December 31, 2008

Sylvia Rimm On Raising Kids: United Parenting Is Crucial

Sylvia Rimm Q. I'm 50 years old and have children of my own, ages 20, 24, 25 and 28. My husband is also 50. His 11-year-old son lives with us, but his other two sons, ages 14 and 16, live with their mother. There's been much drama this year, and my husband and I are lost about what to do.

I got along with the youngest until he decided he wanted his father all to himself. So his father let him go live with his mother. She couldn't handle all three boys because the two youngest fight. We had a big enough house, so the 16-year-old came to live with us. We set rules and curfews. A month later the 14-year-old also came to live with us.

The 16- and 14-year-old got into trouble for drinking and drugs. They partied in our home while we were out of town. I told my husband they are no longer welcome, so they're presently living with their mom.

We had to give up our home due to a job change, and we're now staying with my husband's mother. The 11-year-old is back with us but isn't behaving well. He wants his own way. When I say no to something, like not being on the Internet after 10 p.m., he responds by asking “Why?” My husband thinks I'm hard on him. He let him run things before I came into the picture. To me, no means no. How do I deal with this child who thinks he's an adult? I've tried to tell him we're a family, and parents make the decisions. Counseling isn't available in this area of Alaska. My husband works every day but Sunday. I love my husband, but I'm not sure how to deal with his children.

A. Your husband's teenage children are no doubt the products of parents who weren't united and the 11-year-old will soon be in trouble as well if things don't improve. While I can't tell you if you're too strict or your husband is too easy, if you and your husband aren't united, the children will rule your roost. While many 11-year-olds ask why they can't stay up late, you typically only need answer by telling them they require enough sleep to concentrate in school and then usher them to bed. If your husband disagrees with that bedtime and considers it too strict, your stepson will ignore you or be disrespectful.

The place to start is by having a discussion with your husband. If you agree on rules that are reasonable, and your husband tells his son that he expects him to follow your rules, parenting will become doable. Otherwise, your stepson will assume his father doesn't respect you and therefore he shouldn't respect you either.

Now that you're staying with your husband's mother, you'll need her support as well. Can you imagine a basketball team working together with every team member taking a different strategy? That wouldn't work effectively and neither will a parenting team going in different directions. You'll require clear, reasonable rules that everyone understands should be enforced. When kids don't learn to respect parental boundaries, they grow up to ignore laws as well. A counselor could help you, but with no counselor or time available, Sundays will have to provide you time for serious talks. You can only parent your stepson if your husband is willing to be respectful and supportive.

November 15, 2008


Children Love to Be Ignored

John K. Rosemond Here's something you already know, but don't know you know: Children love to be ignored. Mind you, I'm not talking about neglect. I'm talking about ignored, as in being seen and not heard, out from underfoot, free to do their own thing without adults hovering neurotically over them making sure everything in their lives is all right and meaningful from moment to moment.

These days, the problem is that the overwhelming majority of American children have never experienced the benefits and blessings of being ignored; therefore, they don't know that being ignored is the preferable state of affairs. These children have been the center of attention in their families from day one. So, having learned that being the center of attention is essential to their well-being, they can't tolerate being ignored; therefore, they clamor in various ways for attention. In this regard, appearances can be deceiving. Some attention-addicts clamor for attention by being boisterous, interrupting conversations, and the like. Other attention-addicts clamor for attention by acting like they are pitiful. The latter get adults to hover over them, asking solicitous questions like, "Is everything all right?" and "Is there something you need to talk about?"

I asked a recent audience, "Raise your hand if, according to my meaning, you were ignored as a child." More than half the folks in attendance raised their hands. I then said, "Keep your hand up if you feel blessed to have been ignored." I didn't see any hands go down. The folks who did not raise a hand did not disagree. As kids, they simply had not been so benefited.

One reason today's parents experience the simple responsibility of raising children as stressful is they feel obligated to be giving their children near-constant attention. The more attention they give, the more attention their children want, and the more stressful parenting becomes. Not so long ago in America, children were not given a lot of attention and they were generally expected to not attract attention to themselves. I can attest, being a child of such expectation, that this is very liberating to a child. It is also very liberating to the child's parents. Today's parents can only imagine what it must be like to be able to read a book, do a crossword puzzle, carry on a conversation, fix a cup of tea, putter in the garden, or just sit back and close one's eyes for an hour without being interrupted.

Today's parents don't think they have the right to say to their children such mutually liberating things as "You don't need a mother/father right now, and I'm not going to be one" or "You don't have permission to ask me for anything for the next hour, and if you attract any attention to yourself during that time, you'll be in a mess of trouble with the meanest mom/dad in the world!" Because they have allowed themselves to be victimized by psychobabble, they believe that saying such things to their children will cause psychological distress. Indeed, for a child who has been burdened with too much attention, that's true. But distress and harm are horses of two different colors.

In this case, the harm is done by giving too much attention for too long. The distress of suddenly discovering that the entitlement program is over will be short-lived, after which everyone's quality of life will improve considerably. Freedom from hovering is every bit as wonderful as freedom from the compulsion to hover.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his website at

Copyright 2008, John K. Rosemond

*About the Author: Rosemond has written nine best-selling parenting books and is one of America's busiest and most popular speakers, known for his sound advice, humor and easy, relaxed, engaging style. In the past few years, John has appeared on numerous national television programs including 20/20, Good Morning America, The View, Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, Public Eye, The Today Show, CNN, and CBS Later Today.

