On Parenting: Meghan Leahy, Amy Joyce take questions about parenting

Jun 10, 2015

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

I asked a question last chat about how to manage my teen's sometimes unpleasant tone of voice, and said that I planned to discuss it with her. You offered some good suggestions (thanks). We had a very brief conversation in which I acknowledged that sometimes it must be hard to be 14 and that I imagined that she sometimes felt nagged by her parents. I asked her to believe that we don't intend to nag, but understand that it feels that way. And, that we all could benefit from assuming the best and trying to use gentler tones of voice with each other. She agreed. (I think it's taken longer for me to type this then the entire conversation did.) And, the tones of voice are much better in our house. So, the gentle conversation worked - for all of us! Thanks a bunch.

Thank you so much for coming back and letting us know how it worked!


Hi everyone. Thanks for joining us for our chat about all things kids and parenting. With us, as always, is the wonderful Meghan Leahy, our parenting columnist and a parenting coach behind Positively Parenting. In this week's column, she answered a question about a clingy 4-year-old. Check out more parenting coverage at On Parenting here at the Washington Post. You can also follow us on Facebook.

We had a piece up yesterday by a dad wondering why his mom has a hard time taking time for herself. Check it out here. A pediatrician answered why kids wet the bed, and what to do about it. And this morning, a lovely piece about the secrets one mom hopes her teen, who just graduated from middle school, still learns

Well then. Let's get this party started, shall we?


We have 2.5 year old twins - one boy, one girl. Our girl started climbing out of her crib and we switched her to a toddler bed. Which she has no interest in staying in.... when we put them to bed (always a chore) she roams around, keeping her brother up. We check on them frequently - she runs back to her bed and sits in it, but is daring us to "do something" - putting her feet on the floor, laughing, getting up as soon as we turn away.... We don't know what to do! Our only other form of punishment is the naughty chair - I don't think that will work here.. Bedtime is at 7:30....she's about the town until at least 8:15. Her brother is due for his toddler bed soon....and we are dreading that day. I often have to work in the evenings after they go to bed (and we go to bed early in our house) so I would love to keep the 7:30 bed time in order to be able to have a moment to myself, do my work, and get ready for the next day. Help! Thank you Kate

Oh boy.

You are in the weeds.

You are already in a rough age for bedtime (2.5), but you have TWO of them! I can only imagine how tiring this can feel.

The good news is that your instinct is dead on: there is no punishment that will help this along. Any form of punishment will only make it worse, over and over and over.

So, good. Let's not put any energy in thinking of ways to cause blame and shame.

And while this may sound discouraging (at first), we need to rejigger our expectations. I know you want to work and keep the bedtime and have moments to yourself. But, in reality, that simply may not happen here. As your children grow older, you are going to less and less free time at night. They are simply around more. You are also going to be running into normal developmental milestones (such as being scared of the dark, etc), that are going to cut into your plans. Again, we can either fight this, or we can begin to relax and accept that change is inevitable and something has to give here (and it is not going to be the children...)

So, let's be creative! Yes, keep the bedtime at 7:30, start the process a little earlier and KNOW that they will not be asleep until 8:30 PM. Just assume it. Knowing this, are there nights a partner can do all the bedtime rituals and you slip out to a coffeehouse (maybe every Wed. night?) Can you wake up a little earlier and get your alone time or work time in at those early hours? I am simply asking: how can let go of thinking that ALL of these needs must happen at night?

Secondly, the primary desire of a 2.5 year is to keep you close. When they feel you leaving them, they start all kind of shenanigans (not consciously) to get you to stay close by. So, your question becomes: how can I help them feel safe and secure? Does your bedtime ritual require more snuggles? More physical closeness? More smiles? Look at the children like they have little cups right in their hearts. How can you fill fill fill them up to help them feel as safe as they can? How can you help the girl feel that she doesn't need to get up and get your attention?

So, even if you do this beautifully and by the book, there are going to be tears. There just will. Tears are part of this age...at every turn there are tears.

Your best bet is to keep the mantra: Soft heart, strong boundaries. Part if this is staying KINDLY QUIET.

No threats, no nagging, no yelling. Keep checking on her BEFORE she gets up and smile and kiss her. Do it again, and again and again. DO it before she has the chance to chase you.

