On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions about parenting

Sep 12, 2018

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

Morning all. It's time to talk parenting with Meghan. Here's her latest column on car time with a child and a parent who's wondering if their child is a bully

Have a question? Ask away! 

Now that pool season is over, I struggle with ideas for keeping my girls, 5 and 8, active when the weather is cold. They have taken rec center classes and mostly hate them. Their pediatrician suggested "soccer!" but neither girl is interested. My older one, who gravitates to books and screen time, suggested yoga but it is difficult to find yoga classes for pre-teens. They do not like hiking or biking, though they like playgrounds and gymnastics. Gymnastics is a possibility but is quite expensive, especially for two girls (if we put one in gymnastics, the other one will definitely want to do a class as well.) I am thinking of buying a big-screen TV and getting a Wii, plus there are websites like Go Noodle which they really like. Do you have other ideas? 5-13 seems like an in-between time for classes unless you do soccer or martial arts. Thanks!

Oh, there is so much to do!

Google your town and "activities for kids.." Even the smallest of towns have loads and loads of activities for kids. Do a "parks near our house" tour and drive around.

Find indoor pools and swimming lessons.

And listen, your children don't need to love everything. They don't have to love hikes,  but you should still try.

Take a hard look at your budget and decide what you really want to do versus what you can do. True, gymnastics may be expensive for two, but your sanity may be worth it for one winter.

What I am saying is: hold off on the Wii or at least get the Wii AND plan lots of other outside activities.

Also, can you join up with some friends for some ideas? Two heads are better than one!

I love tech and gaming, but look at it as an option for further down the list.

How much should I let my kid eat at meals? My son is 7 and eats an enormous amount. He truly eats more than most full grown adults. He loads his plate at dinner completely full, polishes it off at record speed, and then refills his plate. He also is constantly asking for snacks between meals, and I try to limit that but it's hard when he is saying he's so starving. To give an example of what he eats, last night when I made breakfast for dinner, he had 3 pieces of french toast, an entire belgian waffle, 2 fried eggs, and a pile of bacon and sausage. Is this just the diet for a growing boy? I feel like I could feel a family just off what he eats at one meal. I haven't made any remarks about this, since I am very hesitant to make him feel self conscious about what he eats. The last thing I want is to shame him!

Have you spoken with his pediatrician? Does he eat healthy food? Some veggies and fruits in there? I think instead of quantity, the important thing is quality. Meghan? 

I am with Amy...is he healthy?

And yes, don't talk to him about the food...take it to the doctor and see what they say.

Hi Meghan, I'm a dad of 4 kids including a 5 month old, and I love your helpful column. I have a neighbor who recently moved in next door to me who is a single mom to a 3 month old. Because of how close in age our children are, we have gotten to know each other a bit and are friends on facebook. I noticed on facebook that she feeds her son baby food containing meat and dairy, as well as ice cream and milkshakes. I know from experience that this is not healthy or safe for her little one, and I wish she would stop. If I say something, would that be considered mom shaming? I'm not trying to put down her parenting, I just am honestly concerned for her child. What can I do?

Errrrr, uhhhh, emmmm.

This is a neighbor, so tread lightly. You want good relations, so I am feeling like you stay quiet on this and let her pediatrician talk to her about that.

And, you know, in some cultures, this IS normal...so...yeah.

I think if you are feeding your kids together, you can say, "Oh man, I wish I could feed Ralphie XYZ..." and see what she says.

But this doesn't reach a bar for me where I would say anything.

Feels like the resources out there are so fragmented, between books, blogs, facebook groups etc. or expensive like parenting training. Anything in between? And so much of the information out there seems conflicting. Are there any things that all the experts can agree on?

LOL, nope.

Listen, you have what is takes to be a good parent. Drop great, give yourself some space.

You were given what you need. Seriously.

If you have questions, peek around and see what speaks to your HEART, not necessarily your mind.

When I met Dr. Gordon Neufeld, the developmental psychologist, I saw stars and hearts. Literally, it was like lightening hit me. 

I already understood what he was saying, he just put it into words I could get.

Also, always take what you like and leave the rest. No one has a monopoly on the best advice (except me, I am always right. HA! No, I am not).

Don't sweat finding the right way....just keep a soft heart and strong boundaries.

