for him to cry, just as it’d be OK for him to ask, “Why?” or to use another behavior to express his feelings. He’s choosing tears as his expression. But, the tears could become a way to manipulate you, so be careful how you respond. This morning, you skillfully handled the crying situation. I like how you offered him two choices and remained calm.

You said you “praise him” when he’s doing something good – terrific! Children need to know what they do "right." Perhaps because of his competition with four other siblings, you can make some alone-time with him. Go to a room together and color, or have Dad stay home with the others and you and your son go to McDonalds for a snack. That way your sensitive son receives undivided time from the most important person in his life now – you. (actually, try that with each child once in a while) I predict that he’ll outgrow the easy flowing tears…unless it’s something legitimate.

As mentioned in another answer, you are welcome to receive my free Daily Discipline Tip e-service. Subscribe to Discipline Tip at my site God bless your parenting efforts.

Searching for my Sanity or Jen...whichever you prefer... said...

HI Brenda (and katherine),

my question is on my 8 year old daughter. She is a wonderful little girl who is very compassionate and usually well behaved but lately the littlest things are making her break down and cry or throw a huge temper tantrum like a two year old. Nothing traumtic has happened recently or anything so it is not that but I find myself getting frustrataed and wanting to yell and say "grow up and quit acting like your 6 and 5 year old brothers). lol I usually send her to her room so I can calm down first, but I cannot imagine for the life of me why she would start having meltdowns. I.E. my 5 year old son ripped a picture of hers that she liked and while yes it was annoying...she melted down into a sobbing heap on the floor and carried on forever. any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda,

As so many have already said "Thank you spending some time answering our questions".

I'm a SAHM of four wounderful children. All of which I homeschool as well,not to mention a pastors wife, therefore everyone thinks that I am the "go to gal" for parenting questions. No pressure there, for us or our babies. I guess they are not really babies. They are a 12-yr-old girl, 10-yr-old boy, 7.5-yr-old girl and a 5.5-yr-old boy.
All that to say is I am thrilled to be able to ask you a few questions.

I guess my first and most pressing question is how do I help my 5 year old son make the transition into "big boyhood"? He is your typical baby of the family, he is the intertainer, confident and deeply loved by everyone. He is also over the top in independance, and general ability to do any thing that he sets his mind to. This is a real struggle for his siblings as they still want to be the ones to do all for him. HE DOES NOT LIKE THIS. He now goes into screeming fits over the smallest things because he wants to be treated like a big boy. Which the older children find entertaining as well ans will often egg him on. Not only do I encourage them to see the struggle of his position, but I try to point out to them that this is hard for ALL of us that he is growing up.

With all that I have tried things seem to be getting worse rather than better (this has been going one since before Christmas) How else might you encourage the older children and what more can we do to help this little fella? I can't stand to see him soooo angry.

Again Thank You,

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda! Thanks for answering our questions!

I haven't read through all of the comments yet so if this has already been asked, just ignore this.

Our oldest (girl - typical perfectionist and bossy 9 year old) is flat lazy. My husband and I are hard workers and we do things together as a family working together. So she sees it from us in example and we talk to her about being a hard worker and how it pleases God too. But if it requires any effort, she balks (including "fun" activities, not just "work"). I know this is probably very typical for this age, but is there any way we can encourage/instill in her a helpful, work-when-it's-time-to-work attitude versus this very lazy, I'd-rather-watch-everyone-else-do-it one? I feel like we need to address this now and not write it off as a "phase" because I've seen how it can grow and develop into adulthood. And I dont want it rubbing off on her otherwise helpful younger siblings.


Anonymous said...

Sorry about all the type o's in the last post. I had but a moment to myself and I guess my brain and hands were not working together.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda
I need some insight with my 16 yo daughter,my oldest. We have two other kids, 13 yo girl, 5 yo boy.
The 16 YO is really giving us a hard time with her really bad, sassy attitude and blatant disrespect to me, her mom, as well as, the rest of the family. She is a good kid, good grades until this yr., plays sports, friendly and always respectful to others (neighbors, grandparents, etc.).

We just had a big fight, her yelling and whining then telling us how stupid we are, controlling and ruining her life. I fought very hard w/ myself to keep control and not yell back, but just as many times I lose it too. (it breaks my heart afterward tho.)
Anyway, this typical fight is about not letting her go to youth group lock-in ovenight. She is taking AP classes and has an F and a D in two of them, these classes go thru end of this yr so she has a chance to bring up grades. We will not let her go because of her bad grades and bad attitude. We told her, her job is school. She blames me for "making" her take the AP classes and therefore, I made her fail. She has the ability to make the grades but was not doing her work or studying. She was really lax about school this yr and wanted to have her social life instead. Her grades show it.

Am I being too harsh or not harsh enough. Should we take her car and not let her do anything? Forcing her to study and do her homework ALL the time? Or give her a little social life, car for school, but make her study more?
Thank you for any insight, I am just so frustrated that I feel as if I cannot make a good decision.

