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Children Archives


Dear Mrs. Web,

My mother-in-law told me today that she did not receive thank you notes from our children for Christmas gifts. The children called her specifically to thank her for the gifts. All of them talked to her and thanked her. She seems to be expecting a card from each of them. The kids are reluctant to write her, they keep saying, they already thanked her. What do I do?

Purchase attractive note cards for each of them, sit them down, and teach them to write a thank-you. There is no substitute for a written note. 

This is a skill they need to learn.  It shows they took the time to be thoughtful, and is a hallmark of good manners.  Each year I include a pack of note cards under the tree for each child.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I was listening to the radio recently and heard a religious broadcast about physical punishment of children. The participants actually were talking about how to choose an appropriate device to use when spanking. The show chilled me to the bone and frankly, upset me. I do not hit my kids and I think it is wrong. What do you think?

This is a difficult subject to talk about for a number of reasons. I am going to try to address it because I am seeing more letters in my email box about the topic. I donít expect everyone to agree with me, it is a controversial and emotional topic. Nevertheless, here is my opinion.

First, studies show that currently in the United States over 90% of the parents use corporal punishment at least occasionally. 

  • Those who occasionally swat a bottom to get their childís attention or make a point;

  • Those who have a well-thought-out disciplinary system which also includes physical punishment;

  • Those who unthinkingly lash out physically;

  • Those who beat and bludgeon helpless children, whether out of control or for their own sick twisted pleasure.

This encompasses a broad range of parent, motives, and behaviors. It is unproductive and unfair to group these different behaviors together. Parents who spank are not, for the greatest part, child abusers. Some people however, define any and all corporal punishment as abuse.

I have had a number of people tell me that no child should ever be hit, and that spanking a child is abusive. I no longer agree. In my opinion, there are many ways to abuse a child. The emotional abuse some children suffer with the unchecked and sharp tongues of their parents is large and pervasive. I am not talking about ignorant or dull parents who name-call, although they certainly guilty.

I am referring to the educated and intelligent parents who are verbally abusive and or emotional hostage-takers. Parents who wrestle control or beat their childrenís souls and break their wills with crafty logical arguments, pervasive nagging, and cruel chastisements. Families where a child never measures up, or is always expected to perform flawlessly. These parents may not have laid a hand on the young one, but have caused huge pain and damage.

I have seen children who are not able to permit their hearts to really like anything, because their parents have overused consequences and revocation of privileges. They have spent too much time in parenting classes learning techniques, and not enough looking into their childís eyes or at their spirits. Anything these children would hold dear would be held over their heads in exchange for compliance. Therefore, I am not an immediate admirer of parents who announce, "I never would hit my kids." There are many ways to "hit."

At this time, in our country, there is a great reluctance to discuss corporal punishment as a disciplinary tool. Many individuals are fearful of being labeled a "child abuser" or even losing their children to the whims of their state departments of welfare. Moreover, we have all heard of overzealous state welfare workers who have disrupted families based on erroneous information or personal prejudices.

It is unfortunate this discussion taboo is in place, given the large proportion of the parents who do use physical punishment. My opinion is that since many families do use physical punishment as part of their discipline choices, parents should learn how to use it effectively, kindly, with discernment, and appropriately. They need to learn not to react in anger. Parents need to learn how to discipline themselves when using physical consequences with their children.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My almost two year old twin nephews are coming with their mother to visit next week for two days. They are active and I want to know how much should to accommodate their curiosity. Should I put my collections up and away or should I just teach the children not to touch.

I certainly wouldnít start training 20-month-old twins the finer points of child etiquette by practicing with my exquisite porcelain collection. 

Two year olds? Two days? Move everything breakable out of sight and reach. Snap heavy-duty elastics onto the cupboard knobs. All medications and poisons under lock and key. 

Frequent trips to the local playground and a bottle of bubble bath for early tub before bedtime. Then you and your sister can sit back and catch up.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My son is ten years old. He has been invited on a five day camping trip with a half dozen other boys he met though a school project. The range of ages for the other boys is from fourteen to eighteen. There will be no adult. He really wants to go. I think he is too young for the group. Should I send him?

