Author Archives: Alison Miller

Time for Everyone

I am an unmarried mother of two girls, ages 9 and 10. I also have a boyfriend of three years. My youngest daughter gets along great with my boyfriend and my oldest one used to. For the last past months my 10yr old acts as if she can’t stand him when he’s around. I once broke off of the relationship to satisfy my daughter, but then she only asked about him all the time. She has accused me of ignoring her when he is around, but we constantly do things as a family and I have designated time for her and my 9yr old one on one. Please help me ! ! ! !

It’s really easy for adults to engage in adult conversation when children are around, and children often feel left out. It can happen with married couples and with same-sex friends as well; it isn’t just because he’s your boyfriend. However, it may be more noticeable with single parents because the children are used to having their parent’s undivided attention, and suddenly there’s this other adult who has a claim on this attention, and they have to wait.

It may help to make it clear to your daughters and your boyfriend that there are several kinds of time together:

1. When it’s a time for everyone to be together (e.g. at dinner), the subjects of conversation should be things of interest to everyone, and no one should engage in 1:1 conversation which leaves others out. You can say “This is together time for everyone, so you girls can stop us if we start an adult conversation.”
2. When you and your boyfriend are spending time together, and your children just happen to be around the house, then it’s okay for you and him to talk with one another, and the girls need to learn to wait their turn. You can say “This is time for me and Bob to be together, so you girls need to amuse yourselves without counting on us.”
3. When you are spending special time with one or both of the girls, then your boyfriend needs to so something else and respect your family time. You can say “Bob, I know you want to spend time with me, but I promised to spend this time with my daughter, so you need to go home or read a book or something and not interrupt us.”

Children of this age really respond to fairness and rules, so it will help your daughter if you make it clear that there are these three kinds of time, and everyone gets their turn. You talk about time with your boyfriend and the girls being “family time,” but is it? Is he their stepfather or just your boyfriend? There is a difference. Your daughter may be grieving for the original family you had without him. Make sure that you get both time with your original family (just you and the girls, without Bob) as well as 1:1 time with each girl. The pressures on your time are more intense now that your boyfriend is involved, and you have to protect the girls’ time with you.


My son is 5 (6 in a month) and is having accidents at school. He pees his pants, and not just a little bit but a lot. He is embarrassed. I have talked to the teacher and we are trying to work together to help my son. He does not have accidents at home. When I confronted him about having accidents at school his answer has been always different. The latest answer is “I am afraid the urinals will overflow.” He does not seem to take this seriously. I have tried talking to him; the teacher has shown him the toilets will not overflow. Right now I am trying to reward him when he does not have an accident. I am extremely concerned and not really sure what to do. It is becoming a big problem.There are a couple of possibilities here

One is that he really is afraid of the urinals. He isn’t used to urinals at home, and if they flush themselves regularly they make a frightening noise that he can’t control. Even I get scared of self-flushing toilets, afraid they might flush and splash me if I’m using them.

If this is the case it would help if his older brother or his dad or a male teacher can go with him a couple of times, and demonstrate how to use the urinals. They can stand there and watch them flushing and see just how much water comes out and how high it gets, etc.

If this doesn’t work, let him know he can use a cubicle even if he only has to pee. No one will know what he is doing in there.

It’s possible that your son doesn’t know the real reason he is having the accidents, and is making up reasons. In that case nothing you will do about the urinals will help. The most common reason that kids this age have accidents is that they are concentrating on something else and don’t notice what’s happening with their bladder. School is new to your son, and the school activities may be taking so much of his attention that he just doesn’t tune in to his body signals.

The solution to this is training him to “notice his bladder” at regular intervals, say every 15 minutes, and see whether he needs to pee. If he can get in the habit of noticing he will be able to get to the toilet in time.

A reader had this to add:
I just read your advice which was written to a reader whose 6-year-old son was having trouble with wetting his pants. My son had terrible (daily) trouble with this, until I took him to a very wise pediatrician when he was 8. The pediatrician said to stop using bubble bath. As my son is uncircumcised, the bubble bath was causing a minor infection which would desensitize his penis. (I am not sure if this problem would occur in a circumcised child). This cause him to not be able to tell when he was starting to have an accident. We stopped using bubble bath, and in four years we have had almost no accidents.