Anonymous said...

I understand your question about your 8-year-old daughter, Jenna. I’m glad nothing traumatic has recently happened, because that would’ve been my first question. It’s good that you distance yourself from her, during emotionally high times, so you can calm down before talking to her. What I think is going on is . . . congratulations, Mom, your daughter is ovulating and turning into a menstruating young lady. Yes, it can happen this early! If you could get her to talk about her feelings, she’d probably confess that she doesn’t understand why little things cause a meltdown (but, us grown women do). My suggestion is to buckle up, Mom, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. Be patient, calm, and understanding with her. Try to spend one-on-one time with her so she knows she has an advocate with you. Try broaching the subject of growing up, bodily changes, and leaving “little girlhood.” There are some books on puberty for girls at your local public library that may help ease this rocky ride.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Lisa, as a homeschooling mom AND pastor’s wife, you have a lot on your plate. I was a pastor’s wife, too, early in our marriage.

Your 5-y/o “baby” of the family is probably modeling his behavior after older, more mature siblings and that’s why he can do anything he sets his mind to. Independence is a good thing – after all, Lisa, part of our job is to work ourselves out of a job. The more skills, resilience, and independence you allow your children, the more they can move on and succeed in life.
When your son screams, tell him to go scream in his room because you cannot allow screaming like that in the home. It's OK for him to get angry, but a screaming fit is an inappropriate way to express himself. My younger daughter was passionate about her feelings and often expressed them overtly. I had to calmly tell her to do it alone in the bedroom and then come out when she regained self-controlled.
During the day, when your little guy shows self-control and resists screaming fits, compliment him with, “I like that you didn’t get angry.” This helps him to see he has control over his emotional outbursts, even when things frustrate him. Likewise, encourage your husband to brag on your 5-y/o when he sees self-control in the face of the older children doing something to frustrate him.
Talk to your older children during neutral (non-emotional) periods. Explain to them your expectations to respect their younger brother and let him do things for himself. Remind them you love all of them equally, and you cannot allow anyone to “egg on” the other to the point of rage. I fear your youngest feels ganged up on and that's not a good position for him to be in. He needs to feel he’s an equal part of the family unit. I think, in time, this problem will resolve. But, it’ll take some patience and attention from you and your husband, and cooperation from the older siblings.
The bottom line is, you're teaching your son how to appropriately express frustration.
A copy of my book in your church library will answer some of those quesitons you get from the people in your congreation.

Anonymous said...

Has your daughter always been lazy? If so, it could be her inborn temperament. Some children are born with a low drive for physical activity.
The fact that you and your husband are hard workers is a good model to her and should eventually help motivate her. One other way to encourage her is to allow consequences to happen. For example, “When you clean off the table, then you can . . . “ or “After you do your homework, then you can . . . “ If she chooses not to do her work, then she suffers the consequence of not doing what she wants. Or if TV attracts her, then say something like, “After you do your work, then you can watch TV.” Period. Mean it, and stick with it. Be calm, because when kids “get our goat” and see us yell it gives them the power.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous with the 16-y/o daughter (been there, done that). My daughters are now 20 and 26 y/o.
When I’m speaking to audiences about teenagers, I usually explain that teens are just toddlers in bigger bodies. They are self-absorbed, egotistical, and power-hungry. The sassy attitude and talk can be part of that phase. However, you must not tolerate disrespect; not from her or anyone. First, remind your daughter that you talk to her in a kind, respectful manner and you want the same in return (make sure you DO talk in a kind, respectful manner). When she yells, you stay calm. In fact, the quieter you speak, the more it’ll help defuse the situation. I wrote an article for parents of teens, “Face Off: Communication Tips for Parents of Teens” published at, I think this will help you, too.

You're welcome to other free articles for parents on my website

Anonymous said...

Hi. I have two girls, ages 7 and 4 1/2. They fight constantly!! I really feel like I'm losing my mind. What can I do to bring peace?

Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda,

We have 4 children ages 5,4,3 and 1. I'm a SAHM. My question is about spending individual time with them. I feel like they each need me to have that one on one time (and they tell me so, very often), but physically and emotionally, I'm not able to do it the way I want to be able to do it.

My 5 year old is in kindergarten all day and my 4 and 3 year olds have preschool 3 days a week for half a day. It sounds like it would be so "do-able" to spend time with the others when one is in school, yet I never have the energy, time, or the focus when the opportunity occasionally pops up.

The best I have been able to accomplish is a 10 minute morning reading time with them to ease them into their days. I try to catch my oldest by himself on the days he has school and the girls don't, but often, they hear us and come in to hear the story.

I feel like the baby loses out, too, because when it is just me and him, I try to "manage" him so I can get things done instead of just sitting down and enjoying him in his baby-ness. My husband puts them down for bed at night, so they get some special quiet time with Dad each night.

Having "dates" with the kids sounds great, but my husband and I don't even get to have dates with ourselves much anymore!