If he were mine I would not send him. Eighteen-year-old high school boys are not enough supervision for a ten-year-old boy. Ten years olds need to be sheltered from some of the interests of teenaged males.



Dear Mrs Web

My daughter has been ill with a life-threatening but controllable illness, which we expect to resolve by summer's end. She is turning five soon. Because of her illness she did not finish the year at preschool. Now we are enrolling her in kindergarten and I am wondering whether she will need some extra coaching this summer in order to be ready for it. I feel she may be getting behind.

Your daughter has been seriously ill. That has taken a toll on all of you. Her readiness for kindergarten is the last thing you need to worry about. Children often regress developmentally during an illness. They need time, attention and comfort to heal both physically and emotionally from such a draining experience. If you and your family want to send her to kindergarten in September, that is fine but I wouldn't make it a priority. Her emotional response to her illness will not allow for accurate assessment.
She can either repeat or go onto first grade next year depending how quickly she bounces back to health and age appropriate maturity. Where she fits in the school system is not a worry at this time.


Dear Mrs. Web,

My son is 11 years old and has been diagnosed with ADHD. He takes Ritalin four times a day and it still is not helping. He is extreme in his search of attention. Lately he has even been stealing matches and lighting them in his room. I am getting worried that I will need help with him on a full time basis and I have tried my best but nothing I do seems to work. I am divorced and HAVE to work. I almost lost my job because of all the times I have had to leave work because of troubles with him. HELP!

My heart goes out to you. Your sonís problems may be more severe than Ritalin can handle. I would immediately make an appointment with the family physician and tell him or her what is going on in detail. Request referrals to a child psychiatrist for an in-depth evaluation. When in with the psychiatrist be an advocate for your son. Describe his behavior and detail your concerns. Ask for appropriate referrals in your community for help for both of you, as well as a medication reevaluation. His behavior sounds serious and dangerous. Best of luck and keep in touch.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My son is totally involved in Pokemon. Toys, cards, videos and everything in between. Is it ok?

Ok? I am not sure what you mean by ok. Children do what they are told. Today children are told by advertisers to like and buy Pokeman. Yesterday they liked and bought, oh, say Barney, and tomorrow they will be told to like something else. You have to choose how much of this manipulation you want your child to experience. You're the parent.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I am 9 years old. My sister is 12 and she is so bossy and mean to me. I think my mother treats her much better than me. It's not fair. I know when I am like 40 things will get better but I don't want to wait that long.

I didn't notice things getting that much better at forty. Bossy and mean twelve-year-old sisters are part of the territory when you are nine. Best thing to do is steer clear of her when she's grumpy. Your mother probably doesn't treat her much better than you, but she probably does let her do things you are not allowed to do. You might see that as Mom liking her more. Believe me, Mom is doing her best. You are right though, sometimes things aren't fair.



Dear Mrs. Web

I just found out that my sister gave up a baby for adoption about twenty-five years ago. I was thrilled to hear we would have another family member since there is just my sister, my daughter and me. Our brother died ten years ago. My sister's new daughter just contacted her and she wants to go meet her alone. I would like to go along to offer moral support and welcome her into our family. She seems to be a very successful young lady and I am hoping that she will be able to spend some time with my daughter. What a wonderful role model she could be for her. My sister doesn't want me to go. How can I change her mind?

I think you should step back to the wall raise your hands and drop all your expectations. This is not yours, you can not go there. This belongs to your sister and her birth daughter. Let them find their own way.



Dear Mrs. Web,

I have a sister who uses drugs and alcohol and smokes too. She has a two-year-old son. He is pretty much running wild with the neighborhood kids and I am concerned. I stop by and try to help but I am not sure what else I could do. My sister kind of dreamy and the kid is not cared for. What should I do?

When you have a child in danger you act. In this case you act by notifying your local welfare office, often termed Department of Human Services and have the child removed from your sister's custody. You can be appointed guardian and be able to take over the child's parenting. Sometimes people think that a dreamy, neglectful parent is safe, but in their own way, they are just as abusive as a physically abusive, violent parent is.