And when she hops up, keep walking her back, walking her back, walking her back.

Take the temperature of the feelings. Is she hysterical? Not good. Is she simply whining a little with tears and fatigue? Okay.

Stay as soft-hearted and loving as you can...

This WILL pass, but it going to require you to relax and be willing to make this feel EASY.

Good luck!


Hi PP lurkers. Your code today: OP4190

Hi there. My son is just finishing first grade. My husband and I have read to him since he was little, created "real world" math problems for him, and just generally tried to raise a thinking child. And hooray for us: whether through our methods or just good luck, we got one. He reads well and has great number sense (and is a genuinely fun kid). We work hard on praising his efforts, rather than telling him he's smart. However, he tells us that the kids in his class tell him he's smart! Ha. He says he used to not believe them, but now he's starting to. Last night at dinner he asked us why he knows much more than they do. What can we say to him to help his ego stay in check? He's still so young! We want him to know he's special to us, but that his classmates are also special and everyone has different strengths and talents and abilities.

This is very simple:

If YOUR egos are in check, it is likely that HIS ego will stay in check.

Since academic learning is a very small part of the delicious pie we all are, just keep things general and positive.

Talk about your family values: "We really love to learn in our family, and your father and I love to find fun and interesting ways to learn about the world!"

Love of learning. Love of continued learning. Love of curiosity.

Soon, others will have clear talents your son does not.

And that can be met with the same equanimity as when he has talents that others don't.

So, "What can we say to him to help his ego stay in check?"

When he mentions he is better or smarter or anything else, simply say, "Oh?" And move the conversation alone.

Our 11 yo son is introverted and does not have any close friends. He plays a sport, but he does not interact much with the other kids on the team. He is a great kid and we are trying not to pressure him, but I'm worried about how he will fare in middle and high school if he does not have a social network. Any advice?

My first recommendation is to read Quiet by Susan Cain.

It gives some beautiful stories and data about introverts, their special powers, and how they navigate the world.

I am also wondering: does he have any friends? One or two kids?

I ask, because that is all some children need!

Also consider this: what some people consider to be introverted is also sometimes HIGHLY SENSITIVE.

So, after a day of school AND sports, your son is simply exhausted at the prospect of being with MORE PEOPLE.

Sensitive folks FEEL MORE. The world is more wounding to them, and they naturally need to cocoon more.

Try not to place your worries into the future and instead, concentrate on the son you have now.

Focus on his gifts and his strengths TODAY.

He is who he is...

I have a two and a half year old daughter and am expecting our second child in a month. The toddler is generally a cheery kid, with a couple of typical toddler episodes a day--nothing too bad. I will have a six month maternity leave; my husband works one day a week and so primary parents. Despite this, our daughter is more firmly attached to me--I am her comfort parent. We've been talking a lot about the transition--how it's exciting to have a new baby coming to live with us, but that the baby will need time and attention, that mommy will have to nurse the baby, that mommy will have a boo-boo so won't be able to carry her or pick her up for a while, and that she may feel sad or jealous. I've been stocking up on stickers, books, and other fun, quiet toys. Is there anything else I should be doing to help this transition for my sweet girl?

Oh, you sound lovely. I think your heart is in the right place, and so I think you will navigate these bumps really nicely.

The only switch I would make is on the language:

Don't tell the toddler what you won't be doing for her.

Instead, stick to what will stay the same!

"Mom will always cuddle you. Mom will always snuggle you. Mom will always kiss your boo-boo's."

You are looking to RELAX her alarm, not increase it...so don't mention how rough it is going to get...life will take care of that on its own.



Two points. (1) High school, at least, and prob middle school, are great times to make new friends! I went to a high school where I knew only a handful of people, none of whom were kids I would've called "friends." Good thing there were all these new people I'd never met before, some of whom were a whole lot more like me than anyone else I'd ever met. (2) If your kid isn't distressed by it, leave him be. I've never been one for lots of friends, and the only time that made me feel bad or deficient is when it was implied that my lack of huge BFF network was some sort of failing.

Some good advice...

That does it for today. If you asked a question that didn't get answered, stay tuned. Meghan might answer it in an upcoming column. Have a great week, and we'll chat with you again in two weeks. Meanwhile, check out On Parenting either at The Washington Post or on our Facebook page.

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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