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Frequently Asked Questions

"My 8 year-old son (and his 2 younger sisters) will not pick up their toys! I have tried everything, including boxing up all of their toys and putting them inthe garage. Nothing seems to work. Help!"

Without knowing the ages of the younger two siblings, I can only assume that your situation is one that feels like all you are doing with your time is picking up and nagging. Hardly a beneficial situation for anyone involved.


My suggestions have to do with first addressing the fact that children must be taught how to be responsible. This is our number one job as parents, yet too many parents ignore that fact. If you want your children to put their toys away, you must be certain that you have done everything possible to teach them how to do that. Diligence and consistency on the front end, will save you alot work on the back end.

I recommend holding a family meeting and stating your dissatisfaction and exhaustion. Let your kids know that you are at your wits end and want to try something else when it comes to cleaning up. Tell them you are tired of fighting and want to come up with some family agreements about picking up toys. Enlist their suggestions and come up with one solution that feels right to every one. For example, your family may decide that your son pour all of his Legos on a towel or blanket instead of the floor. That way he can just pout them back into the bin when he is done. That makes it much easier for him to clean up and easier for you, too, since you won't have to nag him.

This way, the next time your son wants to play with his Legos, you remind him of the agreement. You make sure he has the supplies necessary to succeed: towel or blanket, floor space, bin, etc. Then, when he is finished, you are back in the room, making sure he knows how to pour them back in and watch him finish the job. Let him know he is helping the whole family when he picks up his toys and you appreciate his efforts. Then let him know it is a good time to move on to the next activity. You both repeat this process until he can do this without reminding.

Keep in mind, younger chldren can follow a similar system, but will need more assistance and reminding until they are developmentally ready for more autonomy.

This may sound like a lot of work, but taking the time to consistently support and teach your children to develop healthy habits when they are young, will contribute to a more peaceful and respectful family life in the long-run. It may not be the most efficient way to parent, but it is by far the most effective. The kids benefit from learning responsible behaviors and you benefit from the peace of not having to threaten, nag and beg.



My six year-old daughter has been stealing things from school, the grocery store, and restaurants. I just found a "nest" of other stolen objects in her closet. What should I do?"

Please try to remember here, that "stealing" is really an adult word, not necessarily meant to describe the behaviors of small children. Kids this age are still developing in every way, and are grappling with the idea of impulse control. When children this young take things, it is usually no more serious than not being able to control themselves. They are classically ego-centered, and if they see an object they don't have, but desire greatly, they may just take it. She may have a "nest" because she has found herself with some objects she knows don't belong to her, but does not know how to handle it.

There will be times, however, when a child's basic needs are not being met, he/she needs more attention, does not feel control over his/her life, or is experiencing peer pressure. These issues need to be addressed differently, and usually occur with older children.

With this in mind, it is very important to treat your child with respect. After trying to figure out why your child stole, state that "our family does not take things that don't belong to us", and explain that it is wrong.

If you feel that restitution is necessary, you may accompany your child to a store or to the neighbor's house and help him apologize and return the object. This must be handled with the utmost respect and consideration for your children's integrity, otherwise, they may internalize that they are bad, not the stealing.

Remember that children learn from us. If they never see you paying cash for items (because you use your debit/credit card) they may assume you don't need to pay for things. If they see you eat a grape in the produce section of the grocery store without paying for it, they may assume that behavior is acceptable and follow suit. Remember to check yourself and your behaviors during this exploration as well.

Children usually grow out of the "stealing phase" and rarely turn into criminals, thiefs, or law-breakers.




My five-year old seems totally obsessed with guns. He points his finger at me and pretends to shoot me in my face when I am talking to him. What should I do?

“Obsessed” is a popular term these days, and perhaps a bit out of place in this situation. Kids will practice a behavior over and over again because it is usually serving a purpose of some kind. Because I don’t know the specifics here, my guess is your son could either be engaging in a mental scenario in his head during his play (which looks violent to us, but for him could be ridding the world of the bad guys), or he is in need of expressing frustration he may be experiencing during your interactions.


Gun play, superhero play and other seemingly aggressive play is very common in children his age. We need to be aware that this kind of play is allowing for very important physical and cognitive development for your son. His preoccupation with guns can be metaphorically related to his need to feel powerful, act-out disturbing violence he may have experienced (movies, TV, real-life, etc.), or to develop a sense of belonging among his peers. Whatever his need, it is most important we see his play from his “needs” perspective. He may also be letting you know that he feels “powerless” when you speak to him in certain ways, or punish him.


If the pointing of the gun in your face makes you uncomfortable, I would suggest two things. If you can, try to play along with it. Pretend you are “shot” and die a dramatic death. He may play along with you (enjoying the power he feels over you), or he may become clear that he does not want that to happen to you. Also, it’s okay for you to say, “I feel scared when you point your finger/gun in my face. It makes me think of real guns, and those hurt and kill people”. See what happens.


Either way, please remember your child’s need to play as well as your need to feel comfortable with that play. It’s not always an easy balance to find, but it is always a necessary one.


We are interested in having our 3 y/o and 5 y/o do chores around the house, but my mother tells me they are too young. Any advice?

Even very young children can be a part of keeping order in their house. As parents, it is very important to introduce the concept of chores in a mindful way. First, be clear with yourself, that the goal of introducing housework to our children is to ultimately prepare them to be clean, organized, self-responsible adults. This is part of a long learning curve, and needs to be treated with patience and understanding. Of course, getting help unloading the dishwasher or with the vacuuming will eventually lighten your load, but don’t expect those results right away.


When talking to kids about “chores” try using the word “housework” instead. Explain that everyone has a very important role in keeping the house neat and clean, and every one is expected to do that. Of course, one and two year olds will need to be expected to do different kinds of house work than older children, but should still be expected to help in their own ways.


Talk as a family about what work is done around the house and ask your children which work they are interested in doing. Make sure each child knows exactly what is expected of him/her and that they how to complete each task. Let them have that task for 2-3 months at least, and then allow them to change their tasks around. This way, they will be able to perform many different household tasks as they get older.


Whatever you do, please don’t underestimate your children’s abilities. Any child who can figure out a complicated computer or multi-task with texting, calling, and chatting, can surely figure out the washer and dryer. Some suggested jobs according to age are as follows:

1-3 year old (Please don’t expect perfection):  Put away toys, help set table, dust, sweep, water plants.

4-5 year old: Rake leaves, sweep (even better than youngers), get the mail, help empty the dishwasher, feed pets.

6-7 year old:  Set and clear table for meals, empty trash, pour own drinks or make simple meals (cereal, toast, etc.), sort laundry.

8-9 year old:  Load and run dishwasher, fold and put away laundry, pick up entire bedroom, wash windows.

10-11 year old:  Help prepare meals, mow lawn, make own school lunches.

12-14 year old:  Plan and shop for meals, clean bathrooms, wash cars, wash own laundry. 


My 12-year-old son and I are constantly fighting about money. He wants to throw away his money on ridiculous things and I want him to learn the value of saving his money. I helped him open a savings account and he will only put money in it if I win an argument. He gets allowance and receives money from birthdays, etc. What should I do to show him the value of saving money?

Kids will not always automatically understand the value of saving money. The adults in their lives need to teach them about the values of money in general. Preferably this lesson comes in the very beginning in the form of modeling appropriate adult behavior surrounding money. Are the adults saving? Spending frivolously? Is there conversation about household finances that include the children? Teaching children about how to become responsible financial adults, requires an adult who is willing to become financially responsible as well. There are many books and online resources today to help guide even financially savvy adults to become even more savvy, all the while teaching their children the same guidelines.


For example, children need to know the basics: 

  • The value of money (family values, societal values, monetary values)

  • How to keep track of their money (in a jar? In an account? In an envelope?)

  • How to save money (interest, long-term vs. short-term saving, keeping their eye on the prize)

  • How to spend money (where does the money go? Taxes, shipping costs, credits)

  • How to give money (donating is part of the financial value system, as well)


Adults need to know the basics as well:

  • How to set limits on kid’s spending (what is appropriate and what is not)

  • When to say “no” (yes, you can have an “absolutely not” list)

  • When to bail out your kids (as well as when not to bail out your kids)

  • When to give credit or loans (complete with re-payment guidelines)

  • How to help children develop critical thinking skills for getting what they want (how long will it take to save for those jeans or for that toy?)

Planting financial roots should ideally begin early in your family’s life. Teaching children positive financial habits, financial values and critical thinking early on can help give your children the gift of financial success when they become adults. It’s never too late to teach children positive financial habits. Creating systems as a family, with the children’s input, will help them to feel more in control of their money, and will help you be clear about your expectations, as well. If you need more assistance, consider consulting different financial resources with your child. www.solutionsinparenting.com


I use time out to discipline my four-year old. It doesn't’t seem to be working anymore. Not only is she still doing the same things that got her in trouble (writing on her table instead of her paper!) but also she seems even more defiant when she is through. Am I doing something wrong? 

I encourage you to take a look at your daughter as a whole and let this behavior be a clue to you that she may need something. Has some sort of change occurred in her life recently?  Perhaps a new baby, change of school, trouble sleeping, growing, conflict at home, etc. Try to be a “need detective” and help her to find clues to her discomfort. When children misbehave, they are telling us in the only way they know how that they need our help solving their mystery. Instead of concentrating on the writing on the desk (you will be able to clean it, she won’t always write on desks, she’s not a bad person, dealing with it can wait), keep her close to you and let her know that writing on desks is not okay with you and tell her why.  

Sometimes repeated unacceptable behaviors can be an indication that she has a real need or that she really doesn’t know what is right or why it is wrong. Chances are, when she is in a time-out, she’s not going through the list of the rights and wrongs of writing on desks. She’s feeling sad, angry, isolated, confused, lonely and punished. Teaching your children what the inappropriate behavior is, the effect it has on your or others lives and how they can change that behavior is a formula for successfully helping your child to change her own behavior. 

So take a time-out from time outs and really think about “misbehavior” in terms of this being a teachable moment. Your children will benefit tremendously.


How do I get my fourth grader to do his homework?  Every night is a battle where I end up yelling and he ends up crying. His homework gets done, but it takes forever and is disrupting the whole family. I hate this cycle. Help!

Homework can be one of the toughest battles families face. With tougher educational standards, increased homework loads and more pressure to do well, that makes for a very charged situation. 

One very important fact to know is that getting homework done is your child’s responsibility, not yours. Homework is a contract between teachers and children. Think of yourself as a coach, standing on the sidelines. Let your player take responsibility and carry the ball. Be available for support, but let your child complete the task at hand from start to finish. The hard work will be theirs alone-but most importantly, so will the satisfaction of achievement. 

The following tips can help your child to succeed and can help you to relax and enjoy watching your child gain greater independence.

  • Turn off the TV. Reducing distractions will help concentration.

  • Provide all necessary school supplies. Spending 10 minutes searching for a pen or sharpening a pencil will distract even the most dedicated student.

  • Be committed to keeping a consistent study time and place for your child. Make sure other siblings and family members are equally committed by helping them to have their own study time or quiet space during homework time every day.

  • Make yourself available when your child needs you but resist the temptation to become too involved. He must learn to problem-solve for himself.

  • Make sure your child is nutritionally nourished and has had an adequate amount of “down time” (15 – 30 minutes) between school and homework time.

Try some or all of these techniques and you may find that the days of yelling at your son to finish his homework are over. You may very well find a self-motivated, organized student who turns in his completed homework on time.


What is a parenting consultant and how do I know if I need one or not?  What’s the best way to choose one? 

A parenting consultant is a trained parenting expert. Consultants can be certified parenting educators, therapists, psychologists, child development specialists or certified coaches.  

As parenting consultants, we look at your family as a whole and observe behavioral dynamics of all members involved. We usually meet family members and target specific dynamics to be corrected. We help the families establish different behaviors. Some consultants work directly with children and some concentrate on the parents. At Solutions in Parenting we do both. Many consultants are trained to recognize deeper issues within a family system and can work with other professionals in the community, such as therapists, psychologists, teachers, ministers, etc. to form a united effort in helping the family thrive.

Most consultants offer a chance to speak on the phone, at no or minimal cost, so you may decide if that consultant is right for you. Don’t be afraid to ask about the person’s qualifications, experience and professional philosophy. They should be willing to answer all of your questions.

Consultant’s fees can range from $90.00 per hour to more than $1,000 per hour. Price usually does not dictate the quality of the service, but keep your family’s budget in mind. Consulting relationships can last for months, though they can be shorter, and most will offer “package deals” or long-term rates. Each Consultant will vary, so be sure to ask about pricing fees and packages.

Deciding to hire a parenting consultant may be one of the most important decisions you can ever make for your family. Research your options and find the one who fits your family's needs the best.



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