What are some effective ways to help siblings foster loving relationships with each other? My daughters are 4yo and 2yo and I'm having a hard time distinguishing between normal sibling dynamics and problematic behaviors and I don't always know how to intervene when they are driving each other crazy.

Here's a piece we ran about fostering good sibling relationships by Jennifer Wallace. Hope it helps. Meghan? 

4 and 2? Oh man, it's like herding cats.

You have two immature people who get on each other's nerves A LOT.

A lot of this is waiting for time to do its work and not making it worse.

Time WILL grow them up and they will fight DIFFERENTLY (HA! it is true, though), but for now, they need a lot of supervision.

You can head off some of the drama by not letting it get bad, but you are only human. So, when they are fighting:

1) Don't always blame the older one (a common default for parents)

2) Don't force them to apologize to each other

3) Get them away from each other

4) Use tech strategically. For instance, 5 PM and on, can sesame street go on?

5) Make sure you keep that 2 yo away from the 4 yo.

6) Keep your sense of humor

7) Use feeling words all of the time. "I see a lot of frustration here." "I am seeing that Lucy is feeling sad..." etc. It all adds up later.

8) Hang on for dear life. It will get better.

9) Don't time out. And if you sit them down somewhere, sit them BOTH  down.

Your Post Points code for today: OP8407

Should I allow my son to have sex in high school? I know I know, this question makes it seem like I have control over it, and I know that in the end I don't. But in terms of lettingg girls sleep over/giving privacy in the bedroom, what should I do? We aren't religious so I don't really have any moral obligations to sex, but I do wonder whether I should let my 17 year old have sex with girls (if they are over the age of consent obviously). About a year ago I sat him down and we had a long coversation about sex, consent, STDs, condoms, other birth control, etc. and we've revisited this sporadically since then, but my rules for have girls over haven't changed. Should they?

Ummmm, I ummmm, errrrrr.


All I keep thinking about is getting up to pee and seeing my son's girlfriend in the bathroom after she's had sex with my son.

I am pretty liberal, but that's too much for me.

So, I cannot answer this for you.

It is awesome that you have had such a great conversations with your son; well done. You are going to have to decide what YOU feel comfortable with...

I am not sure the parents of the girlfriend will be 100% down with this, so that's an angle to also consider.

Choice is yours. It is YOUR house, YOUR rules.

My son recently started guitar lessons in mid August. He's 6. He's been asking me for years to learn the guitar, and we finally decided that it was time to pay for lessons. He really enjoys the lessons and seems to have a lot of fun playing around with the guitar, but doesn't actually like to practice (he enjoyed practice for about the first week of lessons and then that tapered off). I'm wondering how much I should push the practicing thing. On one hand, this is just for fun, so I don't see why I should make him practice if he's not feeling it. On the other hand, he's been asking for these lessons and made a commitment to do his teacher's practicing assignments for at least this school year. My husband's theory is that once he starts getting good he'll want to practice more, but I don't see how he can get good without putting in work! What do yuo think?

He's six, so let's take a beat.

He is playing, he loves it, he happily goes to lessons...that's good enough...for now. Almost everyone who teaches an instrument wants the child to have positive interactions with the instrument and the lessons...and the practice will grow naturally out of that.

You could call a little meeting with your son and say, "Hey, I working on (insert on something) on Sat AM. How about you play the guitar and I do (whatever)? Five minutes, we will time it!" If he seems into it, great.

But don't fight to get it done.

It's not worth it for now.




Hi Meghan, We're about to move 500 miles away, to my hometown, and my kids (4 and 1) will grow up five minutes from their grandparents. I'm thrilled about this, but I'm also anxious about how to ease the transition for my 4-year-old. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, and while my loving, engaged parents did the best they could, it was really hard on kid-me and affected me in ways that still echo today. My daughter isn't me, of course, so I don't want to overthink or overmanage it, but she's a sweet and sensitive kid, so I also want to make space for her to be sad about leaving her friends and caregivers here, even if she won't fully understand it until we get there. I would really appreciate any advice you can offer on how to make it easier, on both of us.

It sounds like you are going to give your daughter what you needed: space to be sad.

Children are almost always "home" if their parents can find a way to welcome all of their big emotions, both positive and negative.

Strangely, or not, smells can be very important during this time. Lovies, your nightshirt, anything that smells of something she knows that soothe a nervous system.

Also, routines are so important. Even if you feel like chicken with your head cut off, keep everything regular (meals and bedtime, etc.)

