On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions about parenting

Jul 11, 2018

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

Hi, and thanks for joining us this morning to talk parenting. I'm filling in for Amy today as producer. Meghan is here, and there are lots of questions waiting, so we're going to get right down to business. Be sure to check out her most recent column, on how to help a 7-year-old boy stay dry overnight. We also have a piece today on how Europe's 'right to be forgotten' could help protect the online privacy of kids in the U.S. (ie, it could allow them to ask Google to bury those embarrassing social media posts announcing when they were potty-trained). On to the questions!

My hospital is offering a birth class for expectant moms and dads. It's $300. Is it worth it? Money is a bit tight but I am intrigued because I know next to nothing about childbirth! I'm 26w4d


My intuition says YES, go for it, if for no other reason than it will provoke good convo between you and your partner.

Learning the details won't change much about birth (your body knows what to do), but creating a very loose plan for when you get home may be nice. :)




Bear with me Please for this dumb questions! ! My son of 3 Years hates all breakfast food. Toast, Eggs, Pancakes, Waffles, Oatmeal, Bacon, Bagles, Cereal, Sausage!! Everything! Do I make him these Foods at breakfast and let him go Hungry? Or should I Serve other foods he likes (Like dinner foods?)??? My husband Thinks he should learn to eat breakfast foods now because he will never eat Breakfast when he is older! I want him to eat anything at Breakfast because he is so difficult when he is Hungry until Lunch! What do you think? Thank you!

Oh my, eat the dinner foods.

"breakfast" and "dinner" foods are utterly arbitrary, and if you set out to other cultures, you will see this.

I am a big fan of soups! Having a big pot of soup ready and heating it up for breakfast is AWESOME. Some fruit, cheese and that, my friend, is a GREAT MEAL.


Hi Meghan, What is the best way to deal with a toddler (2 in August) who has started to hit? At this point he's not hitting other children, just me and my husband, and it's more playful than aggressive.


Don't sweat it. 

I like some roughhousing with children this age, just a little tough fun. Two year old's are often so physical and relish this kind of connection...

If the child hits hard, just say a stern no and keep going. Don't lecture. Don't make a fuss. AND DON'T TIME OUT. It will pass.

Hi! I love your chats. I need your help. We have a newly minted 3 year old daughter. With everyone else (her dad, her grandparents, her nanny, the neighbors), she is a compliant and precocious preschooler. With me, she is a master button-pusher who breaks all rules to see my reaction. I've fallen into a bad habit: She pushes buttons, I get frustrated, she pushes more buttons, I start to yell. I don't like yelling, and I'm surprised to have found this limit to my patience. I know that "pushing boundaries" is basically her job description, and that she likely does this almost exclusively with me because the one thing she wants most is my attention. I work full time, I'm tired almost all the time, but I know I need to rally. I guess what I need is a new tool to replace the yelling, and/or a way to extend my fuse so it's not so short. I'm tired of apologizing to her for yelling and getting visibly upset, and I hate to think that I've done damage by getting frustrated with her for behaviors that are normal. Thank you in advance for any words of wisdom.

OH listen, I get it. Parents are always surprised when they thought of themselves as patient people...and then they have a preschooler. It's next level. So, forgive yourself.

Not to toot my own horn, but look into my online class because what we need here is CONNECTION, STAT.

You are both accustomed to fighting and so it is up to you to change the dynamic (which you already know). 

Because you are BUSY, schedule special time with her. Lay on the floor and play. Read. Paint nails. Giggle. Kick a ball. Take a walk. Play I spy outside. Anything where you are just literally enjoying each other's company. If you know she loves cookies,  don't wait for her to ask, YOU bring cookies. If she wants to run in the sprinkler, say YES! I know you're tired, but fighting is much more tiring than having fun.

See where all this connection takes you and then take a moment to connect to yourself. Reevaluate your time and energy and where it is going. Who is getting best of you? Who is getting the  worst?


