Expert Answers to Parenting Questions

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    Q: I just got home from my friend’s house and was amazed to see her nine-month-old almost walking. My little guy is finally sitting up by himself – but only if I put him there. Should I be worried?

    A: While it is great for parents and babies to have buddies, this is a common danger for moms and dads. It seems we cannot help but compare our babies with his or her peers. But it is important to keep in mind the fact that each baby grows and develops in his own way and at his own pace

    What is key for parents to understand is what falls within the range of expected development at each stage. The best way to find out is during your baby’s pediatric well check. Let your baby’s doctor know what new behaviors you have observed and ask if there is anything else you should be seeing at this age. In addition, it is helpful to have on hand a book which offers developmental lines, meaning the milestones for each month of life. The Louise Bates Ames and Frances L. Ilg series is a good one. I also like Infants and Mothers by T. Berry Brazelton. M. D. This book addresses developmental differences during the first year of life.

    Q: My son is six and is still sucking his thumb. It’s driving all of us crazy. Should I talk to his teacher? How do we get him to stop?

    A: Thumb sucking at the age of six is not unusual. While most children seem to quit by the age of four or five, some will continue until as late as nine years of age. Through the years, many techniques have been used to try to break the child of this habit with little or no success. Rather than addressing the behavior, you might want to give some thought to what role thumb sucking plays in your child’s life. Thumb sucking is a way to self-soothe and it is most common to suck at bedtime or when a child is very tired. If you are seeing this behavior at other times ofThe day, it could be helpful to look at possible stress factors. Could it be that he is over-scheduled and needs more free play time? Is he struggling at school and feeling anxious? It would be helpful to speak with his teacher to get a sense of how he is doing.

    The goal is to focus on other, more mature ways of handling stress. Once he develops these skills the thumb sucking should decrease and, in time, stop altogether.

    Q: My wife will hardly let me play with our 3-year-old daughter. She wasn’t like this when our son was this age. What should I do?

    While it is true that, with some boys, play is more physical and high energy than girls’ play, moms and dads need to consider another factor. That is the role of temperament in how and what kind of play a child might enjoy.

    Your daughter may like the same level of rough and tumble as your son did at her age. I think what is important is to check with your daughter by asking if she enjoys these games or if there is something else she would rather do with your time together. If, at anytime, she says “stop,” you must respect her request. Tickling can be a very intense sensation which can move from fun to unpleasant in a short period of time. Try to observe her interests. Does she enjoy puzzles or dress up? You may want to think about broadening your repertoire of play ideas. Follow your daughter’s lead and let your wife know about your strategy. All should go well.