Dear Mrs. Web

My ten-year-old is difficult to be around sometimes. She has attitude problems and a sarcastic demeanor. When I correct her she becomes even more miserable. She is really casting a pall on things.

A very wise old man once told me that a great way to change a person's attitude is to send them out for a walk (If there is a blizzard out an exerciser is a good alternative). So at our house the miserable one has to go walk the dog. And the dog is walked until the attitude is changed. 

When the child returns my mental question is: "Self, is she 'done' yet?" If I don't see a substantial difference in posture, facial expression and attitude the dog gets walked some more. 

Like beach glass, sometimes you have to throw them back two or three times. After the poor attitude is walked out I make sure we reconnect. We talk, play a game, or do a chore together. I want to hear what's going on. Eventually the grumpy one opens up.



Dear Mrs. Web,

My neighbor has a three-year-old boy who seems to be having problems with his behavior. He is a terror when he visits, inappropriate, and flailing. He is just so different from any other children in my experience. Children avoid him. This is their first child. I am a mother of three. I think there is something wrong with the boy. How do I approach this with her?

I would stress your experience and ask her if he has had any sort of neurological evaluation. I would say in my kindest voice that if he were mine, I would request a referral from his medical could be nothing but it would not hurt. Then drop it. It is now in her ballpark. If she reacts negatively, remember she is probably overloaded. Give her grace.


Dear Mrs. Web,

I have a two-year-old son. He always has a tantrum when things donít go his way. I am having a hard time with him not listening or obeying. He is my first child. I just can't stand all the little things he does to upset me

My son is very busy and can never sit still for a minute unless a Barney video is playing. I really don't like him watching too much; sometimes I feel like Barney is raising my son. In addition, I am having a hard time potty training him. Help!

All two year olds tantrum when things donít go their way. This is normal; it's why they call them the "terrible twos." Some times they are three or four before they stop.

Your little guy thinks he is in the center of the universe. He honestly does not have the brainpower to understand why the cosmos does not rotate around his desires. Therefore he tantrums because it is the only way he knows to tell the world it had better knock it off and obey him. This is how two year olds think, it takes them a while to get past it. Tantrums usually scare the toddler even more than it exasperates the mom. They sometimes get so overwhelmed they canít stop.

Do not take it personally, heís not mad at you, he is mad at what you wonít let him do. Let him know you are there to hug and hold him when he is ready. I always gave my kids their teddies and huggie blankets so they could have them right near them when they stopped. I would sit nearby and wait until they were finished.

Two-year-old children are not consistently obedient. That is not what they do, and they also tire easily. Donít expect a lot from young children late in the day or before meals.

Little kids, like your young son, do not do things to make you upset. They do things to explore their surrounding and try things out. You get upset because you expect him to act differently than a two-year-old should. Relax, all moms do that at times.

Your two-year-old sounds like he has a lot of energy. The best thing to do with a high-energy child is to run it out of them. Out doors, walking, running biking, strollering -  whatever moves you - fresh air will be your friend. 

I have a friend who runs her three boys up to two hours every afternoon from three to five. She has the best aerobic workout any mom could want. Instead of hypnotizing your son with Barney, buy a secondhand sport stroller and walk. Go to the park and play. Ball, swing, slides, mazes, keep that little guy moving!

When things are really tough at my house in the toddler department, I make a cup of hot tea, grab a book to read and take the toddler, and stick him in a bubble bath with every possible bath toy available. Just a couple of inches of water. I sit there in the bathroom; I never would leave him for a moment, and read and sip tea while he splashes away. A friendís mother once said parents would have fewer problems with their kids if they gave them lots of long, fun baths, and I agree.  A busy afternoon, a late afternoon bath and early supper for a two-year-old, with bedtime following, can help give a mom the down-time she needs.

By the way, stop potty training your two-year-old. Put him into pull-ups. Donít worry about it. I always assume my kids would potty train sometime before they were married. That took the pressure off me. They all were dry when they were ready. Between 21/2 for my easiest girl to 41/2 for my little boy.