Click here to visit Rosemond's Web site,

October 26, 2008

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Dr. James Dobson


QUESTION: My five-year-old is one of those rambunctious kids who gives us fits. There are times when I think he's trying to take over the entire family. I've never really understood him before but I guess he just doesn't want anyone telling him what to do.

DR. DOBSON: That is precisely how he feels. It is surprising how commonly this basic impulse of children is overlooked. Indeed, I think the really tough kids understand the struggle for control even better than their parents who are bogged down with adult responsibilities and worries. Children devote their primary effort to the power game while we grown-ups play only when we must.

Some time you might ask a group of children about the adults who lead them. They will instantly tell you, with one voice, which grown-ups are skilled in handling them and which aren't. Every schoolchild can name the teachers who are in control and those who are intimidated by kids.

One father overheard his five-year-old daughter, Laura, say to her little sister who was doing something wrong, "Mmmm, I'm going to tell Mommie on you. No! I'll tell Daddy. He's worse!" Laura had evaluated the authority of her two parents and concluded that one was more effective than the other.

This same child was observed by her father to have become especially disobedient and defiant. She was irritating other family members and looking for ways to avoid minding her parents. Her dad decided not to confront her directly but to punish her consistently for every offense until she settled down. Thus, for three or four days, he let Laura get away with nothing. She was spanked, stood in the corner and sent to her bedroom.

Near the end of the fourth day, she was sitting on the bed with her father and younger sister. Without provocation, Laura pulled the hair of the toddler who was looking at a book. Her dad promptly thumped her on the head with his large hand. Laura did not cry, but sat in silence for a moment or two, and then said, "Harrumph! All my tricks are not working!"

This is the conclusion you want your strong-willed son to draw: "It's too risky to take on Mom or Dad, so let's get with the program."

QUESTION: I am 21 and also still at home. I am very comfortable there, and I plan to stay with my parents for a long time. Why not? Tell me why you think it is unwise to go on living where it is cheaper and easier than getting out on your own.

DR. DOBSON: There are individual situations when it makes sense to live with your parents for a longer time, and maybe yours is one of them. I would caution you, however, not to overstay your welcome. That would not be in your best interests or those of your folks. Remaining too long under the parents' roof is not unlike an unborn baby who refuses to leave the womb. He has every reason to stay awhile. It is warm and cozy there. All his needs are met in that stress-free environment. He doesn't have to work or study or discipline himself.

But it would be crazy to stay beyond the nine months intended. He can't grow and learn without leaving the security of that place. His development will be arrested until he enters the cold world and takes a few whacks on his behind. It is to everyone's advantage, and especially to the welfare of his mother, that he slide on down the birth canal and get on with life.

So it is in young adulthood. Until you cut the umbilical cord and begin providing for yourself, you will remain in a state of arrested development. Remaining at home with Mom and Dad is the perpetuation of childhood. It may be time to put it behind you.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995( Questions and answers are excerpted from "Solid Answers" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

October 19, 2008

QUESTION: I've read that it is possible to teach four-year-old children to read. Should I be working on this with my child?

ANSWER: If a youngster is particularly sharp and if he or she can learn to read without feeling undue adult pressure, it would be advantageous to teach this skill. But that's a much bigger "if" than most people realize. There are some parents who find it difficult to work with their children without showing frustration over immaturity and disinterest.

Furthermore, new skills should be taught at the age when they are most needed. Why invest unnecessary effort trying to teach a child to read when he has not yet learned to cross the street, tie his shoes, count to ten or answer the telephone? If seems foolish to get panicky over preschool reading.

The best policy is to provide your children with many interesting books and materials, read to them every day, and answer their questions. You can then introduce them to phonics and watch the lights go on. It's fun if you don't push too hard.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995( Questions and answers are excerpted from "Solid Answers" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

September 28, 2008

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Dr. James Dobson


QUESTION: Why are kids so vulnerable? How do you explain this paralyzing social fear at an age when they are notoriously gutsy? There is very little else that scares them. Teenagers drive their cars like maniacs and the boys make great combat soldiers. Why is it that an eighteen-year-old can be trained to attack an enemy gun emplacement or run through a minefield, and yet he panics in the noisy company of his peers? Why are they so frightened of each other?

DR. DOBSON: I believe the answer is related to the nature of power and how it influences human behavior. Adolescent society is based on the exercise of raw force. That is the heart and soul of its value system. It comes in various forms.

For girls, there is no greater social dominance than physical beauty. A truly gorgeous young woman is so powerful that even the boys are often terrified of her. She rules in a high school like a queen on her throne, and in fact, she is usually given some honor with references to royalty in its name (Homecoming Queen, Homecoming Princess, All-School Queen, Sweetheart's Queen, Football Queen, etc.). The way she uses this status to intimidate her subjects is in itself a fascinating study in adolescent behavior.

Boys derive power from physical attractiveness, too, but also from athletic accomplishment in certain prescribed sports. Those that carry the greatest status are usually skilled in sports that exhibit sheer physical strength (football) or size (basketball.)

Do you remember what the world of adolescence was like for you? Do you recall the power games that were played -- the highly competitive and hostile environment into which you walked every day? Can you still feel the apprehension you experienced when a popular (powerful) student called you a creep, or a jerk, or he put his big hand in your face and pushed you out of the way? He wore a football jersey, which reminded you that the entire team would eat you alive if you should be so foolish as to fight back. Does the memory of the junior-senior prom still come to mind occasionally, when you were either turned down by the girl you loved, or were not asked by the boy of your dreams? Have you ever had the campus heroes make fun of the one flaw you most wanted to hide, and then threaten to mangle you on the way home from school?

