On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions about parenting

Aug 16, 2017

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

Good morning everyone, and thanks for joining us as we get ready to head back to school (if you're not back already).

Meghan is here, and the questions are waiting, so let's get started. Here is a link to her latest column, with advice for parents on how to respond to insults and name-calling from their 4-year-old. 

Hi, Good morning. My question is the following. I have an 8 yesr old boy who when I am talking to my husband wants to give his opinion in everything or asks "what are you guys talking about???" He wants to know everything.... it makes me crazy.... how can i explain to him there are things that are none of his business without hurting his feelings?? Thanks

This child needs more boundaries.

A good way to facilitate respectful communication is to start family meetings, stat.

There is a talking stick, and only the person who is holding the stick can speak. This means that there is no interrupting and no talking-over someone else. This will probably be pretty tough in the beginning. Your son will feel the need to trump everything you are saying, but just keep your boundaries, over and over.

Keep practicing. It will get there.

My almost 4 year old wants to take a dance class. She also goes to full time daycare, so this would be a weekend thing. I'm torn between waiting, because she has years and years for this kind of thing and she likes to play at home on weekend mornings. Or signing her up, because, why not?

I am not going to tell you what to do.

BUT, a child who is in full time daycare needs rest, time with you, and unstructured play time more than anything else.


Hi again and thanks for sticking with us. Meghan would love to give you some guidance. Can you email her at meghan@mlparentcoach.com? Thank you! (Thinking of you and hope you are well.)

My 3.5 year old is super attached to me and has been very emotional this week, which is the week I go in for a c-section to deliver my baby. My parents will care for him over the weekend while I'm at the hospital, and he adores them and is very familiar with them. Still - we all anticipate a lot of tears and sadness when it's time to come home yet I have to stay. Do you have any tips or ideas on how we can make this a bit easier on him? We have a few little presents for him, Daddy can walk with him to the car, we've been talking a bit about the upcoming events so that he's got some context for it, and we are OK with the sadness because we know it's normal. Even so - if there's anything we are missing, I'm all ears. Thanks.

No, you sound like you are in good shape. Just keep welcoming the tears, LOTS and LOTS of patience, hugs, and keep the expectations dangerously low.

Best of luck...your son will struggle with this, but keep the connections with him strong. All will be well.

What tips do you have for curbing a 5-year-old child's use of "potty talk" ?

LOL, gosh, I don't know.

When my brother was little, he would do this rehearsed monologue of every potty word and sound his little mind could think of. It was hysterical and my cousins still talk about it. My parents didn't care, because they were young and busy and well, he was a good kid. They knew it would pass. And it did. My brother doesn't deliver the monologue anymore.

I wouldn't sweat it. Great advice, right? It's NORMAL for 5 yo's to be attracted to the taboo...it will pass if you don't make a HUGE deal of it.

I have a very adorable three-year-old cousin. One of this boy's other doting cousins is constantly taking pictures of him. She has hundreds of pictures of him on her phone. Sometimes she posts them on social media or uses them as her phone background. She is not trying to be malicious, but I am unsettled by the fact that she has so many and that they are being seen by others sometimes. The parents say that it's ok to post pictures on facebook of their kid, but they request copies of the images being posted. I am doubtful that the older cousin sends copies each time she posts, and the parents are not on social media themselves. Do you think that it's appropriate to take so many pictures of small children? I find it to be creepy and wonder if I should be making the parents aware of this somehow.

It sounds like the parents know and they are cool with it. You could, one time, be looking at insta and say, "awwww, look at little Jimmy, so cute!" and show the parents. If they are shocked, they can deal with it. If they aren't shocked, well, done and done.

Not your problem.

Today's code is OP5059.

My daughter is 13 and is about to go into 8th grade. She always loved school (last year she didn't even want the school year to end)!! But yesterday, I found her crying herself to sleep. She told me she didn't want to go back to school and wouldn't say anything else. She doesn't have a cell phone or any social media so I doubt there's been any bullying happening this summer. Any tips to try to help the situation?

This is your opportunity to listen. That she said anything is a small sign that there are some feelings there and it is time to plug in.

