On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions about parenting

Sep 13, 2017

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

Morning all! Thanks for joining us. What to discuss? How about Meghan's column today about too much parenting info/ anxiety/developmental stages? It's so good, no matter your kid's age. We had a lot of good things up this week at On Parenting, including a piece on youth football and concussions, a mother returning home after fleeing from Irma, how a haircut can teach a child about consent and much more.

Alrighty, let's get chatting, shall we?

Hi all. Please hang in there. We're having some technical difficulties.

Can you recommend a beginning reader level chapter style book for my first grade girl that isn't too juvenile? I'd prefer one that she can read herself with minimal help. Everything I've found is either leaps ahead or just above books I read to my three year old. Bonus points if the main character is a girl!

Oh, there are so many wonderful books. Mr. Putter and Tabby. Frog and Toad. The Dodsworth books. Cam Jansen. For more advanced readers: Ivy & Bean. Baseball Mysteries.  The key is letting her find her way AND keep reading aloud to her. If you push her too much into books she's not ready for, it may backfire and she'll start to think reading is dull, frustrating. Reading with her will help cultivate a love for it, plus opens up so many conversations. Talk to her teacher, the local librarian (so so wonderful and helpful), the local bookseller. They just know so much. Also, you might want to check out Common Sense Media's lists, too.

We need some advice on reviewing homework. Our kids are 8 and 9. Each day we review their homework to ensure it is done completely and correctly and after the review they pack it away to return to school. We have one child who is convinced that he should be entirely left on his own (at which point I doubt he would do half of his homework) and both who do think that we should not review their homework for accuracy. When we find errors in their homework we normally mark that question on the page so they can review and correct them, or if they are confused we can provide them additional guidance. Almost all of the errors we find are not issues with subject matter comprehension, but issues with self-discipline of doing homework carefully and checking answers. I don't want to be a helicopter parent who isn't teaching my children responsibility for themselves, at the same time we are supposed to sign their homework each night. Do you have thoughts on the role of parents in homework review at different ages?

(Let me just say that I spent an hour this morning, before the kids were awake, relearning metric conversions so I could check the homework tonight.) I'll let Meghan take this one, but may I suggest the excellent book The Gift of Failure? Much good guidance in there. (You're not helicoptering by checking homework. Are you doing it for them? Then there's a problem.)

Woah, woah...

Hold on, is there a real need here?

I don't get it. This is too much....

This is too much.

I feel like you are setting up the children for a lot of stress, and I am sure why we are checking and rechecking and rechecking this homework.

The work, technically, is the children's and every time you hover and check and correct and control, you are stealing away the opportunity for your children to own their own learning.

Where is your thinking coming from? Is this cultural? I need more information?







Hi Meghan, I have two kiddos in middle school and we are having a screens crisis!! They need to be on screens less, period. What we don't know is what appropriate guidelines/time limits are for their ages (10 and 12) and then also how to enforce. I am losing the screen battle every morning and night and I know it has to change. Is there any guidance you can give on this?

Oy...contact or look into Adam Pletter, iParent101. I think he offers the best info ever out there. 

It is so hard to rein this in once you have been lax, but YOU CAN DO IT.

Start family meetings, bring them into the conversation, and START SMALL.

If you go too hard, you will get backlash, sneakiness, and generally horribleness.




While I second the recommendations (Frog and Toad, Amelia Bedilia, Fancy Nancy readers, etc.), what's the rush? If this is something SHE is asking for, chapter books with girl main characters, then that's fine. But I don't really think a 1st grader "needs" chapter books. Go to the library and find some picture books. Seriously. Read Angelina Ballerina together, Fancy Nancy, or Pinkalicious. Hearing vocabulary you read will help with comprehension and better reading down the road. (from a parent with two teens - one who read in kindergarten, and the other at nearly age 7.5)


Also, we still read picture books at bedtime in our house a lot. 5th and 2nd graders here. They are fun to read together, open up lots of conversations, and are a nice way to end the day.

A few pieces about reading and kiddos are right here. And here. And here. And more suggestions here

Your Post Points code today: OP5675

I have an 8 year old son who constantly lies like a pathological liar. There's no reason for it other than to look smart? Whatever we're taking about, he's got something to say about it and it is presented as a fact, like he's trying to teach us something. I tell him that it's not true and he shouldn't create stories and present them as true but then I feel like a bully sometimes I just say "oh really?" Instead. He's now lying to his teachers about taking or not taking medication. He takes meds for ADHD. A teacher will call me and say he told them he didn't take his medication today and she needs to give him some or the opposite, he doesnt need to take it today at school. First, is this nutute or nature? Because on my husband's side there are a few pathological liars. Second, what do I do about it?