Frustrating Four

My daughter is 4 and becoming very difficult. When I ask her to do something, she doesn’t want to do it (like brush her hair in the morning). She will say to me “Sorry mom but I am not going to do that” or yell or give me a dagger look. She has become obnoxious and rude. She also whines constantly, especially when you don’t do what she wants. I feel like I have tried everything and find myself getting too frustrated. Do you know of any effective ways to handle this behavior?

This is typical four-year-old behavior. Your daughter is in a transition stage. She is becoming a child rather than a toddler, and in doing this she is asserting her independence. It is really a normal stage, even though it is frustrating for parents. So the first thing you need to do is recognize that it is a stage, and it will pass. Children in transition stages (this applies to the teens as well) often insist on doing things themselves or on being in charge of things. The next moment they are whining and wanting you to do things for them that they can do for themselves. Parents need to ignore a lot of frustrating behavior during transition stages, knowing it will pass as the child matures.

Your daughter may well respond positively if you find ways in which she can be more responsible for her own care rather than you having to remind her all the time. For example, you could make a little chart with her with pictures of all the things she needs to do in the morning (brush teeth, brush hair, etc.) She gets to put a star on the chart when she gets something done. Then you stop nagging her about doing things. She can show you her chart when she is finished and you can tell her what a big girl she is becoming.

Whining is to be ignored, unless she is actually sick. One technique is to say “I can’t hear you when you whine”,and then just ignore her unless she asks for something in a normal tone of voice. You have to stick it out until she learns that you mean this. Kids are generally aware that parents find whining so irritating that they eventually give in. If she knows you won’t give in, she will eventually give up whining.

But you must also make sure that you do respond positively to your daughter when she asks for something in a normal tone of voice. Be careful not to say “no” as a matter of course. You can say, “Give me time to think” if you don’t know whether you want to say yes or no. Then get back to her a minute later. Four-year-olds don’t have a very long attention span. Make sure that if you do say no, you mean it and don’t give in later. This just rewards persistence and whining.

Why Does He Lie?

I have a 9 1/2 year old stepson, who lives with his mom and stepdad. My husband and I see him 1-2 days per week. He has been caught lying over the last few weeks, e.g not doing homework and saying he has, saying he’s eaten his lunch and it is found discarded in the yard, saying he is not to bring his yugiyo cards to a friend’s house and says he hasn’t). The adults have really been upset and he has been grounded for several weeks now. I feel we need to look for a trigger (like increased pressure at school, him getting B’s and C+’s on his report card and b/c that he’s ‘smart” this not being acceptable; wanting to play with peers and not wanting to do homework or eat lunch).

I am really concerned that all the adults are putting way too much pressure on him and treating this as such a huge issue. I may be waaaayy off here but I’m really concerned that we are getting way to overinvolved? Any help would be incredibly appreciated.

I agree with you that the adults are making the problem worse by escalating punishments because he lies. Children lie in order to avoid punishment. If your stepson is punished more and more, he will lie more and more.

Lying to avoid consequences occurs because the discipline is too harsh for minor misbehaviors such as not doing homework. In a healthy family, natural consequences are used. If homework isn’t finished, it’s up to the child to choose between getting a bad mark, staying up late, or getting up early to finish the homework. This child has no reason to lie, and he will probably do his homework, because it’s his homework, not his parents’ responsibility. In a family where the parents need to control everything, the child is grounded from seeing his friends for a weekend if his homework isn’t done. Seeing his friends is very important to him, so he’ll lie about his homework, and he’ll think it’s up to his parents to see that he gets his homework done. By taking responsibility for something that is up to the child, and by imposing harsh consequences when natural consequences were already available, the parents have set the stage for the child to lie.

Your stepson’s need is to be treated with respect and kindness, as someone who can make his own decisions and does not need to be punished severely for minor infractions. If he doesn’t do his homework, he can choose between staying up late to do it (and getting tired), or getting a bad mark. The bad mark is itself a consequence for a smart kid, and the parents don’t need to do anything more about it.

A lot of parents really worry about their children getting bad marks. It is important to help our children establish good work habits while they are young. But then, once we have done this, we need to leave it up to them unless they have serious learning disabilities. And we need to remember that contrary to what we believed when we are children, a mark on a piece of paper shouldn’t be regarded as a reward or punishment or an indicator of our status or our intelligence. We need to encourage our kids to love learning, not to love marks. There’s a difference. Also, if we make our children’s school performance our personal goal, it will be ours rather than theirs and they will expect us to take responsibility for it.

