Q. Our 29-month-old son is mostly well-behaved; however, when he doesn't get his way or becomes frustrated for whatever reason, he will usually swat whatever is in his way. Thankfully, this doesn't include me or his 15-month-old brother; rather, he will swat a table, chair, toy, book, or whatever is handy. Sometimes, when he swats, he will scream something incoherent. If I say "No!" he will look at me defiantly and do it again. He gets over his little tantrum fairly quickly, but not until he has swatted something and screamed. How should I deal with this? I have tried "time out," and he will stay put for as long as I tell him, but it doesn't really seem to help.
A. I recommend that you deal with your son's swatting by completely ignoring it. As it stands, he is not hurting anything other than perhaps his hand, but if you continue paying a lot of attention to this, he may soon begin throwing things, breaking things, and even turning his aggressions on his younger brother. Ignored, this too will likely pass. Otherwise, this molehill may quickly grow into a mountain.
Q. For various reasons, we recently moved our 4-year-old daughter to a new Pre-K program. The first couple of weeks were fine, but now she cries and doesn't want to go. She attends three days a week, from 8:30 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon. I'm a stay-at-home-mom, so she doesn't have to attend at all, but we thought it would be good for her to have social time with other kids her age. Her older sister, age 5, also attends kindergarten at the same school, and we have decided that both of them will continue their elementary education there. She says she wants to go back to her former school, which a good friend of hers attends. Will I be making a grave mistake by making her stay where she is or should I move her back to her old preschool for this school year and back to this new school for kindergarten? By the way, her teacher assures me that after I leave, she stops crying and within 15 minutes is playing and participating and seems to be enjoying herself.
A. Transitions of this sort often cause temporary upset in children this age. They usually adjust fine within a week or so, given adults who keep their cool. Obviously, your daughter's being upset has upset you and caused you to question your decision. Under those circumstances, she will continue to be upset for who knows how long. It is imperative that you take the lead here and begin acting like you have confidence in your decision. I would imagine that you have said everything there is to say about this to your daughter, so I urge you to simply tell her, "I've said everything I have to say about this. I've made my decision, and that's that, and we're not going to talk about it any more. I'm going to drop you off at school and leave. If you need to cry for a while, that's okay with me and with your teachers, but it's not going to change anything. I love you!" At that point, simply turn and walk away. In a situation of this sort, the best medicine is parents who act like they know what they are doing.
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/.