Shame is the word that comes to me.

Shame about the meds? Shame about the ADHD? Shame of being separated from his peers? 

This child needs someone to get into his heart stat. I know the lying is highly provactive, but you need to see it as a cry for help. He needs to feel safe, so how do we best do this? How can we reach his heart?

I have the feeling that the teacher is asking if he is taking his meds more as a way to question him when he is out of control, which will make him more insecure and defensive...

I think he needs more support at school...how can do that? And lay off the lying...don't take the bait. That's just an invitation to fight.




I'm not the OP, but it sounds like the teacher is requiring the parents to sign off it! So this awful dynamic is being generated by that. Because the signature is required, the parent will still have to look it. I think I'd email the teacher about this requirement, and that you will be signing the homework from now on but not checking it, because it is causing some bad family repercussions.

Or if it's causing so many issues at home, just sign it and move on. Sometimes, it's good to get clarification from the teacher -- does s/he want parents to check and work with the kids, or just sign when they see it's completed. That's something I heard parents asking at our own back to school night this year, and I think that's an important distinction.


Check out the Heidi Heckelbeck series! It's a super fun series about a girl who is a witch! Even my 8 year old son loves the books!

My daughter just started 2nd grade, and I second the recommendations above, but our key resource for books is our public library. I absolutely love that the librarians in our kids' section speak to my daughter directly and ask her what she is interested in, what she has already read, and how long of a book she wants. She has her own card (though I get the email notices for due dates) and is responsible for keeping the books together to return/renew. Also-she only recently (like, this week) seemed to want to read a chapter book. Her brother was devouring chapter books in 1st grade, but she enjoys having a story at her level that she can manage in 15 minutes and move on. I promise, she will not be reading Elephant & Piggy in middle school!

Libraries all the way. I don't know what we'd do without ours. (Go, DCPL!)



I know you get these questions a lot, and I've been trying to take your advice. But my 3-year old daughter has just started a 3-day a week morning preschool. She can sit on the toilet and pee. She wears pull-ups to the school, but they say she goes potty like the other kids. She had been doing well, until about 2 weeks ago. Now she throws big tantrums when it is time to pee, even when it is time to change her diaper. She has a speech delay, so I try to be extra patient, knowing she can't express herself as well as she would like. But this is getting really hard. Any advice, please?

When a three year old is emotional stressed, many of the systems in her body will become stressed and will revert to being immature. Toileting, speech (which is already delayed which adds to the frustration), sleep, eating....the tantrums increase, everything goes wacky.

Beyond extreme patience, keep trying to say the feeling words that you think she is feeling. Saying the words may alleviate some of her frustration.

Just keep loving her through this, IT WILL GET BETTER! And is she getting supports for the speech?



Independence on homework is a great goal to have, but given the amount that is assigned at a ridiculously early age, it isn't usually immediately achievable. I made it our joint goal in fifth grade to get there, and we got there, but she did need some guidance and suggestions. She's not perfect but she gets it all done, mostly correctly, on her own and is now a freshman in high school and managing her own workload just fine.

Thanks... sounds reasonable.

A friend of mine, a co-worker, died this week. I told my partner and daughter about it, and explained that she'd had a heart attack. This morning, my daughter woke up asking if the heart attack will come to our house; she's scared. Clearly, I screwed up in explaining what a heart attack is, and I tried to do a better job today. It doesn't help that I have a hard time keeping it together when I talk about my friend's death. I'm trying to avoid euphemisms (like "passed away"), and I'm trying to answer questions that come up, although sometimes I get weepy. It's not the first death my daughter has had to deal with; my mother passed away three years ago and a cousin's dog died a couple years ago. She still talks about those deaths; they were both huge to her. Any suggestions? I don't want to to become obsessed with death.

I am so so sorry. 

Death is big. And you cannot avoid it, so you have to run with it.

If she brings it up, just keep hearing her: "Yes, it is really sad. And mom and I are healthy (or dad and I are fine). We are here. We are here every day. And love is always here."

I love The Invisible String as a book...

And if she's sensitive and has had loss in her life, she will need to process this over and over. Get ready to listen to it.


I have a 7 year old who is extremely sensitive - he cries very easily when he is hurt or he feels he has done something wrong and is generally quite anxious (for example, when he goes to a new class or new activity, he is usually in tears). I was like this when I was young and ended up suffering from depression and anxiety. How do I make sure my son does not suffer the same fate?

