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Concerned Grandma Asks About Grandson’s Development

Dear Dr. Bill,

My daughter has a 1-year-old boy who is starting to walk but hasn’t begun talking yet — no “Mama,” “Dada” or anything else. If he wants something, he just points and screeches very loudly!

I’ve also noticed that he often stares off in his own little world for a moment or two several times a day. He comes back eventually or you really work to get his attention otherwise. Is this normal behavior? Or could my grandson have some kind of problem — like autism? What do you think?

–Diana


Dear Diana,

I appreciate the fact that you are such an involved, observant grandmother. Your grandkids are fortunate.

Here are my thoughts on your 1-year-old grandson. First of all, the fact that he isn’t talking yet shouldn’t be a concern. Language development varies greatly from child to child.

Many children don’t begin saying “mama” or “dada” until well into their second year of life. Their level of verbal development at their first birthday does NOT predict how verbally skilled they will be by age two or three, or tell you anything about their overall level of intelligence.

On the other hand, I am concerned about the fact that your grandson seems to stare off into space several times each day, and that you have to work to regain his attention. This could be a sign of a hearing problem, a developmental delay, or even recurring minor seizures.

Given your description, I would suggest your daughter make an appointment with her family physician right away, and describe the behaviors she is observing at home. The physician should give your grandson a complete medical and developmental evaluation.

Thanks for writing, Diana. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click on the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the audio version of this article.

Student Asks About Marrying In College

Dear Dr. Bill,

I am a 19-year-old college student on a full-ride scholarship. I’ve been dating my girlfriend for about 5 months and I already know this is the woman I want to marry. We were both raised in solid, godly families — and we’ve made a commitment to purity before marriage. After much prayer, we’ve decided we’d like to get married in 2 years.

The good news is that both sets of parents approve of our plans. But my parents disagree about the timing. They think we should wait until after I graduate. I think this issue is about their preference rather than facing the fact that I’m ready to make this decision for myself. What do you think?

–Cody


Dear Cody,

It sounds like you and your girlfriend are starting off with a good foundation. I also admire your decision to pursue sexual purity. However, at 19-years-old, I don’t think it’s wise to make a decision about marriage after dating someone for five months.

Your girlfriend sounds wonderful, and she may be just the person God wants you to marry. But during the first 3-6 months of your relationship, you’re in the “infatuation” stage. Your brains are releasing chemicals called endorphins, which contribute to a heightened sense of happiness and well-being.

During that time, we’re basically “in love with being in love,” and we’re unlikely to view our dating partner or our relationship realistically. That’s why I advise couples to date for at least a year before getting engaged. I believe it’s better to have a longer courtship and a shorter engagement, rather than vice versa.

Also, most people don’t know this, but research shows that people who wait until they’re at least 23 to get married, have a much lower divorce rate than those who marry younger.

You didn’t mention how old your girlfriend is, but I’m assuming she’s around 18 or 19. Although your marriage might work out fine if you marry during college, your chances for success will greatly increase if you give your relationship an extra year or two.

Thanks for writing Cody. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the audio version of this article.

Grandmother Asks For Advice About Her Grandson

Dear Dr. Bill,

My son and his wife have been separated for 3 years.  They have joint-custody of their 4-year-old son and I help care for my grandson when he’s with my son.

But now conflict has erupted between me and my former daughter-in-law.  That’s because whenever my grandson visits me, he resists going back home to his mother.  He kicks and screams, and tries to run away with his arms outstretched for me.

I’ve been accused of treating the boy like a king and being lax with discipline.  His grandfather and I do give him a lot of attention — playing games and taking him fishing.  But I can’t imagine why he doesn’t want to return home to his mom.  What should I do?

–Linda

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Dear Linda,

Since many divorces involve a great deal of animosity between the ex-spouses, and that anger can spill over into relationships with grandparents.

I’d sit down with your former daughter-in-law and discuss the situation.  Tell her that you know it’s been difficult for her, and that you never intended to do anything that would interfere with her relationship with her son.

Also, ask yourself if she may have a point.  Do you give in to your grandson when he tantrums or demands his way, or do you set appropriate limits on his behavior?  If you allow him to always get his way when he’s with you, you are definitely making his mother’s job harder.

That being said, I’m concerned about the way he violently protests when returning home.  Could there be a possibility that he is being abused or neglected?

If your daughter-in-law is parenting appropriately and your grandson is acting out simply because he doesn’t want to leave grandma and grandpa’s “fun house,” you’ll need to work together to find a compromise.

Thanks for writing Linda.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the Audio Version of this post.