Perhaps you never went through these stressful encounters. Maybe you were one of the powerful elite who oppressed the rest of us. But your son or daughter could be on the receiving end of the flak. A few years ago, I talked to a mother whose seventh-grade daughter was getting butchered at school each day. She said the girl awakened an hour before she had to get up each morning and lay there thinking about how she could get through her day without being humiliated.

Typically, power games are more physical for adolescent males than females. The bullies literally force their will on those who are weaker. That is what I remember most clearly from my own high school years. I had a number of fights during that era just to preserve my turf. The name of the game was power! And not much has changed for today's teenagers.

QUESTION: Should schoolchildren be required to wear clothes that they dislike?

DR. DOBSON: Generally not. Children are very concerned about the threat of being laughed at by their friends, and will sometimes go to great lengths to avoid that danger. Teens, particularly, seem to feel, "The group can't laugh at me if I am identical to them." From this perspective, it's unwise to make a child endure unnecessary social humiliation. Children should be allowed to select their own clothes, within certain limits of the budget and good taste.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995( Questions and answers are excerpted from "Solid Answers" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

September 08, 2008

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Dr. James Dobson


Question: The greatest power struggle in our home is over school assignments. Our fifth grader simply will not do them! When we try to force him to study, he sits and stares, doodles -- gets up for water and just kills time. Furthermore, we never know for sure what he's supposed to be doing. Why is he like that?

DR. DOBSON: Let me offer a short discourse on school achievement, based on years of interaction with parents. I served as a teacher, a high school counselor and a school psychologist. As such, I became very well-acquainted with children's learning patterns. The kind of self-discipline necessary to succeed in school appears to be distributed on a continuum from one extreme to the other.

Students at the positive end of the scale (I'll call them Type I) are by nature rather organized individuals who care about details. They take the educational process very seriously and assume full responsibility for assignments given. They also worry about grades, or at least, they recognize their importance. To do poorly on a test would depress them for several days. They also like the challenge offered in the classroom. Parents of these children do not have to monitor their progress to keep them working. It is their way of life -- and it is consistent with their temperaments.

At the other end of the continuum are the boys and girls who do not fit in well with the structure of the classroom (Type II). If their Type I siblings emerge from school cum laude, these kids graduate "Thank You, Laude!" They are sloppy, disorganized and flighty. They have a natural aversion to work and love to play. They can't wait for success and they hurry on without it. Like bacteria that gradually become immune to antibiotics, the classic underachievers become impervious to adult pressure. They withstand a storm of parental protest every few weeks and then, when no one is looking, they slip back into apathy. They don't even hear the assignments being given in school and seem not to be embarrassed when they fail to complete them. And, you can be sure they drive their parents to distraction.

For many, if not most, of these kids, their "battles" over schoolwork and homework represent a conflict between their basic temperament and the frustration experienced and transmitted to them by their parents. A strict, but not punitive approach in which accountability for schoolwork and homework is transferred back from the parents to the child will effectively motivate them to assume responsibility for their work for many of them. An excellent, practical description of this approach is provided by psychologist John Rosemond's "Ending the Homework Hassle" (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1990).

In unusually difficult cases, or when the previous approach has failed, the child may have a neurologically based learning disability or the complex of behaviors known as Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). The cause of ADHD is currently unknown, but may include neurological or biological factors in some cases. Stimulant medication has been found to be effective for relieving the attention and impulsivity features of ADHD behaviors, although this beneficial effect of these medications is not specific or limited to individuals with ADHD.

Preliminary research has indicated success for ADHD management with a potentially promising behavioral approach outlined by Dr. David Stein in his recent book "Ritalin is Not the Answer" (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999). Other authorities, including Dr. Edward Hallowell and Dr. John Ratey, writing in "Driven to Distraction" (Simon & Schuster, 1995), recommend the use of Ritalin or other medication for children with a confirmed diagnosis of ADHD. Your pediatrician will help you decide which approach to take.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995( Questions and answers are excerpted from "Solid Answers" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

September 01, 2008

Sylvia Rimm On Raising Kids: Writer Girl Wants To Be Advice Columnist

Sylvia Rimm Q. I'm a psychology major in college, but I've wanted to be a writer since I was young. Music is a big hobby of mine, and I've also been looking into art therapy.

I'm very confused about exactly what I want to do for a career. Psychology is very intriguing to me. I'm really good at music, but I love to write. I was hoping to find some direction. How does someone become an advice columnist? Should I double major? Do I need a doctorate? I haven't a clue, and no book or counselor has been able to help me. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

A. You've taken a good first step by becoming a psychology major and it would be helpful to take some journalism or writing classes as well. Learning to write well can help with every career, and psychologists do need to write reports and publish articles. Yes, you'll need to get a doctorate degree in psychology before you can actually get a license to practice, so you'll have quite a few years of schooling ahead, followed by two years of interning. When you're an intern, you'll at least, by then, be able to earn a small salary.

Before you actually become an advice columnist, you'll have to develop a specialty area that has public appeal, and you'll have to practice for some time, write some books or develop some other media experience. I actually began my advice column by volunteering to write free of charge for local newspapers. Once I established by credibility with newspaper audiences, I wrote letters to many syndicates. Incidentally, I received plenty of rejections and that wasn't easy. Finally, Creators Syndicate came through, and I've been writing for them for many years.

I can tell you that I love what I do. I enjoy my practice with families tremendously and I love answering the many hundreds, actually thousands, of letters I receive. And here's a surprise, I'm sure -- I answer every single letter. That takes a lot of time, but I'm very motivated because I know I can help many families.

