On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions about parenting

(by Katie Jett Walls)
Jun 05, 2019

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

Hi Meghan! Are you sick of talking about meal time yet? I'm fully on board with giving the kids a few options which they can take or leave. A few options meaning a carb, protein and veg. My question is what if they eat only the carb and either (1) immediately ask for more or (2) finish eating, but then ask for a snack or milk an hour later because they're hungry? Thanks!

It depends on how hardcore you want to be. 

You are the parent, you decide. If you have served the food and that is that? Then...done. No more.

If you want to offer another serving? Decide it.

If you want to offer one healthy snack before dinner? Decide it.

What I am saying is that it is far more important to be in charge of the decisions than it is to make the "best" decision.

Make sense?

Good morning readers! Happy Wednesday. Meghan's here and ready to chat. Here's her column from today about parents who think their kids love the nanny more.  Oh boy. 

We've had a lot of other good pieces this week, too. Like this one about the way families are handling sharing of their kids online.  

Lots of questions await, so let's get it going, shall we? 

Post Points today: OP9998

My 4 and a half year old son (a twin) is extremely smart, inquisitive, and sweet most of the time. Recently, when he's tired for the most part, he's begun hitting, kicking, punching, pushing- me, my family members and his twin sister- anyone who is in reach. He refuses to cooperate with anything- even something he usually wants to do like coloring, reading etc., when he's in this state. When he's in this mode, it is extremely difficult to get him to stop acting out or even distract him into doing something else. I'm hoping this is a sign of a growth spurt and not the "new normal" as far as his interactions go. What say you? Thanks!

I say it maybe normal and an ounce of prevention would go a looooong way here.

You have established the pattern (fatigue + people around + people trying to get him to cooperate = aggression and violence), so well done on identifying this.

 Since you know why this is happening, you can take some direct steps to prevent it.

1) does your son need more sleep and better quality sleep? How can this happen?

2) When your sone begins to spin out, you need an action plan in place to keep him safe from himself. 

a) (sorry for all the listing) Do not talk to him or use reason.

b) physically take him to a safe place away from his sister

c) keep him there until the aggressive energy leaves his body

d) keep yourself safe while you do this (watch your nose)

3) Make sure he is eating enough (also) and that there any funky reactions happening to food.


Please see your doctor if this gets worse.

Morning Meghan! I'm committed to becoming a choice mom and have started thinking about all the things that go into that. One of those is medication. I am currently on a medicine for a severe sleep disorder that is in that dreaded "only use if the benefit outweighs the risk" category. Without that medicine I can't focus, I am constantly in a state of extreme exhaustion, etc. But this is a baby that I want more than just about anything in the world (I'd go for paid maternity leave for everyone over the baby, but that's about it). My doctor has given me the facts and says it's up to me. So how do I make that kind of decision? Knowing the medicine that keeps me functioning could hurt my baby in ways that might result in stillbirth or other ways medicine hasn't studied? For that matter, how does anyone?

Seek a second opinion, and seek the opinions of many different types of doctors.

I know you are treating a sleep disorder, and it sounds very serious...but please seek ALL help for both treating the disorder and possibly preventing it, too.

Please, don't get pregnant on this medication. The work that already goes into the pregnancy to only lose the baby to stillbirth is not a good gamble.

Are there other ways you could become a mom?

In a world where everyone overshares, I'm careful and calculated as to what and how much I share of my infant son. My in-laws, however, are not. Establishing boundaries with them has been one of the toughest parts of being a new parent, and I'm uncomfortable with my son having his entire life documented on social media. How do I address their oversharing without sounding like a controlling jerk?

Well, here's a good piece about parents and online sharing ("sharenting") and how kids are reacting to this. Maybe this will help? Meghan?

I feel like this gets to be a strong request and that they need to respect it. 

In order to make this request, you may need to feel comfortable with feeling like "a controlling jerk."

Can you do this?