Good Lord, this is just insane. Why on earth are you so insistent that breakfast can only consist of pork and cereal products? If you limit his breakfast foods to what you consider appropriate, you're setting up a lifetime problem. Billions of people all over the world manage on breakfasts that don't include pork or cereals. Is this really the hill you & your husband want to die on?

Let's be kind, please. I think the OP probably has a spouse who is concerned that the child is too rigid and has a fear about feeding into that. That is normal in parenting, be it about food or other issues.

Your Post Points code today is OP5449

Hello, I enjoy your columns and love your advice! My 15 year old daughter is staying with a family in France for three weeks to take care of 8 year old twins and improve her French. The parents split up in the last few months and the mother has moved into a new apartment with her daughter and son. The father sees them, but I don’t know how often. Besides being homesick herself and exhausted from speaking French all day... my daughter finds it all to be more work than she’d expected. These kids are hurting. The son in particular is very mean to his mother, repeatedly yelling at her and telling her she’s dumb and that’s why his father left her, etc. When my daughter texted my mother-in-law about this, she encouraged her to leave! As a child of divorce, I especially feel for the family and think my daughter has a chance to distract the kids from the parents a bit, along with supporting the mother’s efforts to reestablish their family. I feel that her being uncomfortable with another family’s conflict is not a reason to bail. We all knew the basic situation going into it, but of course no parent is going to advertise that her kids can be openly hostile to her... My kid’s previous experience with younger children is mostly in group settings, like organizing them for sports, so this is some serious shock for her. How can she help them? Any tips for this?


I gotta say, I am feeling for your daughter. She is 15, not a mental health counselor, and stuck in another country in what sounds like a pretty dysfunctional environment.

Yes, she should come home, in my opinion.

It is outside of her scope of maturity to help this situation, and it doesn't sound like the adults are adulting at all.

If your daughter is MISERABLE, let her leave.

Just want to say thank you for these chats and your columns! I have learned so much from you and feel confident about the upcoming arrival of my twin girls! Can't thank you enough! -First time Momma!

Wow, thanks for reading!

I have a 1.5 year old daughter who I adore. She will eat pretty much anything - very few food dislikes, very adventurous. Right now it's easy to make sure she eats healthily, as we have control to give her a well-balanced diet with a limited number of treats. We don't forbid anything, but we keep 'junk' food (sugary stuff, chips, etc.) to an occasional treat. However, I myself have a difficult relationship with food. While I have gotten to the point where I generally am eating healthy meals, I struggle with snacking, eating way too many sweets, etc. I'm trying to work on my Stuff, but it's not easy - one of my strategies is that I have to limit what's in the house as I struggle to eat just a small amount of chocolate/cake/etc. And I have issues with feeling ashamed and having an instinct to hide it when I do eat a lot of this stuff - my husband never makes me feel bad about it, this is just a learned behaviour. I'm slightly overweight, but weight isn't the biggest issue because I am working very hard to keep my eating sensible. Husband generally doesn't have so many issues with moderation, and is naturally very slender anyway. I am very much concerned about passing this disordered relationship with food onto my kid. I want her to be able to enjoy treats without overindulging, and to have a healthy attitude toward all of this. In a perfect world I could fix myself before this became an issue, but I don't think that's going to happen. Do you have any advice on trying to avoid passing my own issues onto my daughter, especially in a culture that is so judgemental of women's bodies and food choices, when I'm nowhere near sorted myself? Thanks!

When I read this, I am not worried about your child. I want YOU to get more support.

I am a big big fan of Rebecca Scritchfield and she is doing great work with women, disordered eating, and body positivity. I strongly suggest you reach out to a therapist or coach like Rebecca for the help you deserve. It is possibly to move past these obsessions and just LIVE AND EAT. Go for it!

Your answer in the July 5 column was spot on. However, there's one really important footnote: you don't bet a four-year-old's life on their compliance. Crossing a parking lot? HOLD HIS HAND. Using power tools? Put a locked door between you. Backing up the car? He has to stand where you can see him, and you don't take your eyes off him. For everything else, natural consequences and fake choices are excellent. For life-and-death, you don't trust them. My four-year-old niece lost a foot because my cousin told her to stay on the porch while he was on the riding mower. Do NOT bet your child's life on their compliance.