How Should I Discipline My 11-Month-Old Boy?

Dear Dr. Bill,

My husband and I have 11-month-old twins who are generally good babies. But my son continually is pulling his sister’s hair and even biting her. I have told him “no” over and over again, and I’ve even given him light spank on his legs. He never cries but simply stares at me.

He has also started throwing tantrums — where he give a little grunt and squeal whenever he is frustrated. What do you suggest we do to discipline him?


Dear Amanda,

Some of the behaviors you are describing are a bit unusual. I don’t want to alarm you, but they could be signs of a developmental disorder. I’d recommend that you have your son evaluated by his pediatrician. Describe the behaviors that you are observing and tell the physician how your son responds when you attempt to intervene.

If the doctor gives your son a clean bill of health, you’ll need to try other forms of intervention. With a child his age, the most effective form of intervention is time-out.

I often recommend to parents of toddlers that they use a Pak N’ Play playpen as a “time-out” location. When your son acts aggressively toward his sister, tell him “no” as you’ve been doing, but then immediately remove him from situation and place him in the Pak N’ Play.

Make sure it’s located far enough from the action to be boring, but close enough to monitor him. A good rule of thumb is one minute of time-out for each year of age.

Your son will likely scream and tantrum at being placed in time-out, but don’t give in to the temptation to pick him up until he’s “served his time.” Also, don’t continue to nag or scold him for his misbehavior—that will simply reinforce him by providing him with attention. Instead, ignore him until the time-out is over.

Thanks for writing Amanda. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the audio version of this post.

Should We Allow Our Teenage Daughter To Model?

Dear Dr. Bill,

Our 13-year-old daughter is started high school this year and wants to pursue her dream of becoming a model. Should we encourage this? My husband and I don’t see any harm in it, but some friends of ours believe it’s the worst thing we could do for our daughter. What do you think?

–Stephanie


Dear Stephanie,

I think your friends are right to be concerned. The world of professional modeling is filled with risks. It tends to be a cut-throat profession where drug and alcohol use and sexual promiscuity are the norm. Due to the emphasis on thinness, many young models suffer from eating disorders.

Modeling also places value on external beauty only, rather than internal qualities like the strength of a person’s character. The bible tells us that God is much more concerned about what’s on the inside. His wants us to focus on developing qualities like honesty, kindness, gentleness, patience, and respect.

That being said, there are professional models who are Christians. They feel called to represent Christ in that very secular atmosphere, and to share their faith with others in the entertainment business. But I’m sure they’d acknowledge the many challenges they face, and they wouldn’t advise parents to allow young girls to enter the modeling profession.

I’d suggest you have a heart-to-heart talk with your daughter and gently explain these concerns. Let her know that if she is still set on modeling as a career in a few years, you will re-visit the issue when she is 16 or 17. She’ll also need to demonstrate that she has the maturity and strength of character to handle the temptations she’ll face in that profession.

I’d also make it clear that she will need to save up her own money for things like head-shots, make-up, and the outfits she’ll need to wear for auditions. If she’s serious about getting into the modeling business, she’ll need to be responsible for the significant costs involved.

Thanks for writing Stephanie. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the audio version of this post.

A Mom Writes: “Help–Our Son is Addicted to Computer Games!”

Dear Dr. Bill,

Our 14-year-old son is very bright and enjoys strategic and technical games on the computer. We’ve tried to be careful about limiting his time, but lately his resentment over this limitation has escalated dramatically — especially when we’re getting ready for vacation or have work to do around the house.

My husband and I are wondering — is he addicted? We don’t understand why the computer can’t simply be a fun activity like watching a movie or playing games, rather than something to fight about! What should we do?

–Cheryl


Dear Cheryl,

Millions of parents in the U.S. are beginning to realize that their child may be addicted to computer or video games–something they thought was simply harmless fun.

These parents have confronted the painful reality that their son or daughter is spending countless hours each week glued to a video game console or a gaming website.

They’ve noticed disturbing changes in their child’s personality—they seem obsessed with “reaching the next level” and their friendships are limited to the “virtual” world of their online gaming community. Also, many parents are unaware that there is a disturbing link between violent video games and aggressive behavior.

Here are a few suggestions for dealing with video game addiction from authors Olivia Bruner and Vicki Caruana:

  • Set firm time limits on online gaming
  • Make sure all chores and homework are completed before play
  • Model good viewing and gaming habits yourself (that includes TV viewing)
  • Monitor your son’s attitudes and behaviors surrounding gaming

In a worse-case scenario, you may actually need to get rid of the gaming equipment or block your son’s internet access using parental controls.

