Questions From You

Parenting questions submitted by our community members and answered by a YOU Program facilitator.
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My daughter is upset she didn't receive everything she wanted for Christmas.

December 27, 2013

By YOU Program Facilitator

My daughter is upset she didn't receive what she wanted for Christmas

Question: My 12-year-old daughter is upset she didn’t receive all the things she wanted for Christmas. How can I avoid raising a greedy child?

Answer: You need to show her how to live a life that doesn’t revolve around owning material goods. Remember that these changes need to happen in your family as a whole, not just with your daughter. She might be modeling behavior from you, your partner, or other members of her extended family.

Here are some ideas that can help you set these boundaries:

  • Focus on giving, instead of receiving. Instead of letting her get caught up in thinking about what she wants for Christmas, start out the holiday season next year by focusing on what she can give. Make plans to create special gifts together for members of the family or even members of the community. Guide her through the process of thinking about what other people are interested in or what they need and find ways of giving them something that reflects that thought. She will learn to appreciate the effort that goes into gift giving and learn to appreciate the thought and not just the gift.
  • Spend on experiences, not things. Scale down on the amount of material goods that you buy for you and your family. Substitute buying something for creating special occasions with fun family activities instead. You can go on a picnic, to the library, the movies or do whatever your daughter enjoys.
  • Make her earn it. Have her research how much each of the things she wants cost. You can then tell her you might be able to pay half of the price tag if she is willing to work to pay the other half. She can save money during the summer by mowing lawns, washing neighbor’s cars or helping out around the house.
  • Never buy more than you can afford. Tell your daughter the truth if times are hard. Find inexpensive or free ways to celebrate Christmas. You are teaching your daughter a valuable financial lesson by not spending what you don’t have. Talk to her about how she was lucky to have received the presents she got, but unfortunately no one gets everything they want all the time.

Teaching children to practice gratitude is a way of building good character that will eventually help them successfully handle life issues when they are older. Christmas is a great opportunity to teach an attitude of gratitude.

For more information on the issues addressed in this question, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. Refer to page 66 of Through High School and Beyond to learn more ways to emphasize positive character traits.


How can I get my husband to be more involved with my child aside from working and providing for us?

December 20, 2013

By YOU Program Facilitator

Father and son fishing

Question: My husband works a lot and he is a wonderful provider, but he is barely involved in our son’s life. I feel bad asking him to be more present in our child’s life, since he works hard for us to have everything we need, but I would love for him to be more involved in our son’s activities and emotional development. How can I ask him to make more time for him?

Answer: Your husband needs to be aware of his role, which has to do with much more than with just bringing in money. Being a provider for the family is very noble, but one of the ways your husband can also provide for your child is by understanding that he needs to have time alone with his son. He needs to be available for him, attend school events and social gatherings and be part of your child’s house environment.

A father’s and a mother's love are different. A father’s involvement brings unique contributions to parenting that no one else can duplicate. Tell him that if he is involved in other parts of his life, your child will have a better development. Parenting is not just about material things, but also about ensuring physical, emotional, social and academic well-being. To be caring, loving, nurturing, teaching, encouraging, and so on, is something that your child will want to get from both his mother and his father. You also might want to examine your actions and figure out if you are not facilitating this situation. Some of us mothers want to control every aspect of our child’s life and don’t know how to let go, we need to do everything ourselves. So if this is your case, try to relax and share responsibilities. Let your husband help with parenting, even with those tasks he has never done before, like bathing your child, taking him to the park by himself or preparing him lunch. Trust him. Let your husband do some of the things that you usually do and control.

Finally, make sure you’re not undervaluing the interaction that he does have with your son. Depending on your son’s age, the two of them may wrestle and roughhouse together, watch sports or kick a ball around the yard. The social and emotional benefits of activities such as these are vital to a child’s successful development and many fathers do them so automatically that we forget to give them the credit they deserve. Make sure you’re acknowledging what he does well, and then work together to build on those strengths.

For more information on the issues addressed in this question, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books. See pages 12–13 in Through the Early Years for information on the importance of every family member bonding with a child. See pages 41 in Through Elementary and Middle School for information about the positive emotional development of rough-and-tumble play.


My granddaughter is teased because of her weight. What can I do?

December 13, 2013

By YOU Program Facilitator

Question: My 13-year-old granddaughter told me she is being teased at school because of her weight. She hasn’t told her mother or father because she feels ashamed. I don’t think my granddaughter is obese, but she is indeed a little bit overweight (and so are her parents). What can I do to help her and bring this issue to the attention of her parents without meddling?

Answer: It’s really something special that your granddaughter trusts you enough to tell you what is bothering her, and it’s your duty to honor her trust and help her out the best way that you can.

In one of our workshops, we had a grandmother who was raising her grandkids tell us about a similar situation her granddaughter faced. She had been worried about how withdrawn and down on herself her granddaughter was. She decided to enroll her in a martial arts class in their neighborhood. She didn’t focus on self-defense or combat. Instead, she signed up for fan dancing, a disciplined and beautiful tradition.

Watching this grandmother share her story, her face lit up as she described how her granddaughter blossomed before her very eyes. Since she began, her granddaughter has won trophies and put on demonstrations for her school. She is confident and self-assured in a way that many other young women struggle with even in adulthood.

While this may not be an answer that works for your granddaughter, finding a physical activity that you can do together or support her in may not only strengthen the bond that you two already share, but it may help strengthen her sense of self so the teasing has less effect while helping her direct her energy towards better health.

First, however, don’t leave her mother out of the loop. Let your daughter know about your granddaughter’s problems. Share these tips with her so she can help her be healthier:

  • Make it a wellness issue. This situation needs to be approached from a health standpoint instead of an aesthetic one. Talk to your daughter about healthy living and protecting your granddaughter from the emotional stress of being teased. Tell her that by focusing on your granddaughter’s health, your daughter will be helping her feel better about herself and better able to brush off cruel words.
  • Offer Support. Talk to your daughter about any barriers she’s facing to healthier eating. Is it time? Is it access? Then think about ways that you can support her. Can you provide one or two healthy meals a week? If you live nearby, perhaps you, your daughter, and your granddaughter can take a healthy cooking class together to strengthen your relationships and begin a healthier lifestyle.
  • Be a positive role model. Children imitate what they see. Since you say that your own daughter and her husband are also overweight, they need to understand that her child can’t do this by herself. Remind your daughter that she needs to involve the whole family in building healthy habits. Get involved yourself and participate as much as you can. You might even try inviting them to join you as you take daily walks or go on bike rides. What they may not be willing to do for themselves, they may be willing to do for you.

Remember that your role in this process will be that of a cheerleader. Be supportive and positive with your family, but especially with your granddaughter. Tell her that she is loved and special no matter what. Children need support and encouragement from adults, and you are without a doubt one that could make her feel very good about herself. 

For more information about building healthy habits, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. In Through the Early Years, see page 77, pages 38 and 59 in Through Elementary and Middle School, and page 38 in Through High School and Beyond.


My family buys expensive gifts but I can't reciprocate. What can I do?

December 11, 2013

By YOU Program Facilitator

My family buys expensive gifts but I can't reciprocate. What can I do?

Photo by Adam Brockway

Question: My sister-in-law and her husband are very well off and they tend to spend a lot of money on Christmas gifts for my seven-year old son. I really appreciate all of their attentions, however, I feel bad we can’t reciprocate in the same level and buy something expensive for their two daughters. Our financial situation is tight. How can I handle the gap in our gift budgets?

Answer: A gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. Your sister-in-law and her husband are probably doing this because they love their nephew, they want to give him nice things and because they can afford them.

So what should you do?

  1. First, accept the gift gracefully and know that you are not obligated to respond in the same way. The only good reasons for not accepting an expensive gift would be that the giver couldn’t afford it or that the gift was coming with strings attached. This doesn’t seem the case for any of these options.
  2. Reciprocate with thoughtful presents that are within your budget. Your son can actually make something nice for his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Handmade gifts are sentimental and ideal for close family members. To some people, getting a store-bought gift isn’t a priority and instead they really appreciate something that you and your son made an effort to create.
  3. If you're not sure that they are the type of people who would appreciate something homemade, ask your son to write caring messages for all of the members of their family, thanking them for their gifts and for being part of his life.
  4. You and your husband should thank them in person saying something like: "Thank you very much! We didn't expect to get this!" Write them a thank-you note, accept the presents, and enjoy them with your child.

Just remember that for this family this was a possibility, and they decided to do it. That’s all! Enjoy the season by being close to the people who love you and be grateful for having such caring family members.


How can I get my daughter to put her phone down and talk to me?

November 21, 2013

By YOU Program Facilitator

How can I get my daughter to put her phone down and talk to me?

Question: My daughter just sits on her phone all the time. She won't talk to me. What do I do? 

Answer: As much as technology helps us communicate with each other, it also distracts us from the physical world around us. While it’s harder to break habits than avoid them in the first place, it’s still important to reestablish a relationship with people around you and not just people through the phone and cyberspace.

Start by talking to your daughter and explaining your concern. Make it clear that you don’t object to your daughter or her friends, but rather the lack of quality time you have together. Emphasize the importance of respect and consideration within a family, and that spending quality time communicating with each other is the best way of showing you care about each other.

Then, work with your daughter to set rules and guidelines for designated phone-free family times, such as in the car on the way home from school, around the dinner table, or after a certain time at night.

Once you set these guidelines, make sure you’re following them, too. It may be a good idea to reflect on your own technology use and how much attention you’ve devoted to quality time with your daughter. Even if you aren’t always on your phone, think about whether you are often distracted or preoccupied when your daughter tries to engage with you. You may find that she’s modeling more of your behavior than you might have realized.

For more information on the issues addressed in this question, see the YOU: Your Child's First Teacher book series. See pages 38-39 in Through the Early Years for information on modeling positive behavior. For information about making time for each other, see Through Elementary and Middle School, page 58 and Through High School and Beyond, pages 36–37. See pages 46–47 in Through High School and Beyond for information about monitoring technology use.

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