Good luck with your efforts. You'll need to invest a great deal of time, but consider it all an adventure in helping to make the world a better place. In my research on the childhoods of over 1000 successful women, they were often motivated by their belief in being able to make a positive difference. While it's good to earn a reasonable salary, I believe nothing is more rewarding than knowing that you're helping others.

For free newsletters about See Jane Win® or How Jane Won, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or go to for more information.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

August 31, 2008

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Dr. James Dobson


QUESTION: Schools are asked to accomplish many things on behalf of our kids today. They are even expected to teach them how to have sex without spreading disease. What part of the curriculum would you give the greatest priority?

DR. DOBSON: Schools that try to do everything may wind up doing very little. That's why I believe we should give priority to the academic fundamentals -- what used to be called "readin', writin', and 'rithmetic." Of those three, the most important is basic literacy. An appalling number of students graduating from high school can't even read the employment page of the newspaper or comprehend an elementary book. Every one of those young men and women will suffer years of pain and embarrassment because of our failure. That misery starts at a very young age.

A tenth grade boy was once referred to me because he was dropping out of school. I asked why he was quitting and he said with great passion, "I've been miserable since first grade. I've felt embarrassed and stupid every year. I've had to stand up and read, but I can't even understand a second grade book. You people have had your last laugh at me. I'm getting out." I told him I didn't blame him for the way he felt; his suffering was our responsibility.

Teaching children to read should be "Job One" for educators. Giving boys and girls that basic skill is the foundation on which other learning is built. Unfortunately, millions of young people are still functionally illiterate after completing 12 years of schooling and receiving high school diplomas. There is no excuse for this failure.

Research shows that every student, with very few exceptions, can be taught to read if the task is approached creatively and individually. Admittedly, some can't learn in group settings because their minds wander and they don't ask questions as readily. They require one-on-one instruction from trained reading specialists. It is expensive for schools to support these remedial teachers, but no expenditure would be more helpful. Special techniques, teaching machines, and behavior modification techniques can work in individual cases. Whatever is required, we must provide it.

Furthermore, the sooner this help can be given, the better for the emotional and academic well-being of the child. By the fourth or fifth grades, he or she has already suffered the humiliation of reading failure.

QUESTION: My older child is a great student and earns straight A's year after year. Her younger sister, now in the sixth grade, is completely bored in school and won't even try. The frustrating thing is that the younger girl is probably brighter than her older sister. Why would she refuse to apply her ability like this?

DR. DOBSON: There could be many reasons for her academic disinterest, but let me suggest the most probable explanation. Children will often refuse to compete when they think they are likely to place second instead of first. Therefore, a younger child may avoid challenging an older sibling in his area of greatest strength. If Son Number One is a great athlete, then Son Number Two may be more interested in collecting butterflies. If Daughter Number One is an accomplished pianist, then Daughter Number Two may be a boy-crazy goof-off.

This rule does not always hold true, of course, depending on the child's fear of failure and the way he estimates his chances of successful competition. If his confidence is high, he may blatantly wade into the territory owned by big brother, determined to do even better. However, the more typical response is to seek new areas of compensation which are not yet dominated by a family superstar.

If this explanation fits the behavior of your younger daughter, then it would be wise to accept something less than perfection from her school performance. Every child need not fit the same mold -- nor can we force them to do so.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995( Questions and answers are excerpted from "Solid Answers" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

August 24, 2008

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Dr. James Dobson


QUESTION: My teenage son is becoming increasingly difficult to get along with. Isn't there some way to avoid this blackout period and the other stresses associated with the adolescent voyage?

DR. DOBSON: Not with some teenagers, perhaps not with the majority. Tension occurs in the most loving and intelligent of families. Why? Because it is driven by powerful hormonal forces that overtake and possess boys and girls in the early pubescent years. I believe parents and even some behavioral scientists have underestimated the impact of the biochemical changes occurring in puberty. We can see the effect of these hormones on the physical body, but something equally dynamic is occurring in the brain. How else can we explain why a happy, contented, cooperative twelve-year-old suddenly becomes a sullen, angry, depressed thirteen-year-old? Some authorities would contend that social pressure alone accounts for this transformation. I simply don't believe that.

The emotional characteristics of a suddenly rebellious teenager are rather like the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome or severe menopause in women, or perhaps a tumultuous mid-life crisis in men. Obviously, dramatic changes are going on inside! Furthermore, if the upheaval were caused entirely by environmental factors, its onset would not be so predictable in puberty. The emotional changes I have described arrive right on schedule, timed to coincide precisely with the arrival of sexual maturation. Both characteristics, I contend, are driven by a common hormonal assault. Human chemistry apparently goes haywire for a few years, in some more than others, affecting mind as much as body.

QUESTION: I have a two-year-old boy who is as cute as a bug's ear and I love him dearly, but he nearly drives me crazy. He throws the most violent temper tantrums and gets into everything. Why is he like this and are other toddlers so difficult?

DR. DOBSON: Your description of your toddler comes right out of the child development textbooks. That time of life begins with a bang (like the crash of a lamp or a porcelain vase) at about eighteen months of age and runs hot and heavy until about the third birthday. A toddler is the most hard-nosed opponent of law and order, and he honestly believes the universe circles around him. In his cute little way, he is curious and charming and funny and lovable and exciting and selfish and demanding and rebellious and destructive. Comedian Bill Cosby must have had some personal experience with toddlers. He is quoted as saying, "Give me two hundred active two-year-olds and I could conquer the world."