Also, be ready for some regression...she may act like the baby, have trouble with potty training, become excessively shy, etc. Don't sweat this or punish it. It is the mind's reaction to stress.

Meanwhile, if you feel like you have stuff to work out, find a therapist.  It is never too late to heal old wounds. It helps.

Related to the food question above, at my son's 8yo check up we were told (in front of him) that his BMI was too high and we needed to make changes. We are a fairly active family that eats well for the most part. We can certainly cut back on treats and portions and are doing that. But with my son's age and having heard the doctor he is very aware of the situation. We talk about giving your body the right fuel and just the right amount (not too much and not too little) but he is upset about it. I am terrified that he will get a complex. Do you have any other suggestions for ways to approach the topic/words to use? Thanks!

Check out Rebecca Stritchfield. She's awesome on this topic.

I talk about food as fuel and something to be absolutely enjoyed. It is both. 

I talk about my own body and everyone else's as healthy. Healthy at every size. Period.

I don't like that your pediatrician said that in front of your son. I know docs are rightly concerned about obesity and children, but shame is not a useful tool.

Talk to the dr and let them it is not okay, and if the doc doesn't get it, switch.


My daughter is 13. She's very fit and healthy. She can run a 7 minute mile and plays center midfield on her competitive soccer team. She's also overweight with a BMI of 25.2. When I encourage her to eat healthy, cut down on portion size, etc., she tells me it feels like I'm telling her she's fat and that hurts her feelings a lot. In response, I tell her she's beautiful and I just want her to be healthy. Her response, I am heathy; it's my body; leave me alone. Should I quit trying?


Say nothing about her body every again.


Listen, I know you want your daughter to be healthy, but she's at a tender age for body awareness and God, she is amazing. She TELLS you that she is HEALTHY and she is TELLING YOU TO BACK OFF.

Your job, as a parent, is to serve wholesome food. Her job is to eat without any comment from you. Your job is to love unconditionally, without comment. Her job is to feel safe in that love.

I am so glad you wrote.

I'm surprised you didn't mention games that don't require electronics for the kids. It might not be physical exercise but it'll be great for occupying them and stimulating their imagination and creativity. For physical activity, there are games like Twister.

YESSSSSSS. Thank you. I was thinking of outside and getting the bodies moving, but there is a world of creativity for inside the house. We are doing "classic card games" in my house now. So fun. And there are board games that promote movement, too.

Also, our local library has an amazing amount of stuff to do...so check out your library and community centers!

If they like gymnastics, they might like dance as well. Depending on the studio, it's not as pricey as gymnastics, at least for the 5-8 y.o. set. This is a good time of year to visit dance studios -- most should let you try a class.

YES! Hip Hop and jazz all of it...love.

When we moved across town to a new house, we had shipped from Amazon a new toy for our son and addressed the package to him. When we went over to the house to bring stuff (we hadn't sold our old house yet), he saw the package and was so excited. And another thing we realized retroactively that our kids (younger sibling is 2 years younger) totally fed off our moods. When the countdown was on for moving day, my husband and I were so excited, truly. The kids fed off that and got excited, too. So definitely talk it up and be excited in front of your kids.

I looooove that Amazon box idea. AWESOME.

My 8 year old son is throwing endless tantrums every day. Anytime he does not get his way, crying and screaming ensues. I am beyond frustrated and have tried punishment and reasoning. What can we do?

I need A LOT MORE INFO here. When did it begin? Is there a trigger? Which punishments did you try?


This really raised a red flag for me too. There was no need to say this in front of him.

Yes, and we don't help our docs when we don't tell them what we need from them!

our nearly 3yo daughter has started (since January) resisting staying in her bed once we put her down for the night. she will demand food, water, and will come out of her room 20 times before finally settling. The result is that she doesn't get enough sleep and we are going bonkers with this 2 hour ordeal. Why is she doing this and what can we do about it?

See if this helps: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2018/08/03/parents-ask-how-to-get-a-child-to-potty-train-its-easy-you-dont/?utm_term=.671bad765273

Meghan has a few words about sleep training, potty training. Check them out here

And here

And here

Thanks for joining us, all. Check out Meghan's next chat in two weeks. In the meantime, we've got Meghan's columns right here. And On Parenting right here. Lots of good reading for you! Enjoy. 

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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