On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions about parenting

Jan 31, 2018

Meghan Leahy, a parenting coach with Positively Parenting, joined On Parenting editor Amy Joyce to talk about parenting children of all ages.

Good morning all! How's everyone? Here's what's up today: This is Meghan's newest column about a girl dating an older guy and her mom doesn't know what to do. This piece has started some vibrant discussion about giving yourself a break. And so much more at On Parenting. Check it out. In the meantime, let's discuss. Have a question? Ask. 

When our 2yo son is eating if he starts to get frustrated about the process or food, he will swipe it off the table or pick it up out of his bowl and throw it. We've tried saying no and holding his hands until he calms down or removing him or the food as quickly as possible until he calms down but none of this is working (obviously). We're at a loss as to how to curb this. Is it just a phase?

Yes, it is a phase (I am guessing).

If you were excited to work your body and control your hands and fingers, would you appreciate if someone grabbed them and held them down? No, you would not and your son hates it, too. 

Does that mean that you should sit by while he tosses his entire meal on the floor? No.

Don't give him too much food, number one.

Number two, when he throws his food, simply say, "OH, looks like you are all done!" And pluck him out of the high chair. Stat.

By the way, I took up the dining room rug during this phase, stopped serving cous cous, and kept a mini broom and pan next to the table. Cleaning the floor is what you will do...accept it.


To all the parents who are having trouble potting training for poop: We had the same problem with our 2.5yo. I mentioned it to our pediatrician and she suggested getting a set of potty toys that he could play only on the potty. They should be things like the party blow toys, whistles, harmonicas, etc. Apparently the muscles you use to release poop are the same ones that get activated by blowing. She said we should start with sitting on the potty playing with the blow toys for a couple minutes (not long) about 20 minutes after eating each meal. That's when the body is thinking about getting rid of anything. It took only a couple days of this before our son was recognizing when he needed to poop, and was running to the bathroom to get his toys. That was 6 or 8 months ago, and we're still doing good.

Fascinating! Never heard this. I think I would rather diaper a teen then listen to my child blow into a whistle or harmonica every day, but good idea nonetheless.


About the reason I am trying not to upset her is due to her emotional instability. She never feels a little upset, it's always on one side of the extreme, so I have to navigate the minefield carefully with her. And as you said, I am talking to her about the relationship, we've discussed why she's dating him, why she is okay with the age difference, etc. But its going to be awhile before I'm able to get into the nitty gritty of it. Any other advice on what I could ask or do with her?

Thanks for writing in!

Get in her life, stat (but play it cool).

What does she like to do? I am a big fan of a little weekend trip toward something she loves...shopping? Horse riding? Hiking? (I always write hiking, I literally never hike) Spa? ANYTHING.

You are not going to overhaul your relationship in one weekend or one sitting or one week, but the attempts will add up.

Just stay in the messy middle between ignoring this and going full nuclear.

My daughter is 5 years old and lately every attempt to try something new quickly ends in a temper tantrum over how she has “failed” at the activity. She usually gets excited about a new activity at first (anything from drawing a picture to playing a game or doing a school project) but when she makes a mistake or isn’t good at it immediately, she throws a fit and gives up, often grumbling that it’s not fair that Mom and Dad are “good” at the activity and she’s not (even if we aren’t playing). We explain that if we are good at anything, it’s because we’ve had a lot of practice and we try to model good behavior in how we handle our own mistakes. I have bought some books (The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes for example) and she seems to enjoy the stories, but it’s to the point where there is so much drama and so many tears accompanying every new activity that it breaks my heart. I had perfectionist tendencies as a kid (although I feel like I am more laid back now), and I know it’s no way to go through life. How can we help steer her toward a better outlook on failure and perseverance. Thank you!

Oh boy, is she is an adaptive mess!

This is normal. And you should keep at it! The better she gets a losing when she's five, the less it will blow her out of the water as she ages.


