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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.

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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.