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Challenges Parents Face; When To Give Kids Responsibilities

Dr. Fran Walfish Answers Your Questions

Q. Dear Dr. Fran, my wife and I are expecting our first child. Neither of us has any real experience with kids. My wife is the youngest of four children and I am the middle boy of three. We are scared to be first-time parents. Is there any crash course you can give us about the most important parenting issues and what to expect?                      Arthur Y.

A. Dear Arthur, I’m glad to hear you and your wife recognize the value of parenting. It’s the most important job you will do in your lifetime.

Here are my top eight most difficult milestones every parent must face. Each one is critical. You and your wife will likely transition through each one by holding each other’s hands and using trial and error.

If you bump up against a wall in one of these areas please reach out to a child development specialist or psychologist for guidance. Fasten your seat belts and away you go.

The Eight Most Challenging Things Parents Face:

1) Teaching their infant to self-soothe and sleep through the night.

2) Responding to their toddler’s declaration of separation and autonomy with compassion and empathy. This declaration includes the toddler saying “no;” temper tantrums; and defiant behaviors.

3) Equipping their child with coping skills to deal with disappointments.

4) Tolerating being the target of their child’s anger and rage.

5) Dealing with their child pitting Daddy against Mommy for things the child wants-demands.

6) Being on the same page as their spouse regarding discipline and follow-through with consequences.

7) Letting go of their teenage children by rewarding responsible behavior with more independence and freedom.

8) Not intruding on their adult child’s life. Respecting separation and boundaries.

 Q. Dear Dr. Fran, when should I begin to give my child responsibilities in the home? Is an infant too young to expect him/her to pick up after themselves for instance? Can I ask an older child to look out for a younger sibling for a moment if I am busy in another part of the house?                 Ruthann

A. Dear Ruthann, teaching responsibility for ourselves begins very young.  As young as age 18-months, when your toddler throws a toy it’s your job as her parent to help her pick it up. What do I mean by  ”help” her?

Most toddlers ignore or refuse to pick up on command.  Helping means that you walk your tot to the item they threw, put your hand over theirs, pick it up and put it back, and immediately smile and praise your child for doing her job.

This process must be done consistently over time for your youngster to learn to pick up after herself.

Kids at age 4-5 years-old are ready to perform household tasks like put their dirty dishes in the sink, place their own wet bath towel/dirty clothes in the hamper, and make an honest attempt at straightening their beds.

Most young school-age children from 4-7 years-old drag their heels in the morning delaying getting to school on time.

Parents can create an incentive chart by listing three or four tasks that challenge your child. Perhaps, it’s brushing teeth or listening with only one reminder.

Give your child opportunities to earn stickers on their charts.  At  the end of the week, if you feel your child has made an honest attempt at good responsibility behavior she gets a small reward like a trip to the ice-cream parlor with Daddy or a visit to the 99-cent store to choose a small toy.

It is not  appropriate for you, Mom, to ask an older child to watch their younger sibling when you are busy in another part of the house.

Unless your older one is enamored with her younger sibling she will likely resent this.

It is,however, appropriate to pay your 15-year-old for babysitting the younger one, when needed. Treat each child with respect and separateness.

 Dr. Fran Walfish–Beverly Hills psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent at Send questions to

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