If the boy throws out his lunch, he goes hungry. That’s a natural consequence, and no grounding is necessary. I don’t see why he can’t take his cards to a friend’s house – if he forgets them there, he loses them as a natural consequence of his behaviour, and he will learn from that. The rule is too strict. The boy has to learn from the natural consequences of his behaviour, not from being grounded again and again.

This said, you are in a delicate position as a stepmother. I don’t know whether the child’s mother and stepfather are likely to listen to your opinions. Perhaps you could suggest that all four of you take a parenting course together so you can learn together how to handle this kind of thing.

Disliking Dad

My daughter is only 6 years old, but at 5 years old she told her father that she does not like him. She knows that he does a lot to hurt me, which is only hurting her more. She is interested in playing soccer, but she has to miss out on a lot of practices and games because last year, her first game, she happened to be at his place, so they (him and wife and their kids) brought her to her game. She wanted me to hold her hand to the field, but he went off in front of everyone and called the police on me. He said he was leaving without even letting her play her first game. After that, my daughter told me not to tell him that she was in soccer and she did not want him to go to any of her games or practices. She cries every other weekend about not wanting to go there, and says she does not know why she has to go. She says “I told him I don’t like him, why do I have to go there?” This guy calls me all the time and harasses me. She is a very smart little girl, she knows it’s him and she knows he is just harassing me on the phone. He really does not care about visiting her, it is a power thing with him. Everything is call the police or threaten court if he does not get his way. What do I tell my daughter when she is crying and does not want to see this guy?

You won’t like my answer very much, but you do need to hear it. There is no indication that your ex is hurting your daughter directly. What is hurting her is the way he treats you. Your daughter is so close to you that she knows everything that goes on between you and her dad, and she doesn’t like him because of what is wrong in your relationship with him. This shouldn’t be her problem. She should be able to have a relationship with her dad and his family regardless of how he treats you. He’s her only real father, and she needs a relationship with him.

I recommend the book “Mom’s House, Dad’s House” by Isolina Ricci for suggestions on how to turn your relationship with your ex into the kind of “business relationship” that you would have with your plumber, rather than a relationship of “negative intimacy” where you continue fighting even though you are no longer together. You and he are maintaining this negative intimacy big-time, even though he’s remarried, and you need to stop it.

You need to make a clear boundary between your ex and yourself, and between your daughter’s times with him and her times with you. Here are a few suggestions on how to establish this :

1) Arrange a regular weekly phone call between you and the father, out of your child’s hearing. That way you can be prepared to keep your cool when you talk with him. Keep the weekly discussions to things you need to talk about as co-parents, such as sports gear she needs to take from one house to the other, meetings with teachers, etc. Do not engage in phone calls with him at any other time unless there is an emergency. Make an agreement with him that either of you can hang up the phone if you feel the conversation is becoming abusive.

2) Make it clear to your daughter that when she is with you, she is with you, and when she is with her father she is with him. If you attend her game when she is with him, she walks to the field with him; if he attends her game when she is with you, she walks with you. She can get used to this if it is clear and consistent. It will not hurt her. Explain to her that you still care about her but it is her father’s time with her.

3) Do not engage in discussions or arguments with your ex when your daughter is overhearing, and never, never talk to her about how you feel about him or how he has treated you. This is forcing her to take sides between her parents and to reject one of them. She should not have to do this; you are both her parents and she needs both of you. Tell her she is entitled to tell either of you that she won’t listen if you complain about your ex or he complains about you.

4) If your daughter complains about her dad to you, just listen and help her figure out ways to handle whatever he is doing without passing judgment on him in her hearing. As long as he is not abusing her, you need to encourage her to face the challenge of being with him and adapting to the different rules in his household.

If your daughter is not exposed to your feelings about your ex, she may be able to develop a positive relationship with him despite the fact that you and he never got it worked out. And if this happens, he will probably lay off with the police and court threats. I know this is hard for you, but your little girl will benefit in the long run from a relationship with her father if you can encourage it in this way.