You don't want to apply failure after failure after failure to the poor kid.

Definitely create situations where she is the leader and she can show you something, teach you something, be the kid in the know.

Don't make her like failure, that's annoying. I mean, do you like failure? I don't. No human does. Instead go for the feelings, "Man, it stinks to lose doesn't it?" Share stories of your failures. Role model failing. For instance, I was painting with my 7 year old the other day and totally screwed up. I mentioned it and hesitated...my 7 yo said, it's okay, keep going Mom. But I mentioned that I really hated it. I sighed and kept going.

Keep at it...stay compassionate and have steady-eddy energy.



Hi Meghan. I'm a young mother (just turned 22) of a 4.5 year old girl, who is in preschool. She is part of a very close-knit group of friends at school (her plus 3 more little girls). I have heard from her teacher that they are the closest group of girls she has ever taught. I recently found out that all the other girls' mothers are good friends, and get the girls together weekly outside of school. My daughter found out and is asking me if she can please please go to her "special friends party." She now has also starting wondering whether she is "not allowed" to visit her friends' house. I now feel pretty awkward because I don't want to ask for an invite, but also don't know how to explain to my daughter why she can't participate in these playdates. I'm not friends with these women (they are all quite a bit older than me) and feel terrible that my age has definitely started to affect her happiness. Any advice you have is welcome and appreciated!!

FRIEND! This hurts my feelings for you. I don't know why these parents are doing this. Sometimes they think you may not want to hang with them, it's not that you're too young, it's that they feel they are too old. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt here, because...it's nicer to do that.

Okay, so you are going to pull up your big girl panties and invite everyone over to your house. Or a park (and provide yummy and fun snacks). Or something similar. Hopefully, they will come and everyone will be nice and you can all find something in common to talk about (LIKE SCHOOL) and they will start to include you.

BUT if they don't act like adults and they don't start including you, they can go pound sand. You don't need that in your life AT ALL. I imagine you have a full and busy life, with friends and family. So, you do you. And it is OKAY to show your daughter that she can have her friends and you can live your life.

This will happen again. I wish I could tell you that it wouldn't, but you will meet older parents whose immaturity will astound you. Maturity is not related to age, so buckle up!

Good luck...

Although we discourage my son from talking about farts, poop and butts I know these topics are very exciting to a 3 year old. At what age does the potty talk start to taper off.

It tapers off? (I joke. But only slightly.)

Ummm, like, never?

My nearly 40 brother still loves a good fart or poop joke (but so do I...so there you have it).


Kids stop it with these jokes when their peers are like, "Ewww, you are gross and grow up." Nothing like peer-based shame to shut someone up. I wish shame were not the answer here, but better from the kids than you.

So, if you cannot beat them, join them! I am a big fan of the diarrhea song from Parenthood. 


I have a beautiful and bright 18 month daughter...who refuses to talk. She babbles constantly, but says very few words. Puppy, hi, Tupp (dog's name), mama, dada, and uh-uh (no). I know it's not for lack of understanding. She follows instructions extremely well. Bring me your cup, hand me your toys, etc. We talk to her constantly. I'm hoping the more I say will encourage her to talk too, but it doesn't seem to be working. She does do some pointing and grunting. I try my best to curb my impulse to hand her what she's pointing to, but sometimes I forget and just hand it to her. Sometimes I'll say the word for what it is before I hand it to her, and other times I try to wait her out to see if I can get her to say the word for what it is she wants. I'm batting a zero with that method. She'll get upset, cry, tantrum, have a full on melt down, and then, at the end of it she'll just get up and leave to go play in another room. It's literally more important to her not to say the word than to get what she wants. I'm at a complete loss. How can I get my child to talk when she'd rather just not have something she wants if it means talking? If it matters, she is a thumb-sucker, not a pacifier kid. Luckily she doesn't have her thumb in her mouth most of the day, it's really kind of sporadic. We try to keep lovey in the bed only as much as we can, but sometimes she just can't be without it. She falls asleep sucking her thumb and has since a very young age. Everyone I have talked to has a different opinion. "Oh, my child knew ten songs at 18 months. Oh, my kid didn't talk until he was two. Stop giving her anything she points to at all. You should talk to her more. You should see a speech therapist asap! Have you had her tested for autism?" I'm absolutely terrified! She's sweet, smart, and affectionate, but (aside from the constant baby babble) just not verbal. We see her pediatrician in a few weeks, and I'll cover all this ground with him then. I feel like I'm failing her. What do I need to do differently? [edited for length]