Thanks for writing Cheryl. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the audio version of this post.

A Mom Facing Divorce Struggles with Some Tough Choices

Dear Dr. Bill,

In the middle of marital struggles with my husband, we became pregnant. Despite this, my husband announced that he wants a divorce. Since I am originally from Europe, I’m considering a move back home rather than staying in this country where I have friends but no family. But I wonder if this is the best decision for my child.

–Heide


Dear Heide,

My heart goes out to you in this very difficult situation. But I would encourage you not to give up hope. Because you are under such a great deal of stress, now is not the time to making major decisions. Give yourself some time and space to think through all of the alternatives available to you.

The research on divorce shows that if couples will slow down the process and seek outside professional help, many marriages can be saved. Although it may feel to you or your husband that divorce is the only option, in reality it’s not.

The fact is that children do better on every measure of well-being if they grow up in a home with a married mother and father. Even if a marriage is less than perfect, staying together is always better for your kids than getting a divorce.

If your husband has no desire to reconcile but is willing to take an active role in your child’s life, I would encourage not to you not to move back to Europe. Fatherlessness has profoundly negative impacts on children, and your son needs his dad.

On the other hand, your husband refuses to take responsibility for parenting his son, moving back to Europe to live with your extended family may be the best option. A loving grandfather or uncle can’t replace your son’s father, but they can certainly give him the male attention and affirmation he so desperately needs.

Thanks for writing Heide. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the audio version of this post.

Discouraged, Trapped, & Burned Out

Dear Dr. Bill,

My husband and I have four children, ages 9, 6, 4 and 2. He’s a full-time faculty member at a Bible college where I’m a part-time student. We’re both in full-time ministry and love working with the students at the college.

But we’re having a problem over expectations about our home — and I’m struggling with resentment toward my husband.

He loves to have a neat and orderly house and has a tendency to go a little crazy when things are in disarray. I’ll admit that cleaning and organization are not my gifts — I’m much more interested in relationships.

I’m very hospitable and want to use our home as an outreach to the students we work with. But my definition of what’s presentable and my husband’s differ. I feel discouraged, trapped, burned out, and that none of my efforts are ever good enough! What should I do?


Lisa, let’s review here. You have four kids under ten years old, including a toddler. You are working in ministry full-time and going to school part-time. Your husband wants a neat and orderly house and feels it your responsibility to keep it that way. What’s wrong with this picture?

You need to sit down for a major pow-wow session with your husband and discuss your priorities and expectations. Basically, you are working the equivalent of two full-time jobs and going to school. If he wants a cleaner, more organized house, he should contribute 50% to the housework and do it with a cheerful heart.

There’s bigger issue at stake here. Somehow you’ve bought into the notion that you can “do it all”—be a wife, mother, student, and be committed to full-time ministry to college students. It’s time to take a hard look at your life and decide what’s really important.

I’d suggest you take a break from ministry, limit yourself to one class per semester, and focus on your children and your marriage. If you don’t, your stress, resentment and frustration is only going to get worse and your family is going to suffer.

Thanks for writing Lisa. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Pushover Parenting

Dear Dr. Bill,

My youngest daughter just turned 8-years-old and for the first time in my life, I heard her say she HATES me! And she not only said it to me once, but 3 times. This happened because I reminded her about her chores — she knows she has to do them, but this was her response to me. I found this very upsetting and I wonder what should I say back to her? I didn’t believe my daughter’s words — but, boy does it hurt!

–Diane


Dear Diane,

As difficult as it is to hear mean words from our children, remember this important principle: if our kids always like us, we’re failing in our job as parents.

Too many parents today are so concerned with being their kids’ best buddy that they don’t set appropriate limits on their behavior. I call this “Pushover Parenting,” and it sets children up for failure and frustration later in life.

By the same token, it’s unacceptable to allow your child to tell you they “hate you.”

Explain to your daughter that when she’s frustrated or angry there are certain words that are appropriate to use and others that aren’t.

While it’s okay to say “I’m angry with you” it’s never okay to say “I hate you.” Let her know that if she says “I hate you” in the future—to you or anyone else, she will be punished.

Then follow through if it happens again, and make sure the consequence is a powerful one, like losing a favorite toy or privilege for a period of time.

You can also teach your daughter a vital spiritual principle here. Explain to her that every human being is made in God’s image and that he loves each of us deeply. When we speak in an unkind way toward another person, we are essentially harming one of God’s children.
Thanks for writing Diane. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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