Biting Your Buddies

I regularly attend a playgroup with my 2 ½ year old son. My son really enjoys himself, but at times can get a bit rambunctious. His most troubling behaviour is occasional biting. He started biting when he was around 1 1/2. We go through periods when he doesn’t bite, but then it starts again. I’ve seen him get frustrated and then almost “vibrate” before he lunges for the bite. It is usually when another child is “in his face.” Fatigue and hunger can play a factor, but we are more tuned into that now and try to minimize those effects. The most recent incident happened at playgroup- he bit an 18 month old. Her mother reacted really badly, saying, “I can’t believe he bit her. If my child bit, I wouldn’t bring him to playgroup!” My husband dealt with this and was shocked at the other mom’s reaction. But…thinking back, we realize that she is not at the stage when her child does shocking things to other kids (Wait until 24 months, lady!!)What can we do to curb the biting? We were considering rewards for not biting, but I don’t think that will work long term. We talk to him about how it hurts others, makes them sad etc. He knows that we leave places when it happens. Any other suggestions? We don’t want a 5 year old biter. And, any suggestions for dealing with other parents’ reactions?

I think you’re actually doing just the right things about the problem.

* You recognize that his behaviour is normal for his age, and a result of frustration and not knowing how to express his feelings. It doesn’t mean he is a bad child, and given the right handling of it he will grow out of this behaviour.
* You have identified things which make your son more vulnerable to stress, like fatigue and hunger, and have made sure he isn’t hungry or tired at playgroup.
* You talk to your son about how biting hurts other people – this is empathy training. If he isn’t getting it, you can add to this by picking up his arm and pretend to bite it, and ask him how it would feel if you did. He’s young enough to be quite egocentric and it takes something really concrete to get across what the other person might feel.
* You don’t punish him physically if you did, this would just teach him that bigger people have the right to hurt smaller people which is exactly what you don’t want him to learn!
* You leave the scene whenever it happens. This removes any reward he gets for biting someone, and lets him know that he’s only allowed to play with other children if he treats them kindly.

One other thing you can do is teach your son what to do when he gets mad. Teach him to run away instead of biting, and to use words if he has some words – even the word “No!” or “Don’t!” can work wonders. My guess is that he has difficulty finding the language for his feelings so resorts to the physical instead. It’s time to work on identifying his feelings (mad, sad, happy, hungry, etc.) and know how to express them in words, as well as to tell people when his boundaries are violated with words like “No” and “Don’t.” The library probably has some good children’s books on these topics.

With regard to the other parents, your comment “Wait until 24 months, lady!” was right on. Unfortunately you can’t say it to her; that would be your equivalent of biting. She needs you to express empathy to her when her little darling has been hurt, and let her know the ways in which you are working on the problem. Stress the fact that your son has to learn to socialize, and he won’t learn if you keep him away from other children. If she remains self-righteous, say “Just wait till your child’s a little older” silently in your head and keep your cool.

Because it Feels Good

Why do kids hump things? Well, a straight question like this deserves a straight answer, so here it is : Because it feels good!

Many little kids discover that it feels good when they rub their private parts either with their hands or against things. I remember my little brother telling me about the strange feeling he got when he was climbing a tree and his penis rubbed up against the trunk. It was completely innocent. It’s also normal for children who have experienced this kind of feeling to show curiosity about one another’s bodies and want to look or touch.

With most kids, this kind of behaviour is a normal, innocent exploration of good bodily feelings, which will develop later into the capacity for sexual pleasure. It is very important for us adults not to make them feel guilty for this. If sexual feelings become associated with shame, and sex becomes “dirty,” then kids will think of it as something illicit which has to be explored behind others’ backs, rather than something good which can eventually be shared with a person you love.

If you find a child “humping” or rubbing himself, just tell him that these kinds of body feelings are private, and suggest he do it in his room rather than in public with other people around. That’s enough. If he’s doing it in a situation where there aren’t others around, like watching TV at home, and you see him, I suggest you ignore it. If you find two or more children exploring their bodies together, this is the time for a little talk about “private parts” and what “private” means, without shaming them. You might want to get a book about bodies and read it to the children. My favourite is “A Very Touching Book,” which not only names and displays all the body parts in a humorous manner but also talks about good touch, bad touch, and secret touch.

Now, there’s a difference between this innocent exploration of body feelings, and the behaviour of a child who has been sexually abused. Sexually abused children often act out with other children in ways which imitate what has been done to them. This goes beyond just “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” If you see children mimicking oral sex, for example, this deserves further investigation, as the idea of oral sex doesn’t occur to them spontaneously. This suggests that some adult may have done this to them. Similarly if a child corners another child and forces them into sexual play which the other child doesn’t really want. An adult needs to ask each child individually and kindly about their experiences both with one another and previously. Remember that sexual abusers often make threats about bad things which will happen if the child discloses, so be sure to be gentle and emphasize that you are able to keep the child safe from anything he’s afraid of. “A Very Touching Book” can help here too.