So...ummm....everything I know about development needs to be totally on track with your daughter. 

If you like and trust your pediatrician, speak to him or her, speak your concerns and have them watch it, if you feel so compelled. I never want to tell a parent to ignore their intuition.

What I AM going to tell you is to ignore other people. Don't invite their opinions and don't accept them when offered. Throw your shoulders back, smile, and say, "everything is just perfect." You may not mean it and nothing is ever perfect, but don't let others feed your neuroses. It's not healthy.

Talk to your doc.

Developmentally what age range should my kid be out of night diapers?

Anywhere from 2 to who knows?

I mean, the average falls around 4-6 ish, but do not use this info to bully your child out of night diaper!!! There is a hormone that clicks in and wakes the child up, you cannot train that.

I had one kid who potty trained at TWO and had her night diaper til close to EIGHT. Expensive? Yes. A crisis? Hardly.


Your Post Points code for today: OP1662

Hey, it's the step-mom here with the anxious little boy from a few months ago. I'm happy to report that things have gotten much better. He's happy now to come and stay without fuss most of the time now. 

I actually have a new question though. You noted that there could be a possibility that he does not have ADHD, as other anxiety issues are diagnosed as the disorder. We actually went through the wringer getting that diagnosis. Two rounds of testing, one in pre-school and one in kindergarten, and several months of counseling (that is still ongoing) prior to trying medication at all. Plus a few medication changes and adjustments to get that right as well. We were careful and diligent before medicating him, and I think we finally got it right. My question is, he's now almost seven, and as can be expected, his listening skills are not so great. I think they're exacerbated much more due to the ADHD of course, and everyone (including him) is a little frustrated. I also don't know what realistic expectations are for this situation. It's simple things, not dramatic ones, but they add up over the course of a day. Don't let the dogs out. Dogs go out. Pick up your clothes off the floor. Doesn't happen. We're not talking epic problems here, they seem pretty normal. There are just so so many in a day. He does literally what he's specifically told not to, and doesn't do what he is, and it's all the time. And when questioned, our son will readily admit that he simply didn't listen. Or he did listen and did what he wanted to anyhow. His impulse control is lacking. Again, very very normal no matter what circumstances when dealing with a seven year old. I handle this a little better than his dad does. I naturally have more patience than him, and sometimes I think he's a little unfair with his expectations. I'm looking for tips on how to get our little boy to listen to us. My best tactic has been to kneel down and look at him face to face before I talk to him. But I can't do this for every single thing. Is there something else I can be doing as well? [edited for length]

Oy....so, like, there's a lot going on here.

You are venturing into some major counter will issues and they are also commingling with ADHD...makes for a hot-mess.

One thing is: Stop talking at him. He needs visual reminders of his chores, whenever possible. Also, if you are going to talk to him, SLOW DOWN, GET ON HIS LEVEL, and LOOK HIM IN THE EYE. I know you are already doing this, but simply accept that if you are talking to him from another room or from another floor, YOUR REQUEST WAS NOT PRACTICED. Guide him to what it is you need done. Yes, you are going to have to help him more than the average 6 yo, but you are acting as his prefrontal cortex, he needs it.

Also, technology will hijack more than the average kid. Know that if he is gaming or even watching TV, he may say "okay" to what you requested, but he LITERALLY DIDN'T HEAR YOU.