Children between fifteen and thirty-six months of age do not want to be restricted or inhibited in any manner, nor are they inclined to conceal their opinions. Bedtime becomes an exhausting, dreaded ordeal each night. They want to play with everything in reach, particularly fragile and expensive ornaments. They prefer using their pants rather than the potty, and insist on eating with their hands. And most of what goes in their mouths is not food. When they break loose in a store, they run as fast as their little legs will carry them. They pick up the kitty by its ears and then scream bloody-murder when scratched. They want mommy within three feet of them all day, preferably in the role of their full-time playmate. Truly, the toddler is a tiger -- but a precious one.

I hope you won't get too distressed by the frustrations of the toddler years. It is a very brief period of development that will be over before you know it. With all its challenges, it is also a delightful time when your little boy is at his cutest. Approach him with a smile and a hug. But don't fail to establish yourself as the boss during this period. All the years to come will be influenced by the relationship you build during this 18-month window.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995( Questions and answers are excerpted from "Solid Answers" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

August 21, 2008

Sylvia Rimm On Raising Kids: Bullying Is Hard To Stop

Sylvia Rimm Q. My son is 14 and going into the eighth grade. He was faced with a lot of bullying issues this past year.

Although the school has a "no tolerance" policy, we find they do not stick to their own policy and rules. If my son reported something, the incident was minimized. It was often "they didn't mean it," or "they were just fooling around; they're friends."

I called the Department of Education, and they said if the school was not following their own rules, I could file a complaint. However, I found that when I called the school, they said, "He bumped into him; he did not hit him," and "Middle school is a difficult time."

We finally told the school that we will go to the police and file charges if the bullying did not stop. I don't understand this, and it's a very stressful environment for my son to learn in. Yes, he does go to a psychologist and also to an advocate for his learning disabilities.

My son says the students quickly know who's "snitching." They chant, "Snitches are bitches, and bitches get stitches." He said students will do and say things in classes or hallways, and teachers won't do anything about it. How is this acceptable? What can he do, and what would you suggest for next year?

A. Bullying is at its worst during the middle school years, but for a school that has a "no tolerance" policy, it's important to communicate about your son's victimization and that shouldn't be considered "snitching." In light of the real violence that has taken place in schools by students who have been bullied, schools recognize the damage that bullying creates.

Schools that have anti-bullying programs are successful in reducing, but not eradicating, bullying. There are two ways to approach your son's problem. Both should take place simultaneously. One is by identifying the leader of the bullying, if there is one, and counseling that leader may help your son and others. The other approach is to teach your son appropriate responses: when to ignore, when to give back a smart response and how to find friends so he can feel supported. It's possible, from your descriptions, that your son is overreacting and reporting minor teasing, but I doubt that. When you meet with the school for your son's Individual Educational Plan (IEP), you can add learning to minimize and cope with bullying to his goals, and this can effectively bring him some support from teachers.

Your role as parent is to remind him that he's a good person and that bullies often have problems of their own and some times end up in jail. You need to keep him busy with extracurricular and family activities. When you take a trip or visit, ask your son to bring a friend along so that he starts to feel especially close to at least a couple of other kids. For more suggestions on bullying, you can read my book "Growing Up Too Fast" (Rodale, 2005).

For free newsletters about bullying or "Growing Up Too Fast," send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or visit for more parenting information.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

August 16, 2008

Daughter and Deadbeat Dad
John K. Rosemond

Question: My 13-year-old daughter's father is irresponsible, to say the least. In addition to being a lousy co-parent, he frequently cancels visits and is often obviously lying about the reasons. Nonetheless, I've told her never to speak badly of him to or even around other people. There are times when I even end up defending him, sort of. When she questions his love, I tell her that of course he loves her. When he misses a visit, I tell her that if he gave things more thought, he'd do better. I tell her to talk to him about all this stuff and she says she can't. Sometimes her venting is rather sarcastic and ridiculing. I fear her power in relationships with males will suffer from her experience with bio-dad. Should I listen and say nothing or insist she speak respectfully of him if at all?

Answer: First, I caution you against trying to predict the future, especially your daughter's psychological future. Whether her dad straightens out his act or not, her adult relationships with men may be fine. Then again, girls grow up in healthy families with very adequate fathers and for reasons unknown fall into very dysfunctional relationships as adults. Today's parents seem to think that parenting produces the child. The fact is, parenting is an influence on how a child turns out, but it is just one of many influences. That's why some kids from healthy families go astray as adults, and some kids from very unhealthy families do just fine as adults. Keep focused on now -- not the hypothetical later.

You've obviously had numerous conversations with your daughter concerning her father's lack of parental responsibility and her very legitimate feeling that she's been betrayed. I applaud you for doing your best to keep his image as tarnish-free as possible, but she's old enough now to know that you're just saying what you feel you have to say. With the best of intentions, you are unwittingly feeding fuel to the fire of her anger and resentment. So, I think it's time to have what I refer to as the "final conversation."

Sit down with her when the proverbial iron is cold, when the issue of her dad's unreliability is not ablaze, and say words along these lines: "Over the years, you and I have had many, many conversations about your dad's behavior and your feelings about him. It has occurred to me that in the course of all these talks, we have talked about everything concerning your dad that we can possibly talk about. So, I've made an executive decision. I've decided that we are not ever going to talk about your dad again. The only exception would be if he does something he's never done before, like he spell s your name wrong on your birthday card. Otherwise, if you come to me wanting to talk about your dad, and it's same-old same-old, I'm simply going to tell you that we've had that conversation before, and I have nothing new to say. And you're going to have to deal with it, which is what you're eventually going to have to do anyway." And I'd let that be the end of it.