Take her to do something she likes to do. With my 13 year old, it is shopping (sigh), and just wait. Have fun, smile, feel good. Eat some yummy food and FEEL how the relationship is going. Does it feel safe to start a conversation?

I find it is best to begin like, "so, when I was starting 8th grade, there was this really mean girl..." and see what happens. It is a safe entrance into a talk without directly asking so many questions.

Keep this connection going...we don't want to fix her problems, we want to listen and be a safe container for them.

Your column today reminded me of a lovely tale. Back in the dark ages - and in the UK - I was visiting an actress friend, whose daughter was probably 5. S was the child who was out on the roof (that literally happened) and into everything - always mucky from fun adventures. It was lunchtime so her mum told her to wash her hands. S didn't want to - mum insisted. So S stomped out of the room, slammed the door and pounded on it saying 'I hate you mummy'. Her mother trilled in her best plummy voice - Yes I know darling, now go wash your hands. We were in fits - it was too funny.

Humor is so often the antidote for everything in parenting. Thank you for this great story.

Hi, my kids (8 and 4) go back to school next week. Any tips to start the school year right? Thanks

I am going to bullet this. Do you what you need, but not all:

  • weekly routine chart, hung up for all to see
  • family meetings as often as you can, not to talk schedule, but to share conversation
  • meal planning
  • a schedule for getting back into chores (don't do it the first week of school, too much)
  • cutting back on tech SIGNIFICANTLY
  • beginning to make an attempt at getting to bed earlier
  • (by the way, most of this advice is for yourself, first)
  • getting clear on activities and practices and when they happen. Have you over-committed? Under?
  • Planning some fall fun before the season flits away.
  • keeping a sense of humor for the mess that will be.

We don't post photos of our son on social media and have asked family to respect our wishes -- they all agree. Except there is one family member who occasionally posts photos that we haven't seen after her visits (this is doubly disconcerting b/c her Social media circle occasionally overlaps with people I know but don't share photos with... but then they are telling me about what they saw on fb). what's the best way to do a gentle reminder? we are fairly certain that she pays very little attention to her privacy settings which is part of our issue with this. My husband supports me in this (it's his relative, technically), but we know she's going to think that one photo every so often is no big deal. She's not going to read all the articles out there. any advice from other chatters or Amy & Meghan on gently getting through that this is a big deal to us. We LOVE this relative and love that she loves our son, we want her to have photos of him.... just not on Social media.

It is your husband's family, so I would have him reach out EVERY SINGLE TIME you know there is a pic and kindly ask for it to be removed and that she not do it in the future.

If he repeatedly does this, she should get the hint.

My 24 year old son was in Charlottesville on Saturday as part of the "counter protest". He was at the intersection where the cars plowed through the crowd. Fortunately, he was not injured but he saw the whole thing and was consoling people whose friends had been injured. I can't imagine seeing such a horrific event. He lives on the other side of the country so its hard to gauge how or whether this has affected him. Should I let him process this on his own or should I be proactive in some way? He and I text maybe a few times a month, but I think he's closer with his mom (we're divorced) and she's a nurse who may have a better sense of how to help him (she talked my daughter into therapy after a recent bad breakup).


Just say, "Hey, I am thinking of you..."

and then listen. Just sit and listen.

The beauty of your note is that you only have to offer a loving ear and a compassionate heart to make a huge difference.

But call. It's great your son has his mom, but you matter, too. A great deal.

And I am sorry he had to witness that. All my love to him.

My 2-year-old is constantly asking me to pick her up. Some of these moments happen when we're out in the world and she's encountering new things, and I understand that asking to be held is her way of feeling safe. But other moments happen at home, in the course of a regular day. I almost always oblige, but it means I kind of dread physical contact with her and crave space to myself. I don't like feeling this way! (I'd also love a spare minute to myself to go to the bathroom and/or throw together a hastily made meal, but let's be practical.) My husband thinks she's "too attached" to me, but I feel like she's expressing a need with this constant request to be carried and that we need to address that need (without me going nuts). Help?

You cannot spoil your two year old by picking them up.

