Richard Greenberg, author of Raising Children That Other People Like to be Around.
Topic: Five common-sense musts from a father’s point of view.
Issues: The S-M-A-R-T approach to parenting: Set an example; Make the rules; Apply the rules; Respect Yourself; Teach in all things.
Tim Jordan, author of Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women.
Topic: Understanding and guiding the transformation of adolescent girls
Issues: There has been a lot of attention paid to the rising levels of depression, anxiety, cutting, and relationship aggression in girls over the past few decades. But what if those issues aren’t the problem? What if we got it all wrong? In this show, we speak with one of the country’s leading experts on girls and find out what’s really going on with girls as they make the normal transformation from girl to woman.
Richard Greenberg, author of Raising Children That Other People Like to be Around.
Dear Mr. Dad: I was over at a friend’s house and was surprised to see her spanking her 4-year old. I’ve never hit any of my kids and don’t have any plans to do so. But after taking an informal poll of other parents I know, I was surprised to find that I’m actually in the minority. Should I rethink my no-spanking policy?
A: Please don’t. There’s some debate about whether an actual majority of parents spank their children. For example, one study found that while 62 percent of parents in the South admit to having spanked their children, only 41 percent of parents in the rest of the country have. And according to a recent study done by researchers at Columbia University, 57 percent of moms and 40 percent of dads engaged in spanking when their children were three years old, and 52 percent of moms and 33 percent of dads were still spanking when their kids were five. But let’s not quibble over semantics. The point is that way, way too many parents are hitting their children—and it needs to stop.
I know I’m going to hear from a lot of readers who will swear up and down that spanking works. And they’re right. Spanking definitely gets the child’s attention and will usually get him or her to immediately do what you say. That’s great in the moment, but what about future moments?
Dear Mr. Dad: My 12-year-old daughter won’t shower, she won’t brush her teeth, and she wears the same clothes every day—and sometimes even sleeps in them. Honestly, she’s not very pleasant to be around. Is this normal? Either way, how can I motivate her to be a little cleaner?
This probably won’t help you feel any better—and it certainly won’t do anything about the smell emanating from your sweet daughter—but what you’re describing is very common among pre-teens. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix.
There are a number of possible explanations. First, disregarding personal hygiene is sometimes a symptom of depression. Think about other areas of her life: Does she seem withdrawn socially? Have her friendships changed? Are her grades dropping? Have her diet or sleep patterns changed? If any of those are true, call her pediatrician. He or she will know whether to call in the mental heal professionals. Plus, a few words about showering from a non-family member might make a difference.
Second, she may be too busy—at least in her mind. From your perspective, she probably spends way too much time on her computer or her phone—time that might be better spent with a bar of soap. From her perspective, she’s just staying in touch with her friends.
Third, she may be trying to get your attention. Clearly, she has.
Fourth, this could be a power play. At 12, your daughter is relatively powerless. You may get her involved in family decisions and you may give her choices, but the final decisions are yours. Not bathing, brushing teeth, or wearing clean clothes might be your daughter’s way of exerting some control. The same dynamic is common among kids who are obese or who have eating disorders. Forcing a child to eat, stop eating, or get in the shower is nearly impossible. As a parent who’s been exactly where you are, I’d much rather be worrying about a hygiene problem than a potentially life-threatening eating disorder.
Here’s what you can do to help.
- One common pre-teen and teen refrain is “you just don’t understand me!” There’s some truth there. Pre-teens have a lot going on in their head and we rarely ask about it. A few non-judgmental questions will show her that you care and might help you get to know her better.
- Adolescence is a time when kids want to be liked and fit in. It’s also prime time for bullying and teasing. Nobody gets picked on, bullied, or socially excluded more than kids who are visibly or olifactorily different. Explaining to your daughter that she may be jeopardizing her social life might make a difference.
- Do nothing. Actually being excluded or teased by her peers will get the point across more effectively than anything you say.
- Have her read the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle story, “The Radish Cure.” The fictional Mrs. Piggle Wiggle comes up with delightfully creative solutions to parenting problems. In this story, she recommends to the parents of a child who refuses to bathe that they wait until their little darling is covered by half an inch of dirt, then, when she’s asleep, plant radish seeds. Seeing the sprouts was all it took to drive the child into the bath.
- Don’t make threats. Threatening to take away her phone or Internet time may make the problem worse. If you absolutely must make a threat, be sure you can follow through. In a moment of frustration, I told one of my daughters that I wouldn’t take her to school the next day unless she showered and brushed her teeth. Dumb move on my part.
Back in 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required that a particular class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) carry a “black box” warning that for children and teens, side effects may include an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. Sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?
But then, along comes the Law of Unintended Consequences, which revealed that since that FDA mandate came out, doctors wrote 20 percent fewer prescriptions for SSRIs (which include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Celexa) for their teen patients. (Adult use of SSRI antidepressants went down by 14 perent—and they weren’t even covered by the FDA warnings). At the same time, teen suicide attempts rose by about the same amount—21.7 percent for teens, 33.7 percent for young adults under 25.
Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have been trying to have a baby for two years. Both of us have undergone lots of testing but the doctors still don’t know what the problem is. Throughout all of this, dozens of people—mostly friends and family, but also doctors, nurses, lab techs, and others—have come up to me and either offered some kind of advice, asked how my wife is doing, or told me what I need to do to support her. This whole process has been extremely stressful, and both my wife and I are emotionally devastated, but not a single person has asked how I’m doing. I’m getting really angry about being ignored and I’m trying to keep from biting someone’s head off. How should I respond?
A: Just a few decades ago, infertility was considered to be the woman’s “fault.” But today, experts know that it’s more evenly split. About 40% of the time, the cause can be traced to the woman; 40% of the time it’s traced to the man; and the remaining 20% is “unexplained.” Still, because the pregnancy would happen inside the woman’s body, society assumes that women are the only ones affected by infertility. The fact that men experience stress or grief or might be “emotionally devastated” by the shattering of their hopes and dreams rarely occurs to anyone.
Kat Duff, author of The Secret Life of Sleep
Topic: What happens between the time you fall asleep and the time when you wake up?
Issues: What is sleep? Stages of sleep; commercialization of sleep; dreams; babies and sleep; insomnia;
Valerie Davis Raskin, coauthor of This Isn’t What I Expected
Topic: Overcoming postpartum depression
Issues: Symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD) and how it’s different than “baby blues”; dealing with panic attacks, stress overload, and obsessive urges; breaking the cycle of negative thinking; coping with the loss of self-esteem, when to get help; the dad’s role in support a new mom suffering from PPD