There’s an in-between situation in which a child has observed sexual behaviour which she doesn’t understand, either in person or on TV, and is imitating what she has seen. I remember a little girl I saw at Mental Health who was imitating sexual intercourse with her dolls. Everyone was very concerned that she might have been sexually abused, even though she did not appear emotionally disturbed. In the play therapy room, I casually asked her whether she’d seen anyone do this, and she said “Oh yes, when the babysitter’s boyfriend comes over.” That was of course inappropriate, but it was not abuse directed at the child.

Television and the Internet now give children the opportunity to view all kinds of sexual behaviour which they are not ready to understand. My computer pops up ads for all kinds of sexual perversities. A “net nanny” is a good idea if your child is old enough to use the Internet. And it’s also a good idea to monitor what TV shows your child watches. It’s not that children should be kept away from awareness of all adult sexual behaviour, only that so much of what the media show is promiscuous, provocative, and perverted. As much as possible we want our children’s exposure to sexuality to be healthy and in the context of loving relationships. There is a time when we need to let them watch the other stuff, but only after they have had an opportunity to develop positive values in the area of sexuality.

Cruelty to Animals

Three other parents and all our respective children witnessed two boys abusing a cat, two days in a row. They were trying to suspend the cat from a tree, from playground equipment, and were going to push it down the slide, etc. It was very upsetting. The animal appeared terrified, but was compliant as though accustomed to abuse. I’ve never seen a cat in such a fearful, self-protected posture, its tail and hind end so tight as it tried to “walk” with them, on a harness. I wanted to take the cat but figured that was not permitted.I am going to find out who the parents are and hope they are reasonable people, but can you tell me, besides telling the boys to stop, what can bystanders do in such a situation? Do you call the police? an animal rights group? As for immediate action, can you take the animal out of harm’s way? Adults are so afraid to approach children now – maybe it’s illegal, maybe the parents will overreact.

There have been studies on “bystander intervention” which highlight the fact that people are often afraid to intervene in situations in which human beings are being harmed. Everyone hopes that someone else will take action, but they don’t. We are afraid of being personally harmed, of being sued, and of peer disapproval. We escort our own children safely home from school because we don’t trust others in the community to keep them safe. We keep our own children away from those children who have problems or behave in unacceptable ways, further isolating those children. We need to change this situation and become a community again.

You don’t say how old the boys were. Did they seem to be trying to abuse the cat, or just to play with it? Young children often want to treat animals like living dolls, without realizing how the animals feel. We got a cat when my son was five, and he was constantly wanting to grab the cat and play with it, to the point that the cat began to run and hide at the sight of him. He just didn’t understand that cats don’t like to be squished. In situations like this we adults need to teach the children what it might be like to be the animal. For example, I would suddenly grab my son and hold him imprisoned in my arms so he couldn’t move. When he’d complain, I’d ask “How do you think Velvet (the cat) feels when you do this to him?”

If the boys were playing with the cat without recognizing its feelings, then it would be fine to speak to their parents and make them aware of the situation, perhaps giving them some suggestions about how they could educate their children to be kinder to animals.

If the boys were actually trying to abuse the cat, the situation is different. Children who abuse animals intentionally are often abused children themselves, and are re-enacting their own frightening experiences while being the ones in control. These children need help. Unfortunately, speaking to their parents may just get them punished without helping them learn to behave differently or rescuing them from their own abusive situations. You’re an adult so you need to be brave enough not to worry about what the boys’ parents may think of you. But you do need to be concerned about what will happen to the boys if they get in trouble at home. If the parents are reasonable, the consequences will be reasonable. If not, you may have saved the cat this time but there may be severe punishment of the boys or just neglect and not caring and the cat may get hurt and scared more later.

In either case, the first thing to do is stop the abuse of the cat by intervening. Pick up the cat and confront the boys, saying that what they are doing is hurting and frightening the cat, and that’s not okay. Watch their reactions, and decide whether they’re just unaware (as younger children often are) or whether they’re deliberately cruel. If they’re unaware, ask where they live and take them and the cat home and speak to their parents. If they’re being cruel, call the police, who will hopefully give the boys a warning and will also have the authority to persuade the parents that these boys are troubled and need further help.

My Home, My Room

My children (12, 9 and 7) leave their stuff everywhere, and their rooms are really messy. How do I deal with this?

I was one of five children in my family, and all the kids in the neighbourhood played at our house. The people next door had two children and a perfect house, and no one played there. Everyone knew that our house was a home for children, while theirs was a display house for impressing adults. Of course, we had room for my father’s study, where he would retreat when the mess and noise became too much.

It’s really important that children feel that your home is their home as well. After all, it’s the only home they have. If adults say “This is my house” because they own it, they leave their children feeling homeless. I have provided psychotherapy to several adults who were traumatized as children or teens by parents who gave them this message.

Having it be the children’s home means they are entitled to be in most of the rooms and to have something which represents them in those rooms. When my three children (now grown) lived at home, they each had their own “pile of stuff” on the floor in the main area of the house. They could just as easily have put it in their rooms, but they seemed to need to claim some of the main territory as their own. They didn’t leave things everywhere if they could have their piles of stuff. These may not have looked very pretty to visitors, but they gave the message that the home belonged to the kids as well as the adults.

The neatness of the kitchen, living room, bathrooms, and other main areas of the house is a “family issue” and needs to be discussed with all family members who are old enough to participate. As long as each child feels the home is theirs, and has a place for their things in the main area, they may be willing to keep things put away. They can also participate in vacuuming and cleaning counters so that they learn how to do this and so they contribute to the family.

The children’s own bedrooms are a different issue, however. Each person needs to have some place they can call their own, in which they can have privacy and which they can decorate or mess up as they please. The mess in children’s own rooms is not a family issue but a “kid issue.” As long as there is not rotting food, parents should leave kids’ rooms alone, and just close the door if they don’t like looking at the mess. This means don’t go in and clean up, don’t go in and make the bed, don’t even go in and collect the laundry (they can leave it in the bathroom hamper). If children know their rooms are really their own, they will eventually clean them up. They are much more likely to do it if they know you won’t come into their rooms uninvited, nag them about it, or clean up for them.

Troublesome Ten

My husband and I have a ten and a half-year-old girl who seems to be changing. She has become a little snooty, not saying hello to people she knows. She snubs them. She is not interested in spending any time with us — biking, rollerblading, golfing. We do press her to spend time as a family – she argues, balks at the idea but usually enjoys herself once we’re underway. But we’d like to her say, “Yes, great idea. Let’s go”. She just wants to be with her friends. She constantly argues with us and is often very rude. When we ask her to do something she argues. My husband just the other night asked her to help him clean the kitchen after dinner and she replied, “Get Mom to do it”. What’s going on and how should we handle it?

Congratulations on having a normal daughter who is moving predictably into adolescence. Preferring her own friends to family and family friends, arguing, and wanting greater independence, are all signs that she is entering this new developmental stage. Her task in the next few years is to gain competence in the world outside the family, so that she will be ready for adulthood when it arrives. Your task is to support her new ventures outside the family, and accept that her role in the family will change.

I suspect that the people she snubs are of more interest to you than to her. Although you might ask her to be polite if you are having guests, I suggest you otherwise ignore this. The same goes for expecting her to want to spend time with the family. I remember sulking on family holidays because of having to spend all that time with a couple of “old people” and a few “brats” (my younger siblings). Your daughter is concentrating on the developmental task of relating to her peers in the outside world. I suggest you set up a few family gatherings and activities, and give her lots of notice about these, but don’t expect her to want to participate in family activities the way she used to. You probably aren’t going to hear “Yes, great idea! Let’s go!” until your daughter has children of her own!

Arguing about chores is also normal for this age. Step out of the arguments and power struggles whenever possible. Don’t interrupt your daughter’s activities to ask her to do things which are not clearly her regular responsibilities. Instead, negotiate with her what chores will be her responsibility each week, and when they should be done, and then leave it alone; don’t nag her. Let her go out or watch TV when her chores are completed.

Adolescents need their parents in a different way from younger children. They need their home to be a safe place to retreat to from the scary world in which they’re trying their wings. They need their parents to be safe people who give them backup and support as they take on these new adventures. They need us to understand what they are going through, give them space, and be there for them when they need us. Your daughter is heading into uncharted territory, and she needs your understanding and support as she apparently turns her back on the family she grew up in and moves out into the world.