AND, there are times where you need physical space and your child is going to cry.

Both are true and both are okay.

I am wondering: do you need some childcare? Help? Support? It can literally feel like your child is sucking the life out of you...it's GOOD to bring someone else in so you can be a separate human.


Our daughter is not quite 2 and full of wonderful energy. Unfortunately that energy translated itself into climbing out of her crib! After two incidents, we decided we had no choice but to get her a bed. While she first seemed excited, she now won't even go there on her own, preferring a couple of pillows on the floor. That is fine (she will tire of the pillows eventually, right?). The problem is that she refuses to settle down to sleep. Bedtime consists of a pretty set routine: bath, teeth, story, song, kissing and tucking in her stuffed animals, and then about an hour of her getting up from the pillows and us taking her back into her room to start the process again. That is annoying, but the real issue is naps. She won't settle down when we try at two, so we end up doing the dance for an hour before we give up and let her get into other activities. This leads to her being VERY tired later in the afternoon and even falling asleep at the table at dinner. Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Are we doing something wrong? Any advice is welcome!

Oh, what a nightmare.

You are doing everything right and everything you can, and time feels like it has stopped and that your child WILL never sleep normally and NEVER stay in a bed and will be an unholy terror forever, BUT, this is a dance and it will get better. You have to keep your routine, but don't be rigid. You have to connect closely with her, but let her cry. You have to let her cry, but not let her get hysterical.

THIS IS HARD. You are in the thick of it.

Keep your humor and keep loving her. THIS WILL PASS.

I think we may have come across a potentially dangerous kid at the playground. He's around 3-4 years old, he happily introduced himself to my kids (same ages), then proceeded to try and hurt them multiple times (stepping on their hands, trying to push them off high edges, blocking them from climbing up, etc.) His grandfather said absolutely nothing. Kid seemed like he was curious about hurting others. How to handle? We kept saying no to him, firmly and assertively. Hope he's not in any of my kids' classes in the future. Very disturbing. (His mom came to pick him up after a while, she parked in the handicapped spot and looked like she had mobility issues due to obesity.)

Whoa, whoa, whoa.

Take the child over to grandpa and say, "little one needs a break. Lots of pushing, I don't want him or anyone else to get hurt!" Smile and hand him over.

This is brave, but it better than labeling the child, the obese mom, and the family.

And reread your note. You are sounding pretty mean girl here.

Hi, I am sure you published this before, but since I have seen it here twice today, can you reprint your ideas and rules for family meetings, please? Is it different from something like just having dinner all together, no screens or distractions allowed?

I like this resource.

If enquiries about specific situations don't elicit a response, please have her checked out by a doctor experienced in depression in children and adolescents. I had a nervous breakdown at the age of 11 and my parents did their best for me, as they knew depression ran in both sides of the family. They took me to the family doctor right away, and while there wasn't really much available in the way of help back then, just knowing that the grown-ups understood meant the world to me.

Good point! Thank you.

What are your views on the African approach of wrapping the baby on your back? Would that be helpful at home for the LW whose toddler always wants to be held?

Oy, I have no views on that!

Our 22-month old son (our firstborn, so no prior experience in this area) is starting to be pretty aware of when he poops, announcing "poop!" sometimes and even more grossly, he is increasingly sticking his hand down the back of his diaper to get at it and show us after he's pooped if we don't notice right away. Is this one of the signs he is ready for potty-training soon? When is the ideal age to start?

Who knows!

This is the beginning, but don't push. DON'T PUSH. :)

How do we talk to our children about what happened in Charlottesville and the President's response?

Simply and honestly and age-appropriately.

Start here.

You don't need to do anything earth-shattering.

Tell them what is happening, where your family stands and why.


Ask your children what they think.

They are so wise, and we need thoughtful people now more than ever.

That's all we have time for today. Meghan will be back to chat with us again Aug. 30. In the meantime, her weekly column runs here on Wednesdays and in print in Local Living on Thursdays.

Check out Meghan's Facebook page here, and follow along with On Parenting at washingtonpost.com/onparenting or on our Facebook page.

Enjoy the rest of the week!

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.
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