Quandaries Over Kids

Mike Riera answers parenting AP/CBS

The Saturday Early Show's family and adolescence counselor, Mike Riera, provides advice to parents who e-mailed us to "Ask Mike" about their problems with their kids.

Company Comes, Kids Misbehave

Dear Mike:

My daughters are five and four years old. When we're around other people, both girls act very silly and out of control, and they don't listen. I shut down to avoid confrontation. Then when we're alone, the girls become nice and loving. Any suggestions?


Mike's response:

You need to get proactive and stay involved; not reactive and passive. Talk with them about their behavior around others. Listen to what they have to say, and ask some questions: Are they doing this to bond with each other? Are they doing it out of nervousness?

While it's nice to understand the why of the behavior, it isn't essential. That is, during this conversation, make sure they know that you will not tolerate this behavior any longer, and don't ask for their permission. This is when parents make a strong declarative statement and then undo it by adding "Okay?" at the end.

Obviously this mom doesn't want to make a scene. What's the best way to avoid that?

When it happens the next time, emphatically put it to a stop. Apologize to the person and lead the girls away. Remove them from the activity. And make sure there is a consequence back at home - doing an extra chore or something along those lines. Expect them to test you repeatedly for a couple of weeks. As much as you can, stay calm as you implement your responses. An emotional rise from you will only fuel further misbehavior.

Introducing Kids To Divorced Parent's New Partner

Dear Mike:

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. He spends time every week with his eight-year-old daughter, who lives with her mother. He wants to introduce his daughter into our relationship. What's the right time, and what strategies should he use to make this a smooth transition for everyone?


Mike's response:

It's important to make sure the relationship is serious and stable before introducing your new boyfriend. And after two years, I would say it sounds stable, so now the question is how and when. He should talk with her about you, even show a few photos. He should say he wants her to meet you and then ask her for ideas. Often kids want to meet at a neutral place - their home feels too intimate - so maybe meet at a restaurant or a playground. At the meeting, don't pressure yourself for everything to go faultlessly well; expect some awkwardness. Be sure to listen to her and ask questions, but at the same time don't push.

I also suggest you not be physical with her dad - no handholding or pecks on the cheek - sometimes this feels too in-your-face for kids. Don't make the meeting too long, just enough to get to know one another a bit. He should ride home with her so they can debrief, though she might not have much to say. Be patient. It takes time.
  • Ellen Crean

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