I had never spent any time with babies and children when I brought my first one home. I joined a weekly play group. I read a lot and leaned on many other moms for help. Thatís how women do it. I also recommend Your Two Year Old.  It is part of a series explaining normal development and abilities  through age fourteen.  Another tremendous book is Your Baby and Child : From Birth to Age Five.  Both very helpful.



Dear Mrs. Web, 

My sons are three and two years old. Overall, they are good children who know right from wrong and are obedient.

However, their latest game is 'being big men'. This involves picking up their chairs and table, their tricycles, their entire bedding etc. and throwing it in a huge pile in center of the room. They also pull all the books off their bookshelf, empty their toy boxes and empty all their puzzles into one big mess.

They do play nicely with their toys on occasion or when either my wife or I sit with them, but if left alone for any appreciable amount of time; they are like lightening and turn the house into a rubbish dump. As I said they are good children and help to tidy up afterward, but so many toys are getting broken. We also are spending much of our time tidying up rather than playing. 

How can we encourage the boys to 'play' rather than simply carry toys about and behave so destructively? T

The behavior is normal for their ages.   They are playing. When the indoor play is overly exuberant, I usually chalk it up to not enough exercise. In your situation, I would take the children out and run them at least an hour a day, seven days a week. They may need more than an hour. You should be seeing sound sleeping at night (except for teething intervals) and less frantic play at home.

Find interesting active things to do: walks on the beach, at the park, and at the playground. Go wherever you can have there energetic and sturdy bodies exercised. Use strollers, tricycles, wagons, and any other manner of locomotion they can handle.

I also help begin my children at play when needed. I give them some ideas such as "Nice truck, why donít you take your blocks and build it a garage? Or " I would take these items and those items and build a city or outer space station orÖ I donít play with them but I do give them ideas to jump off into play.

Remember to purchase toys that are open-ended. Capes and jackets instead of character dress up clothes that force them into the characterís role. Fill the toy boxes with building blocks, Legos, tiny trucks and cars and lots of construction equipment. Stuffed animals that are not cartoon characters but look like real animals, story tapes and their own cassette players. Donít buy toys that have the answers built in. Let the imagination roam!!

By the way, place puzzles, clay, paints, and games with pieces up high out of reach to be taken down by a parent and used with supervision. Until 6 or so many children use these item as bitty parts or missiles, when unsupervised. They canít help it; it is just too fun!



Dear Mrs Web,

My stepson is 11. I have been in his life for 7 years. He has begun to steal money from us, not a lot but I am concerned. We have spoken to him about it. 

He is a loner, who enjoys television and computer games. No friends at home but mixes well at school. He has been a good child until recently. 

He has a 6 year old sister who he "hates." He fights or hits her constantly. He is enormously jealous of her natural abilities and cheerful, attention-getting extroverted personality. I fear his stealing is a cry for attention. What should we do? 

I think you are right. The stealing is a symptom of his emptiness and neediness. He is crying for attention and help. He should also be evaluated for depression.

This boy is at the edge of puberty. In your shoes, I would advise putting him into family counseling. His father, you, and his mother will all need to learn how to help, guide, and direct this child. He needs attention.

It is time for the adults in his life to clear their calendars and focus on this child. It will be important to work with the counselor to help this child find a niche and a way to shine in life. You will be surprised at how positive attention will change a childís heart. He is at a good age to catch this isolating, angry behavior and turn it around. However, it is going to take time, attention, and commitment.



Dear Mrs. Web,

How should singles with children manage dating?

I think unwed and divorced parents need to separate their children completely from their dating life. Children think differently than adults and cannot understand spending time with someone then having them disappear. 

Remember how young ones react when their best friends play with others?? It is much harder for children to understand change than adults.  



Dear Mrs. Web,

I found your letter about children and thank you notes in your Archives. Do you actually mean that since my children donít write thank you notes and instead, call to thank their relatives for gifts they receive that they donít have good manners?

If someone made the commitment to send your children a gift, your child has an obligation to send them a thank you note. I think a child who has not been taught to write thank you notes to be poorly brought up.



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