Q. After 15 years of marriage, my wife and I are considering starting a family. She is 43 and I am 45. We waited this long due to health concerns, which have since been resolved. If we go through with this, the child -- assuming we don't have twins -- will likely be our one and only. Are there predictable problems associated with having a child at this stage of the game, and if so, what can we do to prevent them?
A. Concerning couples having children in their middle years, and especially when the child is going to be an "only," the most common stumbling block is the tendency to put the child at the center of attention within the family and treat him as if he is Holiness personified. As a consequence, the marriage begins to evaporate and be replaced by a "marriage" that is, in essence, a threesome. Because the most fundamental of boundaries -- that between marriage and child -- doesn't exist, it becomes virtually impossible for the parents to put any boundaries in place, including those that are essential to effective discipline.
I always advise that irrespective of their ages, people who are planning to have children should get on the same page well before the first child is born. Discussing and coming to proactive agreement on how bedtime, family meals and discipline will be handled will serve to prevent many of the most common parenting problems and make for a much happier parenthood (and childhood).
Q. My 10-year-old son recently taught my fianc & eacute;'s 6-year-old daughter to play "Spin the Bottle." When I asked my son where he learned this, he told me he'd seen it in a movie. I told him that he used poor judgment and that he will pick up lots of things at school and on television that he should not pass on to younger children. He's a well-behaved child, and this is the first real problem in a long time. My fianc & eacute; thinks I should have dealt more strictly with him. What are your thoughts?
A. Please reassure your fianc & eacute; that this is the stuff of childhood foolishness, nothing more. Playing "Spin the Bottle" at age 10, or having it taught to you at age 6 by a 10-year-old, does not presage later sexual promiscuity. Indeed, it is inappropriate, but it doesn't merit any more of a response from adults than the response you provided. It sounds to me like you said all the right things; furthermore, that you said enough, but not too much.
Good for you! Poor judgment, which your son was guilty of, is to be distinguished from a deliberate misdeed, and poor judgment can generally be corrected, in an otherwise well-behaved child, with a few well-chosen words.
XJohn Rosemond is a family psychologist. Questions of general interest may be sent to him at Affirmative Parenting, 1020 East 86th Street, Suite 26B, Indianapolis, IN 46240 and at his Web site: http://www.rosemond.com/).