I would recommend a little therapist for him...if you feel like it is huge and big and overwhelming, do not be afraid to reach out for help, especially if you are relating to your child.



I have an 8 year old boy, and try my best to talk to him in age appropriate ways about his body. A lot of my friends with daughters recommend the American girl book, but I see they just released a boy version. Have you looked at it? Is there any other books for boys you'd recommend? I want to use it as a reference and also to give my son so he can process this stuff himself as he gets older and everything starts changing. Thanks.

I just handed it over to my kid after reading it myself and found it super helpful/appropriate. (He just turned 10, but I would have been happy to have him read it with me at 8.) We also like the Boy's Body Book.

Both are super straightforward with good illustrations.

I love love love love The Boys Body Book, too.

Really, any book will work, as long as you take a peek at it and feel good about it.

What matters most is your ability to listen and ask thoughtful questions, and this is lifelong conversation.

My 8yo loves dance class (SO MUCH). She got invited to the competition team at her studio, and that would up her classes from 2 nights a week to 4 nights a week, plus competition saturdays twice a month. I think she should do it because she WANTS to do it. Husband thinks things are fine the way they are, and that we shouldn't over schedule her. But is it over scheduling if it's what she wants to do? She is begging to do this and I am leaning towards letting her

If she's BEGGING AND she LOVES it and YOU can afford it AND your schedule can handle it, do it.


You always reserve the right to change your mind. ALWAYS.

Nothing is forever.

Just start the family meetings with her around what this will require off all of you...


Future father here...My company is small enough not to offer FMLA, provides contract services to Non-profits who are in a habit of playing musical chairs with their "help", and doesn't offer more than 10 days of PTO a year. Beyond the advice to find a new job (working on that) do you have any recommendations on how to broach the subject or what to do? I'd prefer two weeks paid but would take it unpaid as well. Thanks!

That's so difficult, I'm sorry. The U.S. is one of only three countries that doesn't provide paid maternity leave, let alone leave for fathers.

You first have to think about what your supervisor is like. Can you ask to use some sick time, for instance? Any vacation time you've racked up? Come up with a detailed plan, make a good case, and make it easy on them as you show how it could actually work. There are a lot of helpful resources out there. This piece in the Harvard Business Review is good, and shows a lot of good resources.

I'm sorry for you, and for all parents who don't have decent leave to stay with a new one after birth.

Check out this piece by a dad who wrote for us, and what happened when he took three months off.

Good luck.

I have two daughters, an almost 3 year old and a 15 month old. They have separate rooms but as we transition the 3 year old out of her crib and into a bed, I want them to share a room. My husband thinks this is unnecessary as we have the space for each girl to have her own room -- he thinks they will wake each other up at night (they are both decent sleepers, but occasionally the 3 year old has nightmares and the 15 month old wakes up for no good reason.) I like the idea of them sharing a room, I think it'll teach them to share generally and bring them closer. Also, it'll be easier to make the transition now than when they are older. Any guidance on room sharing? Thanks!

I am not really seeing the need for the kids to share the room here. The girls are close in age, live together, see each other A LOT, so why do we need to bring them closer?

On the surface, I am with your hubs here...unless there is a compelling reason to keep the other space open. Do you have other reasons other than closeness?

Our almost five year old experiences mood swings that my husband and I think are typical for his age. He is quite mature verbally, and in calmer moments we talk about how it's OK to cry or yell "to get your feelings out" but it has to be done without hurting anyone else. We also try never to deny bids for affection of any kind. However, lately he'll be in he midst of a full-blown tantrum - screaming yelling, pounding on walls or sometimes even spitting - and begin shouting "I need a hug to calm down!" While we try to never say no to a request for a hug, this is starting to feel manipulative. And frankly, we aren't always in the mood to hug a flailing, whining, crying kid in full meltdown mode. He has at times screamed for ten to fifteen minutes "I NEED A HUG" to avoid other self-soothing tools as we try to guide him (taking deep breaths, etc.) At what point is it OK to say, "I'll be happy to hug you as soon as you stop kicking/screaming/whatever"? This is an otherwise affectionate, smart and even-keeled boy who gets great rest, sleeps well and has not given us and his preschool teachers any indication he's struggling with something beyond normal issues of this age.

You do not have to hug a flailing child.

You also don't have to stomp away and withhold love.

Simply wait.

I know this is hard, but it is good practice for the future. And you keep your alpha in good standing. Be in charge by not reacting...does this make sense?

That does it for today, folks. Join us here again the week after next. Make sure to check out On Parenting here and on our Facebook page. Meghan has lots of good info and insight on her page as well. Take care and talk soon!

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: