Fam­ily Mat­ters How to han­dle bul­ly­ing apps, bad tod­dler be­hav­ior and am­biva­lent col­lege kids.

Working Mother - - Contents - By Joseph Bar­be­rio

QI no­ticed that my tod­dler is pick­ing up bad habits, such as hit­ting and name-call­ing, from other stu­dents at day­care. How do I pre­vent this? Should I bring this up with the day­care in­struc­tors or the par­ents of the chil­dren teach­ing him the bad be­hav­ior?

AAn­noy­ing as some tod­dler bad habits are, ac­cord­ing to Donna Tudda, di­rec­tor of the Diane Lind­ner- Gold­berg Child Care In­sti­tute at Hof­s­tra Univer­sity in Hemp­stead, NY, you don’t need to worry about all the ones your kid might pick up at day­care. Throw­ing tantrums and us­ing bath­room hu­mor are “phases that young chil­dren go through to test the wa­ters and bound­aries,” she says.

It’s fine to ig­nore those, but hit­ting and name-call­ing need your at­ten­tion. “Any be­hav­ior that is emo­tion­ally or phys­i­cally harm­ful to your child—or other chil­dren—should not be al­lowed,” says Su­san Kucz­marski, Ed.D., au­thor of Be­com­ing a Happy Fam­ily: Path­ways to the Fam­ily Soul.

If the slap­ping or teas­ing con­tin­ues or wors­ens, go to your child’s day­care in­struc­tors di­rectly to dis­cuss how they can help you solve the is­sue. “Tell them what you’re see­ing, and work out a plan to ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion that can work in both the child­care and home,” says Tudda.

Jen­nifer Jip­son, Ph.D., ex­ec­u­tive ad­vi­sory board mem­ber of The God­dard School and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor in the De­part­ment of Psy­chol­ogy and Child De­vel­op­ment at Cal­i­for­nia Polytech­nic State Univer­sity in San Luis Obispo, CA, says you can es­ca­late the is­sue to your cen­ter’s di­rec­tor if you’d like, es­pe­cially if you don’t get to see the head teacher much be­cause of your sched­ule, but “it’s not ap­pro­pri­ate to talk with the par­ents of the other chil­dren. The teacher or di­rec­tor can do that if they think it’s an im­por­tant next step.” Odds are, your day­care won’t con­firm which class­mate is to blame any­way, even if your 2-year-old names the cul­prit.

If you’re not sat­is­fied with your day­care’s ap­proach to the sit­u­a­tion— say, they’re sham­ing kids who do the wrong thing in­stead of mod­el­ing good be­hav­ior—then “it might be time to move on,” says Dr. Jip­son. Yes, find­ing another child­care so­lu­tion is a huge time in­vest­ment, but if the re­sult is a kid who learns not to hit or name-call, #wor­thit.

QMy col­lege-age child is con­stantly chang­ing direc­tions on what she wants to do for a ca­reer. I can’t keep pay­ing for her to pur­sue short-lived in­ter­ests. How do I ex­plain this while mak­ing it clear that she still has my full emo­tional sup­port?

AIt’s per­fectly fine for young adults to be un­sure about what they want to do. That be­ing said, be up­front with your child on ex­actly how much fi­nan­cial sup­port you can pro­vide go­ing for­ward. “Ex­plain that there are lim­ited funds avail­able for ed­u­ca­tion and that the two of you can prob­lem-solve to­gether about pay­ing for tu­ition,” says Teresa Grella-Hille­brand, di­rec­tor of Hof­s­tra Univer­sity’s Coun­sel­ing and Men­tal Health Pro­fes­sions Clinic. Dr. Kucz­marski rec­om­mends prompt­ing her to look for part-time jobs.

Then, talk about how she can bet­ter pick her next pur­suit. How about ap­ply­ing for in­tern­ships and seek­ing out men­tors in fields that in­ter­est her? Of course she can reach out to her school’s ca­reer of­fice, if she’s cur­rently en­rolled; oth­er­wise, she can shoot a note on LinkedIn to a neigh­bor or an alum of one of her schools. And get her to ex­am­ine her strengths and in­ter­ests be­fore start­ing a new path. “If the sub­ject is too dif­fi­cult, it might mean that it does not align with her tal­ents,” says Dr. Kucz­marski. “If a sub­ject is bor­ing, it might mean that she has no pas­sion for the topic. It is best to se­lect sub­jects and in­ter­ests that over­lap with your in­tel­li­gence type. Ev­ery­one is smart, just in dif­fer­ent ways.” Still, re­mind her not to give up so eas­ily this time.

Re­becca Berry, Ph.D., child psy­chol­o­gist at New York Univer­sity Lan­gone Health’s Child Study Cen­ter in New York City, adds that this can be a dis­tress­ing time for your child, so “val­i­date that it is nat­u­ral to have doubts about the fu­ture,” she says. “Re­mind her that many stu­dents might go through a pe­riod when they ques­tion their choices.” That makes it clear you’ve got her back, even if you can’t re­fill her bank ac­count.

QI found a pop­u­lar bul­ly­ing app on my child’s phone through which anony­mous users can send vi­cious mes­sages to other kids. What do I do now?

ATalk with your child. Even if you feel strange ad­mit­ting you looked through his cell­phone, your ac­tions are jus­ti­fied if you’re check­ing for po­ten­tial cy­ber­bul­ly­ing—whether it’s be­cause a new app is out or you’ve no­ticed that your kid’s mood has sud­denly changed. Tell your child that you have the right to step in any time you sus­pect harm­ful be­hav­ior, sug­gests Dr. Kucz­marski. And ex­plain that you did it be­cause you were con­cerned.

Next, “high­light that it is a priv­i­lege to own a smart­phone, and with that priv­i­lege comes re­spon­si­bil­ity,” says Grella-Hille­brand. Dis­cuss how you ex­pect him to not cy­ber­bully or down­load any bul­ly­ing-re­lated apps, and that you might check the phone again if you’re still wor­ried. You also might want to start us­ing pro­grams like Google’s Fam­ily Link, which al­lows par­ents to ap­prove or block apps that their kids are down­load­ing in real time. If the sit­u­a­tion arises again, Dr. Kucz­marski sug­gests re­it­er­at­ing, “We agreed that if I sus­pected some type of bul­ly­ing, then I could look at your phone.”

Also, stress to your child that you’re al­ways go­ing to be there for him if he’s be­ing bul­lied or hav­ing trou­ble on­line, Dr. Kucz­marski rec­om­mends. “Be a safety net to catch him when his need is ex­treme or ur­gent,” she says, and

“be sure he knows he can call you any­time.” If he trusts he can come to you with any sit­u­a­tion—with­out judg­ment—he’s more likely to do it.

Shar­ing def­i­nitely isn’t car­ing when it comes to bad habits.

En­cour­age her to do her re­search be­fore pick­ing a new path.

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