I try so hard to be patient with my 3-year-old, but it's hard sometimes. I know I shouldn't threaten, but just last night all I could do was say, "IF YOU DON'T FOLLOW DIRECTIONS YOU'RE GOING TO GET IN TROUBLE!" (Like, what does that even mean?) Or: "DO YOU WANT TO PLAY KINDLE LATER? THEN LISTEN TO MOMMY." This is normal parenting behavior, right? Even those people who are "parenting gurus" can't be perfect all the time, so I shouldn't feel too bad about doing something I know doesn't make sense, *even as I'm doing it,* right?

Oh man....

Yes, of course threatening your child is part of the parenting playbook! I cannot think of a parent who hasn't done this. 

The problem becomes if this is ALL you do and it NEVER works.

So...watch yourself.

Se what you get with your threats, and watch if they are getting bigger and worse...then check yourself.

Hi Meghan! How do you respond to a three year old who has taken to informing me that she "hates me" when mad or frustrated? She picked this up from her older sister, who has since stopped using "I hate you" out of frustration. Little sister doesn't understand the meaning of the words, but it would be nice to find some ways to discourage this as the go to for anger. Not acknowledging the phrase hasn't put a dent in it.

How do I respond to I hate you's? Not with a speck of attention.

I WOULD double down on my connection and floor time with the three year old, and fill her up with lots of love and snuggles.

This will pass. 

I am a choice Mom and I strongly encourage you (or anyone) to go down this path - it's absolutely amazing. You should also explore all your options before getting pregnant. Being a choice Mom is a very precarious position. I'm currently 35 weeks pregnant with No. 2 and in the past three weeks my LO has been hospitalized with pneumonia, I have had pneumonia, I've fractured a rib coughing, and we both have ringworm. We're holding it together, but we are not thriving the way we normally do. So, assuming you figure out the meds and have a successful pregnancy, you're still going to want 2-3 contingencies for if the sleep disorder suddenly isn't manageable - alternate meds, helpful family nearby, etc. Doing this now will significantly increase your peace of mind and likelihood of thriving as a choice mom.

(And for those wondering what a choice mom is -- we had one person ask so far -- that's a single woman who chooses to become a mother.)

I’m trying to respectfully parent my ~2.5 year old strong willed daughter but I am struggling to find any approach that “works”. While I don’t expect complete submission and to some degree appreciate someone who can question authority versus blindly following orders, I need to get her out the door to school and me to work on time! How do I handle her defiance to even the most simple requests around the daily routine? She seems to relish every opportunity to do the opposite of what we are requesting, like pushing our buttons with complete glee. Are there better resources (books, podcasts, etc) out there for the child who seems to dig their heels in on just about everything?

Ah! Good news! There is NO approach that works! That is right...every struggle (beside shaming and beating your kids) has element of good to it, so give up on finding THE approach.

That being said, moving a 2.5 year old from point A to point B is an exhausting effort and the podcasts and the resources I want you to consume are ones that:

1) relax you


3) allow you to feel normal in exhaustion

4) and give you a dose of what to expect with a two year old.

5) make you laugh

I love Neufeld's work on preschoolers (look at Deborah MacNamara's book), as well as anything Dan Seigel does.

If you are really worried, check in with your pediatrician, but please know that this is A HARD STAGE OF PARENTING.

You are not alone.

Could you work with them on a compromise? Maybe help them create some strict privacy settings so that only their close friends can see the pictures? Or let them post pictures but with rules about which ones are ok? (only when the child is fully clothed, when our home is not identifiable, etc?) Also, your partner should be the one handling this talk - his family, his responsibility.

Love this and agree.

I recently found out my mom may only have months left to live, barring a miracle. I have two wonderful kids, 3 and 1.75 years old who adore my mom. My husband and I work full time, my husband is finishing a degree this December on top of work and kids, and I thought we were a bit overwhelmed even before my mom’s diagnosis, which has been very difficult for me. This morning I found out I am pregnant with our third baby on top of all this! We wanted a third, but thought we were waiting given everything else (I am on birth control and still nursing my 1.75 year old several times a day). I am guessing you will suggest removing everything unnecessary from our lives (already pretty good at that) and get more paid help (but how do you even pay for three kids in just daycare?!) Not even sure what my question is, but just feeling overwhelmed. 