I said that! I said that there are non-negotiatables, period and you don't need the child's buy-in to do it!

my 5 year old son is away with his father for the summer (he has been gone since last week of june and will return last week of july). a couple of days after he left, our beloved dog was hit by a car and passed away. i haven't told my son yet because i don't see the point in upsetting him for this month that he's away. is that a bad idea? i hate lying to him but i don't want him to be distraught and there's no way he can come back before the end of july. should i tell him when he talk on the phone, or should i just wait until he comes back and be vague about the timeline?

Hmmmm. How supportive would his father be about this?

I know it's important for kids to be self-confident, but how do you teach them humility at the same time? It's very important to my 7-year-old son that he impress other people. We're lucky in that we've been able to afford lessons in a variety of areas. I'm glad he has skills, but I cringe when I hear him tell an acquaintance how good he is at something. I also worry he seems to be more motivated by showing off than doing something well for its own sake. How can I help him develop an appropriately-sized ego?

If you overhear this A LOT, it says to me that he has not been checked on it. When I say, "checked," I don't mean publicly humiliated and made to look a fool, but that no one is taking him aside in that moment to say NO (which needs to happen).

But the larger issue of comparison in a child is a deep insecurity. I would shift away from lessons and extras and focus on actual characteristics and values in your family. Giving back, volunteerism, and using your skills to help others is where I would take this.

As the parent, stop placing him in the position of being a someone who just acquires skills and instead put him into a position of having real relevance.

My daughter is six and her preferred mode of living is naked. When she was younger, I expected this to just phase itself out. But it's to the point that she strips down as soon as we get into the house. If we go and do something in the morning, for example, she gets naked as soon as we get home and getting her to put her clothes on to leave the house again is a challenge. I'm glad that she's comfortable with her body and doesn't seem to view it as something shameful. However, I'm tired of struggling when we want to go out to dinner or need to run to the store and she just wants to stay home and be naked. I'm also concerned that if she's sitting at home naked, she might miss out on playing with neighbor kids because if they, say, ride by on their bikes she can't just run right out and join them. And, truthfully, I'm a little tired of looking at someone's private parts all day long. We have the basic rule that you need to have clothes on when you go to someone else's house, and when we have company. I've tried to instill the boundary that we have to wear clothes to eat dinner, although that hasn't always been the case. Is this something that I should be concerned about? Is there anything I can do to encourage her to stay dressed, because it's a hassle to wait for someone to get re-dressed every time we need to leave the house? Or should I just embrace the nudity and let her let it all hang out?

Have you checked with your pediatrician to make sure there aren't any sensory issues going on? Her skin may truly struggle with the feeling of clothing on it, and there are therapies that help the skin get used to those feelings more and more.

But yes, you can call a meeting with her and say, "it is time for clothes on in the house. People stop by, mail is delivered, friends are outside, and clothes are needed. Let's find four outfits that our are 'inside clothes.'" 

Maybe loose dresses or very minimal tanks and bottoms will work...

In any case, you CAN set a rule and talk to her doctor too.

this mama is losing her freaking mind!!! my 5yo child has become addicted to screens. it just snowballed from when he was 18 months and i allowed a movie here and there, some tv. then his grandma got him a tablet last year and it was so convenient during car rides and when i took him out. now i cannot rip him away from his tablet. he's always either playing an annoying game (i'll go insane if i have to hear any more sound effects) or streaming paw patrol with his eyes glazed over like a corpse! he doens't play outside and he has even started eating less because i can't get him to stay at the dinner table for longer than 20 minutes now. i'm so worried and so ashamed that i let this happen to him. how do i kick this habit? i'd be happy to get rid of every electronic device in the house but i am worried the shock would kill him!

Okay, I am going to go hardcore here, and if you want more advice, go to iParent (Adam Pletter), but go cold turkey and take it all away.


I mean, literally GIVE IT AWAY.

The blowback will be brutal, so expect to hold on to your hat. The tantrums will be violent (VERY, possibly), the threats will be real (hide your valuables), and the crying will be unending.

BE sure there is nothing in the house you can break down and give him because you will want to. You will think he is in too much mental pain and you will want to give up because you will not feel like you can handle it.

He will not be able to play or find anything to do. His brain will be overly threatened by the boredom of NO SCREEN and his brain (like an addict) will FLIP out.


He is only five.

All of his creativity and wonder will and can return! So, you cannot give up and you cannot go backwards.


You can do this, but PLEASE do it now.

And please believe me when I say you are going to war here...it will be brutal, but HE IS IN THERE.

I have a lovely 16 year old girl. I am so lucky, she talks to me, she gets good grades, doesn't party, so yes I definitely trust her! She just got her driver's license and has her own car (that she saved up for with babysitting money and bought by herself). I've basically been letting her have free reign with the car. She comes home right from school most days but will occasionally stay out a little later but is always back before dinner. I never ask where she is because I want to give her her space. A friend of mine who has a teen her age was shocked about this and said she would never let her child be away from her without knowing where she was/what she was doing. Should I be keeping better tabs on my girl? I don't want to make her think I don't trust her, but should I do it for safety reasons?

Ummm, sounds like you have lovely situation and if you feel like you really know and trust your daughter, go for it. 

More importantly, don't let other people change how you parent YOUR child.

Controllingness is not parenting. Keeping tabs is not parenting.

You do you.

After a year of staying home with my daughter, I will finally be going back to work. It's good for my family's finances and my sanity! I can't decide whether to put her into a very well-rated daycare that practices the Montessori method, or to go into a nanny share with my best friend's daughter who is only 2 months older than mine. Any insight? Is Montessori as great as it seems, or do kids benefit more from being able to stay in a home and form an attachment with a loving nanny? Thanks

If money is not a factor, you are fortunate to have these choices.

Montessori is not needed for a one year old, don't even consider it as a factor.

The only thing that matters is: is the caregiver attentive and affectionate and loving. THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS.

NOW, another thing is: be sure to have VERY CLEAR COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR FRIEND with this arrangement, or you could lose a friendship. Stay clear and focused.

Both choices have pro's and con's. Choose the one with the warmest environment for your child.

Good luck.

My daughter just turned 5 in June. She went to preschool for two years and has now finished, and I was planning on sending her to kindergarten this fall. But she tells me every day now that she doesn't want to go to kindergarten and she wants to stay at preschool "with Miss G," her teacher for both years of preschool. I originally thought it would pass and she would forget about it as she got more excited about kindergarten, but it just seems to be getting worse! She broke down and cried yesterday and begged me to not make her go to kindergarten. Her preschool teacher has assured me that she is "110% ready" but now I'm hesitant. Should I still plan on sending her, or should I keep her in preschool for another year?




This is me weighing this all....

So. Don't put her back in preschool because she is crying. 

Put her in preschool because she would benefit from another year of preschool.

There's a lot of data about the benefits of waiting, but only you know your child.


I am 13 weeks along and found out I'm having TWINS! I could not be more excited. When my sister (single mom) had to go back to work after my having my niece, I started watching my niece full time since I don't work. She is now 3, and will be 4 when my babies arrive. I was planning on continuing this after giving birth, but now I'm a bit nervous! Will I be able to handle twin babies and a 4 year old? She'll be going to preschool for a half day 2 days a week but that's it). I love being able to watch my niece and we are so close, but I do worry about being able to handle all 3 kids at once! I want to plan now because if I wait then I'll be putting my sister in a tight spot! Thanks!

Whoa....that would be A LOT. Like, a lot a lot.

Could you handle it? I don't know. I mean, physically...sure???? 

I am really wondering what would happen to you emotionally. 

The burden of being a first time parent to twins is REAL, and I think it is a lot to ask of yourself to handle all of this.

Look at ALL the options. Is it just "take care of all kids" or nothing?

Take care of your body and mind...you will need it.

In This Chat
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.
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.
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