Basically, do you have any tips for enjoying alone time with each of the kids on a regular schedule when time and energy always seem to be low for us as the parents?

I'm not really as stressed out as this post sounds, but, like most moms, that guilt monster is constantly on my heels.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous - siblings without rivalry? Good question! And one that’s been the subject of many books. May I suggest Adele Faber’s book, Siblings Without Rivalry. You can find it on Amazon at Or read this article on sibling rivalry at

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous ~ What I think is going on here, is false (unnecessary)) guilt. Simply put, you cannot do everything you’d like with each child, simply because there isn’t enough time nor energy. But, while you feel bad you cannot spend as much time with each child as you’d like, I encourage you to see all the right things you’re doing and to pat yourself on the back! You are stretched with four young kids. You may not get to spend daily one-on-one time with each, but you are doing much more for them in other ways. As they grow, and the demands on your time and energy decrease, you may find you'll have time to give each a weekly "date" with you.

Anonymous said...


I have a 7 year old daughter who blames other people for anything that goes wrong in her life. For example, "It's my sister's fault that I dropped my plate of food, because she was singing a song that bothered me." Or, "Mom, it's your fault I broke my pencil and tore my homework up because you wouldn't sit by me." She becomes extremely upset over small things that even her four year old sister can brush off. Often she cries and fusses to the point that she gags and throws up. I've tried several ways to handle this, but none of them seems to work very well: 1) Ignore the accusations and deal just with the issue at hand, for example, have her clean up the food on the floor and get another plate, or start her homework again. 2) Explain to her that whatever happened is her responsibility and give suggestions for how to handle it in the future. 3) Send her to time out or dock her allowance for making ridiculous accusations of someone else. Any of these tactics usually results in her escalating to a complete meltdown, with tears and coughing so hard she vomits (she has asthma, which causes the coughing).

This really concerns me because the teenage son of a friend of mine started the same way and now refuses to take resposibility for any of his actions. I'm trying to get a handle on this before it's too late.



Anonymous said...

Hi Brenda-
My question is about schooling. I have a 4 year old and we have been considering all of the options for school. I feel so overwhelmed by this decision. Is there any advice you can give me to make sure I make the right decision for our family?? We also have a 2 year old and want a large family.

rachel joy said...

Hi Brenda,
You've touched on this a little bit already, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on "first time obedience", as in, child obeying the first time they are asked to do something. My 20 month old son seems to be obeying better than his 3.5 year old brother. What is realistic to expect of these little ones for how fast they respond? And how can I encourage prompt obedience without the threat of a spank or time-out?

Anonymous said...

Thank you all, again, for your wonderful, thoughtful, provacative quesitons.

To rachelz ~ OK, if you look at your sentence you can see why kids get confused. If you want them to obey, don’t “ask” them to do something – simply make the statement. When kids hear a question, they believe they have a choice.
On your 3.5 y/o, he’s probably practicing selective listening. When he doesn’t obey, you get in his face so he hears/sees you, then make a statement of what you expect. I often see well-meaning, great parents expect kids to “hop to it” the second they're told what to do. Well, give ‘em a minute or two to hear/process what you want and tell their little bodies to do it. I never get upset at a kido who takes a minute to follow-through on what I’ve told him to do. Rachelz, if your little boy obeys you, then that's the bottom line, right? Who cares if it takes him a minute or two to do it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous with school question ~ My advice is to do your parental legwork. Go to the different schools, talk with parents and teachers and decide what is right for your 4-y/o. Don’t do what other parents do, but be your child’s best advocate and do what’s right for him. There are advantages to public/private/homeschooling just as there are disadvantages. Space here restricts me from going into detail. If you’re concerned about today’s kindergarten readiness skills, there’s a chapter in my book about that, which lists signs of readiness.
One of my daughters went to an all-day Montessori Preschool and the other never went to preschool, she just started Kindergarten. It is OK to make a schooling decision for your 4-y/o that will be different for your 2-y/o, as each child is unique and has a individual learning style.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous with the 7-y/o daughter. (And this being Tuesday, February 5, will be my last answer to questions.) It’s a shame your daughter is blaming others for “anything that goes wrong in her life.” She needs to accept ownership of her own behavior and stop blaming others. One sign of maturity is when people stop saying, “It got lost” and say, “I lost it.” However, we’re talking about a youngster here, and she’s got a ways to go before she reaches maturity. It sounds from your description that you’re doing all things right. My only guess is that she’s a perfectionist (first born perhaps?) and can’t tolerate anything less than perfect (in her mind). She has a meltdown when she cannot control her imperfections/humanness. You’re wise for wanting to get a handle on this now. Have you talked with her pediatrician to insure there’s no physical complications? Have you talked with a family counselor to insure there’s no emotional challenges? Have you asked other, trusted, older parents to advise and pray with you about this? My advice is to talk with a professional who knows you and your darling daughter better than I.