Brother Battles

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have two wonderful boys, ages four and eight.  The only problem is that there seems to be a constant battle between them.  I don’t know what to do about this—my mother says I should stop the fighting and teach them to love each other.  Others have told me that this behavior is common to boys and I shouldn’t worry about it.  What can I do?




Sibling rivalry has been around since the beginning of time.  Remember Cain and Abel?  If you recall, that story had a very unhappy ending.

Here are a few suggestions.  First, whenever your boys act aggressively toward one other, implement immediate consequences for both of them.  The consequence needs to be unpleasant for each child, such as the loss of a privilege, the requirement to complete a yucky chore, or a time-out in a completely boring location.  Of course, fighting kids always need to do their time-outs in SEPARATE locations.

If you are consistent and follow through with consequences at the first sign of aggressive behavior, you should notice that your boys will begin to fight less and less.  And remember, when dealing with sibling rivalry never, NEVER ask the world’s dumbest question: “Who started it?”

You should also make sure that both of your boys receive positive one on one time with you every week.  Sometimes sibling rivalry occurs when children feel like they need to fight to get a parent’s time and attention.

Both you and your husband should make an effort to schedule time alone with each boy every week.  This could be a few minutes each evening or an hour or two on a Saturday or Sunday.

Finally, teach your sons what God says about how we are to treat one another.  Read the bible together regularly, and memorize scriptures about love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.  A good place to start is I John 4:7-8 and Colossians 3:12-14.


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

Listen to today’s audio here. 

Karate Kid!

Dear Dr. Bill,

In the past I’ve heard you mention the benefits of enrolling kids in martial arts like karate or tai kwon do.  However, I’m uneasy about some of the teachings that are connected with these.  For example, in many films and anime cartoons, you see people using martial arts to “transform” themselves and change the air, water and land in unnatural ways.  What do you think about that?



Dear Diane,

If you decide to enroll your kids in martial arts, it’s critical that you ask about the philosophy behind the particular school and training.

There are definitely some schools of martial arts that combine Eastern religious beliefs and meditation with their instruction.  As a Christian parent, you wouldn’t want to expose your child to those ideas.

On the other hand, many martial arts programs focus on self-defense, respect, and self-discipline, without any reference to Buddhist or New Age philosophy.

There are even martial arts schools run by Christians that incorporate biblical principles such as endurance, patience, loyalty, and self-control.

In fact, one of my friends is a 5th-degree black belt who uses his martial arts skills to share Christ with boys in juvenile detention facilities all across the country.  His name is Victor Marx, and he heads up a ministry called “All Things Possible.”

If you decide to pursue martial arts training for your kids, use your discernment. Ask questions about the philosophy behind the training and the qualifications of the instructors.  Also, it’s always wise to observe a few classes before signing any kind of contract with a martial arts school.

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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Are Kids Watching Less TV?

Are American kids watching less TV?  Yes—and—no.

According to a story on, television watching is going down among children ages 11 through 16.

A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that tweens and teens now watch about 2.4 hours of TV a day.  That’s down from the 3.1 hours they were watching a decade ago.

But the study doesn’t take into account how television and television-like media is changing.  For instance it doesn’t consider YouTube clips or TV watched on computers, tablets or phones.

Melanie Shreffler, a columnist for, says “Teens are indeed watching less on TV sets, but they’re still actively engaged with shows. They’re just using new ways to ‘watch TV’ that fit their lifestyles.”

In other culture news, are you feeling mad, sad, glad or scared?  Scientists have found that the most prevalent emotion expressed online is ANGER—at least in China.

Researchers at Beihang University studied the Chinese social network Weibo, which is a platform that resembles Twitter and has twice as many users.

They concluded that anger was the most influential emotion in online interactions.

Over a six-month period, the researchers sorted 70 million messages into the emotional categories of anger, joy, sadness and disgust.

Sadness and disgust were relatively non-influential, while happy messages were more likely to cause joy among followers and motivate them to forward them.

Rage was most likely to spread across social media, creating a ripple effect that could spark irate posts with up to three degrees of separation from the original message.

So before you Tweet something today, take a deep breath, count to ten, and remember these words from Proverbs 29:11: “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.”

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

Listen to today’s audio here. 

Toddler Frenemies

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have 2-year-old twins, and our friends have a 3-year-old boy.  Unfortunately their son is impulsively mean and aggressive to my children.  We try to keep visits short and under parental control, but inevitably one of my kids gets whacked or kicked. Our friends are having a difficult time with their son and we could all use a little advice on how to handle his mean-spirited actions.



Dear Lisa,

The main question is WHY is your friend’s 3-year-old is impulsively mean and aggressive.  I can only speculate, but I’m guessing his behavior is either due to ineffective parenting, some kind of family dysfunction, or more severe psychological problems.

Since you mention that you are good friends with this family and that you could ALL use a little advice, my first suggestion would be for your friends to have their son evaluated by a child psychologist.

If it turns out that his aggressive behavior is simply a result of ineffective or inconsistent parenting, your friends should be able to get some good parenting instruction from the psychologist.

In the meantime, they need to immediately step in and administer consequences when their son becomes aggressive.

Ask them if they will agree to this plan…they should tell their son that the next time your twins visit, if he is mean to them or acts aggressively in any way, the twins will need to leave and go home.

Then when it happens (and it certainly will) announce that hitting is not allowed and that your family is leaving.  Leave immediately, without discussion, even if their son protests or cries.  Stick to your guns and do this every time he displays aggressive behavior of any kind.  Hopefully it will only take a few incidents like this before the aggressive behavior begins to diminish

Thanks for writing, Lisa.


