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