More than anything, your daughter needs to begin moving on. That process will begin with her accepting that her dad is considerably less than what she hoped for, that he probably will never step up to the plate of parenthood in any sort of adequate fashion, and that complaining about him is accomplishing nothing. She needs someone to help her get "unstuck," and you're that person.

Copyright 2008, John K. Rosemond

August 13, 2008

Sylvia Rimm On Raising Kids: More Than A Potty Training Problem

Sylvia Rimm Q. We are at our wits' end as to what to do regarding our son's pooping issues. Our son is 9, and STILL cannot manage to make it to the toilet. His underwear is always dirty with poop. This has been an issue since he was a toddler. These cycles come and go and do not seem to be related to events in his life. The times with and without poop issues are not consistent either, so we never know when an "accident" will happen. When he is having trouble pooping in the toilet we have tried various reward and punishment systems. We have discussed it with numerous pediatricians and all have said it is a behavior issue. I consulted a child psychologist when he was age 6 and was told he would grow out of it. Well, he is 9, and it's still an issue. This is a source of embarrassment for him. When asked why he does it, he replies with "I don't know" or "I was playing" or "I forgot." It seems he is trying to tell us what we want to hear. What more can we do to get this under control? I am so sick and tired of washing poopy underwear and having my kid be the smelly one on the block.

A. Your 9-year-old son has more than a potty training problem. If his pediatrician is still saying it's not physical, you need to try a new child psychologist. Growing out of it may have been an appropriate prediction by the first psychologist when your son was 6, but by age 9, there are likely to be other issues. There may be family dynamics, peer pressure or anxiety issues related to his persistent problem. Certainly no 9-year-old wants to be known for his bad smells.

Bowel movements usually happen very regularly at approximately the same time of day, thus making it easier to teach a child to be sensitive to "forgetting" or "playing." The child psychologist will have to try to get beyond the "I don't know." If your son's on a no-problem cycle, don't even bring the topic up, but if another difficult cycle begins, get in to see a psychologist immediately.

In addition, it would be good to keep a diary to list the foods your son eats daily. Sometimes strange bowel habits are at least temporarily allergy-related. Dairy products and orange juice are occasional problems. Because his problem comes and goes, it is less likely to be anything he eats regularly. Of course, there could also be stressors like tests or sports or peer issues that he doesn't discuss, so add potential activities or problems to your diary of possible causes. Try not to talk about the issue a lot to your son or your attention and concern may cause him to lose confidence in his ability to control his problem.

For free newsletters about raising amazing boys, or about the principles of parenting, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or read "Raising Amazing Boys" at

August 06, 2008

Sylvia Rimm On Raising Kids: Don’t Fight This One

Sylvia Rimm Q. My daughter is a junior and a talented trumpet player. The high school she attends has a big music performance/drama/dinner production. She was told she had to pull all her hair back and put it in a bun because there weren't any girls in bands during the 1930s and '40s (the time frame of the production) and that was why she had to wear her hair that way. I'd like to know if you think I am crazy to fight this. It takes away the girls' femininity and they all look like homely, old men in the huge white tux jackets they have to wear. I am fighting about this for all the girls, not just my daughter. If the singers and dancers and other girls in the performance can wear their hair nicely why can't the girls in the band? What do you think about this issue? Thanks for your comments.

A. Your daughter may be disappointed in her part in this show, but I can assure you there were no girl trumpet players in bands in the '30s and '40s. And if a band let one in as a temporary substitute, she had to wear pants and hide her hair in order not to embarrass the band.

If your daughter were in a play about signing the Declaration of Independence, you would expect her to dress as a man, because women didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence. Times have changed, but this performance is not only a musical performance. It's also a drama and an educational performance; thus, authentic costumes that represent that era are required. There’s much to be learned from this experience. It seems like an excellent opportunity for students, and even their audience, to understand how far women have come and to appreciate an earlier period in history. You should applaud the teachers for their creativity. Perhaps as a final note, as the band does its bows, the girls in the band could let their hair down with a smile and a sign that says "Progress for Women." I do hope the program describes the difference in the times to its audience and that your daughter can celebrate her performance with the entire cast afterward and return to her more feminine attire.

In my research on the childhoods of successful women, women in symphony orchestras described how when they first began playing for orchestras, they had to sit on inside chairs, tie their hair back and wear pants so audiences would not realize that the orchestra had to stoop so low as having to admit women. It wasn’t until blind auditions behind curtains were initiated that women received fair opportunities to play in orchestras. Please share that story with your daughter as well and shout, "Bravo" for women’s progress.

For free newsletters about See Jane Win®, How Jane Won, and See Jane Win® for Girls, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or go to for more information.

Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

August 03, 2008

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Dr. James Dobson


QUESTION: Our school psychologist said she thinks our son is suffering from childhood depression. My goodness! The kid is only nine years old. Is it reasonable that this could be his problem?

DR. DOBSON: We used to believe that depression was exclusively an adult problem, but that understanding is changing. Now we're seeing signs of serious despondency in children as young as five years old.

Symptoms of depression in an elementary school child may include general lethargy, a lack of interest in things that used to excite him or her, sleep disturbances, chewed finger nails, loss of appetite, and violent emotional outbursts. Other common reactions are stomach complaints and low tolerance to frustration of any kind.

If depression is a problem for your child, it is only symptomatic of something else that is bothering him. Help him or her verbalize feelings. Try to anticipate the explanation for sadness and lead the youngster into conversations that provide an opportunity to ventilate. Make yourself available to listen, without judging or belittling the feelings expressed. Simply being understood is soothing for children and adults, alike.