Well, here's the deal.

I think you need to lie down and have a good, long cry. I think overwhelm, grief, and fear are appropriate emotions to what you are facing, and I think you and I both know that no amount strategizing will take away from these big emotions. Yes, more support almost always helps, but nothing can hop over grief and fear, not when it is warranted. The only thing you can do is carry on, day to day, with the life you are living...with special care to where and how you are spending your time.

This is not a time for accepting more work or more offers to assist others. This is a time to ask for help. Emotionally and physically, and I PROMISE YOU, if you even have five acquaintances, life has taught me over and over that people love to step up. From child care to meal prep to just listening...people want to help and love and support us, we just need to let it in.

So, in order for you to support your mom, you need support.

Call a meeting with your spouse and outline the next six months. Get your needs clear. Get your priorities in order. Be very clear with your spouse about the true needs of the situation. Keep this list and reference it.

You are in a tough spot...so make your environment as calm and ordered as you can.

Good luck.

Love the chats! I have three boys, 8, 6 and 6 (twins). One of the twins, let's call him Thief, has had a few incidents of stealing from stores. Big brother had a sticky-fingers spell and I think we resolved it pretty well, but that approach isn't working with Thief. We've been careful not to shame him, and say "whoever took this item from the store should tell us - we'll be so proud of you and help you make it right." He always fesses up crying. We say "look, you can't steal, it's wrong, ask if you want something, and now we return it to the store and say sorry." We read up and theorized he was developmentally ready to make more decisions about buying things, so we finally got consistent about allowance, $2 per week per kid. It's pretty clear that Thief is now stealing money from his brothers. He can lie like a champ - he VERY convincingly said "it wasn't me" to a babysitter who marched the boys back to a 7-Eleven and had a security tape pulled, and only then did Thief confess to stealing candy. But the problem isn't resolved, and its clear Thief is now stealing his brothers' money. We haven't called him out - I'm mindful of Po Bronson's admonition that you can easily make a kid a better liar and he's already able to fool us. We're working with the siblings to treat money like its valuable, put it AWAY, in a secret spot in your room. But we don't know what to do about Thief. We're not getting at the fundamental problem. (He's DYING to have a yard sale or a lemonade stand to make money - I'm not sure if "more money" will solve the fundamental problem.) Suggestions?



I cannot really tell you why, but I think I would seek out a counselor or a parent coach.

Don't get worried, I don't think your son is a sociopath or is going to grow up to be a criminal, I just think an outside voice and perspective could be helpful. Someone to guide the whole family on this front...



I know you get lots of letters from parents who are worried about their kids preferring one parent over the other. I just wanted to let you know that after years - years! - of preferring his father, my five year old son finally said to me, "I like you and Daddy the same." He quickly followed this with "But [the dog] is the best member of our family." Can't win.

LOLOL! Thanks for sharing...the dog always wins. :)

Maybe it's worth looking into a photo sharing platform where you can share photos, but restrict how those photos themselves are used. Unfortunately, I don't have a recommendation, but hope that there's something out there you can search for. We've been sharing photos of our son since birth through a shared album on GooglePhotos. There's no guarantee that those photos are staying in the album, but maybe there's a feature you can enable that will keep them from being able to be shared beyond the album you create. Otherwise, I agree, you may have to get more comfortable with saying "no photos, please."

I like this idea of finding a compromise....

Maybe creating Cahtbooks (or something like them) to send to the grandparents so they can show off the child in that way?

Thanks for joining us today. Meghan will be back the week after next. In the meantime, check out On Parenting, Meghan Leahy and our On Parenting newsletter

Much love to you all. Thanks for stopping by. 

In This Chat
Meghan Leahy
Meghan Leahy is a D.C.-based parent coach. She holds a master’s degree in school counseling from Johns Hopkins, taught high school English, and was a Parent Educator with PEP. She is the mom of three girls.
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 On Parenting. When not at work, she can be seen unsuccessfully dodging wiffle balls in her front yard.
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