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Ask Dr. Mike

June 9, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Ask Dr. Mike No Comments
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Dr. Mike,

My husband and I parent pretty well together; however, he has a difficult time saying “no” to our 2 year old son when our son wants something. So if we’re at a store or a restaurant, or anywhere for that matter, he will immediately relent to the escalating demands of our child and purchase items. Last night, for example, my husband purchased a rubber ball for our son while grocery shopping, even though our son has plenty of balls at home. I fear that we’re teaching our boy to be spoiled and entitled. I’ve brought my concerns to my husband who has told me that I am overreacting to his behavior.

M

M,

It is never too young to set limits with our children. By setting limits, your child will learn to know what is expected of him and others and what is realistic alongside his wants and needs. By over indulging or over gratifying your son’s needs, he will learn that there are no limits; that he can essentially have whatever he wants whenever he wants it if he complains long enough. Even at 2 year’s of age, your son should already be experiencing some frustration and tolerance to frustration, which in turn will assist him in his emotional and social development, as well as his behaviors. You write that you and your husband parent well together aside from this one area, so I would sit down with him and express your concerns again. This time, I would use concrete examples where your son has already experienced disappointment and frustration in different ways and has been better off for it. Some examples might include, the bedtime routine, using a baby bottle or pacifier, attending preschool, etc. Can you imagine if your son ended up in your bed every time he cried at night during his first year? As an infant, by allowing your son to cry for short periods of time, he learned to self-regulate and sleep successfully on his own and eventually through the night. By not always purchasing what your son desires, you are giving him the same opportunity to struggle, self regulate and master a developmental task.

Dr. Mike,

Our daughter recently graduated from college and has returned home to live with us until she finds a job. We are glad she’s home, and while she graduated with honors, and we are so very proud of her, we have some concerns about our current arrangement. It seems our daughter feels she can come and go as she pleases, with no curfew or real expectations. She also tends to sleep in late and does little to help out. We do see her looking for a job, but we already feel things need to change, especially if we are going to continue to pay for her gas, give her spending money and afford her free room and board. How did we get ourselves in this situation? Help!

A

A,

You should know that more and more young adults, a.k.a. Boomerang Kids, are returning home after college, so you and your husband are hardly alone. In fact, studies have found that the average age for young adults to leave home is now around 25 years of age. The average age for marriage is also increasing and is around 30 years of age. Not surprisingly, the economy appears to be the main factor for why our children are blooming later in life. The old pattern of getting your college degree, entering into a career, living independently and getting married is no longer occurring in the straight line it did for you or your husband’s generation.

I think the first thing you should do is sit down with your husband and come up with a well defined game plan since you both need to be in agreement with your expectations of your daughter before talking to her. I would then have a serious discussion with your daughter, which should involve expectations – chores, curfew, spending the night out, etc. You should also discuss setting a time limit for when your daughter will live independently. You might also consider asking your daughter to pay rent or at the very least contribute to the household expenses once she begins working. By encouraging financial accountability in your daughter, you are preparing her toward independent living. Your daughter may have some general expectations of you, and I would respectfully encourage you to listen to her and to find the compromise, of course within reason. You are clearly very proud of your daughter for her accomplishments, and she needs to continue to know that and to feel good about being home. With improved communication, your daughter’s return home shouldn’t be an emotional or financial drain. If handled well, this should be yet another positive chapter in your lives as parents.

Dr. Mike,

With pool season coming, I am getting nervous about showing my body at the pool in a bathing suit. I have three children and will be expected to be at the pool often, but I am very self-conscious about my weight. Last season, my discomfort with my body was so great that I wore a wrap and mostly read in the shade. I wanted to get in the pool and splash around with my children and husband but just couldn’t bring myself around to it. I know my children and husband were disappointed that I didn’t join them in the pool. My husband says he loves me just the way I am, but it’s hard to look at some of the other mom’s at the pool who are so fit.

H

H,

Everyone is insecure about something. For you it’s your body, and while I respect your body image anxieties, I also assure you that the fit mom’s at your pool have insecurities of their own. The most important thing for you to do is accept yourself for who you are with all of your strengths and weaknesses. Again, I respect your problem; however, I don’t respect the shame and embarrassment you feel about yourself. I recommend you challenge your negative thinking with an action plan that includes eating healthily and exercising. Of course, your action plan should be realistic with short term attainable weight loss goals. I would also gradually expose yourself to the thing you fear most – wearing a bathing suit in public. Perhaps you can begin by purchasing a new bathing suit and one you feel most comfortable in. I would then wear that bathing suit in the presence of your husband only (e.g., in your bedroom). You can then try wearing the bathing suit in the presence of your children (e.g., if you have a back deck, you can casually sun bathe on your deck). Once you have the confidence of wearing your bathing suit with your family, I recommend going to the pool when it isn’t too busy. By having an action plan and by gradually exposing yourself to others in your bathing suit, you should begin to experience yourself more positively and your shame and embarrassment should dissipate. With consistent effort, I am hopeful that you will grow to have a great summer in the pool with your husband and children!

Dr. Mike,

My husband and I recently discovered a six pack of beer in our 17 year old son’s closet. Needless to say, we were pretty upset. It’s the end of the school year, and we want him to get through it successfully, so we haven’t said anything to him yet. He’s a good student, athletic and is social and well liked. We truly don’t believe he has problem with drinking or drug use, but the beer came as a shock to us, so maybe we’re just naïve parents. Thanks for your help.

K

K,

I take it from your letter that you left the beer in his room? While I do not know your son or whether or not he has a drinking problem, I do know that 6 beers are more than enough to intoxicate him. I would confiscate the beer and have a talk with him immediately. As you write, you and your husband are upset with him, and I would let him know that. I would also maintain a calm manner so that you can listen to what he has to say for himself. Learn as much as you can about the beer – where he got it, if he’s consumed alcohol or drugs before, etc. The conversation with your son shouldn’t just be about punishment, since it is just as important for you to gauge whether or not your son is in a bad place or has a problem. If you and your husband do not feel that your son is being truthful with you, I recommend scheduling a consultation with a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Your son may or may not have a big problem, but a psychologist or psychiatrist should be able to get to the bottom of things quickly if you cannot. I would not put the conversation off until the end of the school year since I think the matter is serious enough to be handled now.

Dr. Michael Oberschneider “Dr. Mike” is the Founder and Director of Ashburn Psychological Services (APS), a private mental health clinic comprised of 12 MD and PhD level mental health clinicians. He and his team are here to serve our Loudoun children, teens and adults. To learn more about Dr. Mike and the APS team, visit: www.ashburnpsych.com or 703-723-2999.

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