If the symptoms are severe or if they last more than two weeks, I urge you to take the advice of the school psychologist or seek professional help for your son. Prolonged depression can be destructive for human beings of any age and is especially dangerous to children.

QUESTION: As an advocate of spankings as a disciplinary tool, don't you worry about the possibility that you might be contributing to the incidence of child abuse in this country?

DR. DOBSON: Yes, I do worry about that. One of my frustrations in teaching parents has been the difficulty in achieving a balance between permissiveness and oppression. The tendency is to drift toward one extreme or another. Let it never be said that I favor harshness of any kind with children. It can wound the spirit and inflict permanent scars on the psyche.

No subject distresses me more than the phenomenon of child abuse which is so prevalent in North America today. There are millions of families out there in which crimes against children are being committed day after day. It is hard to believe just how cruel some mothers and fathers can be to defenseless, wide-eyed kids who don't understand why they are hated. I remember the terrible father who regularly wrapped his small son's head in the sheet that the boy had wet the night before. Then he crammed the tot upside down into the toilet bowl for punishment. I also think of the disturbed mother who cut out her child's eyes with a razor blade. That little girl will be blind throughout her life, knowing that her own mother deprived her of sight!

Unthinkable acts like these are occurring every day in cities and towns around us. In fact, it is highly probable that a youngster living within a mile or two of your house is experiencing abuse in one manner or another.

Brian G. Fraser, attorney for the National Center for Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, has written: "Child abuse ... once thought to be primarily a problem of the poor and downtrodden ... occurs in every segment of society and may be the country's leading cause of death in children."

Let me say with the strongest emphasis that aggressive, hard-nosed, "Mommie Dearest" kinds of discipline are destructive to kids and must not be tolerated. Given the scope of the tragedy we are facing, the last thing I want to do is to provide a rationalization and justification for it. I don't believe in harsh discipline, even when it is well-intentioned. Children must be given room to breathe and grow and love. But there are also harmful circumstances at the permissive end of the spectrum, and many parents fall into one trap in an earnest attempt to avoid the other.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995( Questions and answers are excerpted from "Solid Answers" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

August 02, 2008

John Rosemond

Is it odd for a child to play with a much younger boy?

John Rosemond

Question: My 6th-grade son sometimes plays with a neighbor boy who is nearly four years younger and in the 2nd grade. In past years when they were younger they played almost daily, sometimes along with my 8-year-old daughter. I have been feeling increasingly uneasy about the relationship. Wouldn't it be better for them to play with children who their own ages? Should I step in, or should I let the kids make the decision?

Answer: I don't believe that it is necessarily inappropriate or risky for a preadolescent child to have a play relationship with a child three or four years younger, especially when the friendship is several years in the making. Relationships of this nature should be judged individually, not on the basis of the age difference alone. The likelihood is that these two boys will begin to drift apart over the next few years. In the meantime, I encourage you to be watchful, but to leave well enough alone.

Question: Despite the fact that our 5-year-old daughter has an end of July birthday, my husband and I decided she was ready for kindergarten. The first week went great. She happily skipped to school. By the end of the second week, however, she is crying in the morning, showing much anxiety about school, and insisting that I walk her into her classroom. At her request I am also having lunch with her. At lunch she seems fine, and her teacher says she is doing just fine. How do I handle this morning behavior and should I not promise to come for lunch?

Answer: It would seem that as is the case with most kids who are apprehensive about going to school in the morning, your daughter's anxiety quickly disappears as soon as she is in the classroom. The problem is not school but the transition between home and school. As soon as she's in the security of the classroom, with an adult she trusts, she's fine. In that light, I'd recommend that you arrange to have the teacher meet you at the car and escort your daughter from there. I would predict that within a few weeks your daughter will again be skipping happily into school on her own. As regards lunch, I'd tell her that you and the teacher have decided that you can come one or two days a week, but not every day. Decide what days those will be at the beginning of the week. By the way, I don't think that your daughter's anxiety is indication that you made a mistake sending her to kindergarten this year. The research is clear that late-birthday boys have much more difficulty in school than late-birthday girls

Question: The other day, a large moving van was parked at the entrance to the school my two children attend. The people unloading the van were inmates from the county jail, and the person supervising them was not armed! Am I just being overprotective or am I right to be shocked and concerned?

Answer: First, the statistics indicate that children are more likely to be harmed by someone they know and trust-a kindly neighbor-than a complete stranger. Second, there is no evidence that the average criminal is sent into a frenzy at the sight of young children. Third, the rare person is in jail because of child molestation; most inmates are in the slammer for things like stealing cars or dealing drugs. Fourth, I'd be reasonably certain that your county law enforcement people would have more sense than to put a child molester in close proximity to children. So, yes, I think you're making a mountain out of a molehill. Feel better now?

*About the Author: John Rosemond has written nine best-selling parenting books and is one of America's busiest and most popular speakers, known for his sound advice, humor and easy, relaxed, engaging style. In the past few years, John has appeared on numerous national television programs including 20/20, Good Morning America, The View, Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect, Public Eye, The Today Show, CNN, and CBS Later Today.

Click here to visit Rosemond's Web site,

July 30, 2008

Sylvia Rimm On Raising Kids: Addiction Recovery Takes Time

Sylvia Rimm Q. I've been divorced for 10 years. My daughter was caught intoxicated and smoking pot. She was living with her mother and stepfather, but in the past she had asked to live with me. I said yes with the condition that she go into a program called Eckerd Youth Alternatives for six months.