I know this is all annoying, but it is less annoying than repeating what you are doing.

Also, check his meds with the doc. Right dosage? Right med?


Hi Meghan, My almost-two-year-old is the sweetest kid around. He gives lots of hugs and kisses, plays joyfully with his toys, smiles and laughs constantly, is funny and smart, etc., etc. But, oh lord, does he have a problem with sharing. It's gotten to the point where I almost dread having other kids his age over because he throws the biggest fits when they touch his stuff. I really feel like he acts like a bully, snatching things away and shouting, "MINE!" We talk a lot about sharing before his friends come over, sing songs about it, that kind of thing. I realize this is normal behavior for a toddler, but I end up exasperated and embarrassed. Plus, let's be honest, I don't want my friends to think that this is a result of my parenting (embarrassing to admit!). Is this just a case of SERENITY NOW or what? Thanks! Megan (no H)

This is normal. Being embarrassed by this is like being embarrassed your newborn baby cries during a diaper change.

I wouldn't have other kids over for a while...it sounds like a disaster and NOT fun.

I would take him to parks where the fighting is little more diffused and see your friends at night (where you can freely complain about this).

My 4 year old likes to sneak a piece of candy from time to time, as we have them laying around the house. We generally let him do this and it's not a big deal. After dinner one day, I was upstairs with my wife to help bath the baby. When I came down, I saw that he had something in his hand, and when I asked him what it was, he said "nothing." I knew it was a candy wrapper, and he was taking it to the trash. I wasn't angry, but I just wanted him to tell me the truth about what it was, and not just to say "nothing." When I told him to open up his hand to show me what it is, he knew that his lying was wrong and started to cry. I tried to reassure him that I wasn't angry, but that he should not lie to me. The candy is not a big deal, but I don't want my son to not be truthful to me. What is your advice?

Put the candy away.

Put the candy away.

Put the candy away.

Put the candy away.

You are literally setting him up to lie to you. He cannot help it.

Put the candy away.

My second wasn't interested in talking. I said "he's busy doing. He'll get to talking later." My SO brought in a team to assess him. Their conclusion: he's busy doing and he'll get to talking later. As he grew older, he also would sit on the sidelines and watch an activity, then get up and do it like he's been practicing for a year. I believe these are related.

As a father and once 19yr old guy, I have to chime in. This is a binary decision. The 19yr old needs to be gone. Today. A 19yr old guy, dating a 15 yr old? Not cool. Not okay. Not normal. Not my daughter. Any questions? Mom, needs to tell this kid to hit the road. Now. Deal with the fallout from your daughter. It's called being a parent. Back in the stone ages (1980s), dudes of college age who dated minors? Creepy or one bad date away from being charged with statutory rape. Either way, not a smart fellow. Why can't he attract women his own age? One word: Loser or weirdo. Either way, not suitable for my daughter.

I mean, as a parent of daughters, I am 100% with you here (in emotion).

But as a woman who dated older boys, my parents bringing down the hammer made me into a lying sneak.

SOOOOO.....you gotta acknowledge your emotionality around this AND see the rationale of not going nuclear (because you will REALLY lose your 15 yo).

If your 15 yo is dying a loser (we all date that person at some point), you gotta work with what you got.


Thanks for joining us, all! Make sure to check out our new Facebook discussion page, called On Parenting & Work. You can always see what we're up to at washingtonpost.com/onparenting, subscribe to our newsletter. And check Meghan out here

In This Chat
Meghan Leahy
Meghan Leahy is a D.C.-based parent coach.
Amy Joyce
Amy Joyce has been at The Post, well, for a long time. Her first foray in to online chats were related to work. Now she's happy to chat about fun (but would like to believe the two can be one). She has been a Business reporter, editor for Weekend and the Going Out guide, and is now editing and writing for OnParenting. When not at work, she can be seen unsuccessfully dodging wiffle balls in her front yard.
Recent Chats
  • Next: