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Unwanted Hide & Seek and Teen Dating

Q: Lately, my 5-year-old has decided it’s funny to run away from me in public places. To him it’s a game. I am not only frustrated and angry, I’m also worried about his safety. How can I help him understand the seriousness of his behavior?

A: This is a perfect example of the parenting skill I call less talk and more follow-through. The next time you plan an outing with your 5-year-old, have a little chat before leaving. Explain to him your expectations, and let him know the consequence if he fails to comply. Keep it simple. “We are going to the mall and we need to talk about safety at the mall. I need you to stay near me so that I don’t lose you. You have the following choice: You can hold my hand, or walk on your own. What do you think would work best?” Next, state the consequence: “If you run off, we will have to go to the car for a time-out.” The next step is to be consistent and follow through immediately. While this can be time consuming, it is the most effective way of dealing with the behavior. I would add that he might be running away because he is bored. If you can engage him in some way he may be better behaved. Try playing I Spy, or give him a task like holding a package. The last thought is to use a when/then approach, saying, “When we finish our errands, then we can go to the park.” If he continues to use up time by running off, you deduct that time from time spent at the park. Continue to use these parenting skills and in time you should be able to change his behavior.

Q: Our 15-year-old daughter has been asked out by a 17-year-old boy. He seems like a very nice young person, but my husband and I are not sure we feel comfortable allowing her to go out with someone older than – especially since he will be driving.Advice?

A: I understand how hard it is to give up control as our children get older, but the truth is we have to let them go. Remember that boys develop later then girls, which means that they are at about the same level of development in spite of the age difference.Having said that, I would look for the place between yes and no. In other words find a way to compromise. I would start by asking her to invite the young man To dinner or to watch a movie and hang out at your home so that you can get to know him a bit. The issue of the car is what concerns me. Young drivers are prone to accidents, particularly in the first six months of getting their license.You might want to offer to drop her off and pick her up from a date. They could meet at a movie or restaurant until he becomes a more experienced driver. My guess is that, while she might not like the idea, she will accept it over no date at all.

Susan Brown holds a master’s degree in developmental psychology, as well as degrees in early childhood education and psychology. A mother, teacher, children’s book author, and nationally known family educator, she works with clients at Everyday Parenting Solutions.
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