After 10 years, my daughter has come home to me. This newfound fatherhood and full-time parenting brought out new feelings within me that were waiting to feel something very special.

When I visited her in November, she pleaded with me to let her come home for Thanksgiving. I said yes and then realized I had made an emotional decision and told her she could not come home yet. I then agreed to February, but Eckerd suggested that she finish the program. When I got home, I felt alone and scared with my decision. I thought if it took longer to finish the program and helped her stay away from what she had been doing and put her life in a better and safer direction, there was no contest. So, I told her the news.

I seem to be stuck. I want to trust my daughter, believe her, and bring her home. My fear is if she comes home, she'll start up where she left off. Have you ever heard anything about Eckerd Youth programs? Knowing she's in one of the best youth programs would make me feel better.

A. I can tell you that drug addiction is serious and needs to be treated seriously. I don't know the Eckerd Youth Alternatives program, but you can find out more information by asking about its success rate and contacting your local social services agency for references on the program. If your daughter truly learns to live soberly, she will thank you eventually for insisting she complete the program. If you find corroboration for the quality of the program, I recommend you follow the program's guidelines for when your daughter graduates and lives at home with you again.

For free newsletters about growing up too fast for either tweens or teens, send a large, self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094, or go to for more parenting information.

Katie Fitch, 3 yr. old,

Please remember me in your prayers...

Katie Fitch

Katie is a beautiful three year old little girl who has just been diagnosed with hepatoblastoma. This is an extremely rare form of liver cancer that affects about one in every million children born in the United States every year.

The tumor is so large that it cannot be removed until chemotherapy has been given to try to shrink it. No child should have to endure what she is going through. Please remember Katie and her family in your prayers that God may give them the strength to endure this most difficult time in their lives.

A little more of Katie's story:

Katie's battle with cancer began Saturday, June 21, 2008 . She told her mommy that she had a 'tummy ache' and she wanted to lay down and take a nap. She did not have any energy the rest of the day nor did she want to eat. Sunday, June 22, 2008 , she again complained of a 'tummy ache'. Katie's mom, Stacie, felt her stomach and noticed a large lump. She was fearful that Katie may have a hernia so she took her to the doctor the following Monday morning.

The doctor on duty called in the head of pediatrics to examine Katie to confirm his fears. The head of pediatrics called them all to his office and gave them the bad news. He told them that he felt with a 90% surety that it was cancer. He then said a prayer with this family and immediately referred Katie to the Children's Hospital at the Medical University of South Carolina . Tuesday morning, Katie underwent a barrage of tests including blood work and CT Scans. This confirmed her diagnosis.

The tumor is so large that it is pressing on her stomach, kidneys, lungs, and intestine. This tumor cannot be removed until she has undergone chemotherapy to try to shrink it so that it can be safely removed without harming her. Friday morning, June 26, 2008, Katie will have the first of many surgeries to biopsy the tumor and place a Port-A-Cath for the administration of the chemotherapy. Her battle with cancer is just beginning.

Please imagine how you would feel if this were your baby enduring such a life threatening illness and say a prayer for Katie and her family. The power of prayer is tremendous and perhaps, through enough prayers, our hopes for a miracle will be answered and Katie will return home with her family to live a long, happy, healthy, and productive life as active as any normally healthy child could have.

If you pass this prayer request to just 10 people, and they pass it to 10 more, and they pass it to 10 more, it reaches 1000 people with a few clicks of the mouse. Prayer works.

July 29, 2008

Kids II infant rattles recalled

WASHINGTON (UPI) -- The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a voluntary recall of Kids II infant rattles because of a choking hazard.

The rattles, imported from China by Kids II Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga., include antenna attached to a bee figure. The tip of the antenna can detach, posing a choking hazard to small children, CPSC said in a statement.

About 19,000 of the recalled rattles were sold between January 2008 and June 2008 for between $2 and $3 each.

The rattles are a soft toy shaped like a bee with a yellow head and a stripped, green body. Recalled items include model No. 8534 with the date code PA8.

Consumers were advised to take the pacifiers away from children and contact Kids II for a free replacement.

Consumers can also call Kids II at at 877-325-7056 for more information.

Copyright 2008 by United Press International

July 28, 2008

Sylvia Rimm On Raising Kids: Drug Seller A Poor Father
Sylvia Rimm

Q. My 30-year-old daughter had this fantasy about her ex-boyfriend from high school. They got together and had a son. This guy refused to sign the birth certificate because she wouldn't give their son a name he wanted. He doesn't work, is covered in tattoos and offers no financial or emotional support. He's a social outcast and uses and sells drugs. Why does my daughter constantly say that she doesn't want to disallow this loser in her son's life? She says she is afraid that in later years her son will judge her about it. My real question is -- what do I say to such a stupid excuse? She is a highly educated woman and very well-liked, but her taste in men is just horrible.

A. Your daughter undoubtedly knows her son's father from better days and must still be hoping he'll reform. There's no doubt that a druggie is a poor role model for her son. Your daughter may feel confused because, in most cases, fathers are so important to their children that she doesn't want to cut her son off from his father. I do agree with you on this one, if your factual information is correct -- better no father at all than one that uses and sells drugs. If Father reforms and changes his life more positively, your daughter can promise to open the door to a relationship again. Hopefully, there are other more positive male family members or friends who can be role models for your grandson. Teachers, ministers, coaches and scout leaders can often be inspiring role models, and moms and grandmoms can do their share in raising boys to success and confidence.

For a free newsletter with advice on single parenting, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or go to for more parenting information.