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

Listen to today’s audio here. 

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

More parents are sleeping with their baby, and some experts are concerned.

According to the LA Times, a new study has found that the number of infants sharing a bed with adults has more than doubled, especially among black and Hispanic families.

That has researchers worried, because bed-sharing has been linked to a higher rate of sudden infant death syndrome or “SIDS.”  SIDS is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under the age of 1 where an autopsy cannot determine a cause of death.

No one knows what causes SIDS, but doctors believe it has to do a baby’s with a baby’s ability to wake up (known as sleep arousal) and a problem the baby’s body may have in detecting a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 4,000 infants die of no immediate, obvious cause. They estimate that about half of these deaths are due to SIDS, making it the leading cause of death for infants between birth and 12 months.

A previous study linked bed-sharing with a five-fold increase in SIDS risk.

Researchers found that bed-sharing rates have gone up from 6.5 percent in 1993 to 13.5 percent today.

White caregivers were less likely to share a bed with their children compared to black and Hispanic caregivers.

More than half of parents surveyed said they did not receive advice from a medical professional about the dangers of sharing their bed with their baby.  Those who were warned about the risks were more likely to heed that advice.

To learn more about SIDS, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website at

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

Listen to today’s audio here. 

Teens and Drugs

Shock, guilt, disbelief … just some of the emotions parents feel when they find out their child is using illegal drugs. If you want to avoid this in your own home, I have a secret that can help – talking to your teen.


You may be surprised, but teenagers really do care what their parents think. And they listen – even if they don’t outwardly show it. Studies show kids are less likely to abuse any substance when they know their parents would strongly disapprove.


A simple conversation can help them make better choices, stand by their convictions, and say NO to peer pressure. If you’re looking for the right time to talk to your child about drugs, how about now? Don’t let an opportunity go up in smoke. 


Find more information on this and many other health topics, when you log onto

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Video Games and Violence

Two weeks ago America was stunned by the tragic shootings at the Navy Yard in Washington DC.  Since then, many experts have commented on the shooter’s unstable mental state.

But what few news outlets have reported is that Aaron Alexis spent hours each day playing violent video games such as Call of Duty.

One of his friends was quoted as saying, “He could be in the game all day and all night. I think games might be what pushed him that way.”

In fact, Mr. Alexis became so engrossed in the game that his friend would have to bring him meals so he could eat without taking a break.

Speaking of violent video games, Grand Theft Auto V pulled in $800 million bucks the very first day it went on the market.

According to, controversy surrounding the game’s content began to surface almost as soon as it was released.  What is particularly troubling is a torture scene in which players earn a higher score for inflicting more pain.

Video game reviewer, Tom Bramwell says, “The fact you have to use the full range of torture techniques to get a higher score is unlikely to improve anyone’s mood.”

Commenting on the game’s enormous popularity, Christian culture expert, Walt Mueller, points out that culture both reflects our lives and tells people what they should value and believe.

He says, “We can learn a lot about ourselves by pondering this game. We can see who we are, and who we are becoming.”

To learn more about the impact of violent video games, visit the American Psychological Associations website at and enter “video games” in the search engine.

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

Listen to today’s audio here. 

Help! Math!

Dear Dr. Bill,

My daughter started 4th grade this year.  She typically gets straight A’s, but one subject she really struggles with is MATH.  We spend a great deal of time helping her — because she forgets things easily and doesn’t seem to understand simple math problems like how many pennies in a dime or how many minutes in a half-hour. My daughter prays about this all the time and never complains about doing extra math problems at home.  And my husband is VERY patient with her, but it’s a stressful experience for all of us.  What should we do?



Dear Kim,

There is a possibility that your daughter may suffer a learning disability called “dyscalcula.”  This is also referred to as Mathematics Disorder, and can involve a difficulty in understanding mathematical terms or concepts, decoding written problems, recognizing numerical symbols or arithmetic signs, or following sequences of mathematical steps.

If you daughter is seriously lagging behind in math, ask the teacher to arrange for a formal evaluation by the school psychologist.  If it’s not a learning disability but simply a matter of needing additional help, I’d find a math tutor or enroll your daughter in a specialized math learning program in your community.

Since you’ve said this is putting a lot of stress on your family, it’s better to seek outside help rather than trying to tutor your daughter yourself.

It’s also important for you to affirm and encourage your daughter’s strengths, rather than focusing on her weaknesses.  Help her to view learning math as an energizing challenge, rather than a frustrating obstacle.

Work closely with your daughter’s math teacher and praise her for her effort, rather than simply her achievement.

Also, avoid the tendency to criticize her or express disappointment when she fails.  Remind her that her self-worth is not based on grades or accomplishments, but on the fact that she is made in God’s image and that He dearly loves her.

Thanks for writing, Kim.

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

Listen to today’s audio here. 

Preschoolers and Naps

Do you want your preschooler to learn more?  Make sure he gets a nap!

According to an article in the LA Times, naps are a critical part of a preschooler’s day—even though more and more preschools are adding additional curriculum to their programs.

New research has found that kids who took hour long performed better on memory tests than kids who didn’t take a nap.

In addition, the non-nappers couldn’t make up the deficit simply by getting more sleep at night.

Dr. Rebecca Spencer is a research psychologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  She says, “With increased curriculum demands, classroom nap opportunities are becoming devalued.  These children are in the process of growing from babies who slept off and on all day to children who sleep primarily at night.”

Dr. Spencer says the new study provides evidence that midday naps for preschoolers support learning and improved academic achievement.

The researchers looked at 40 children from six western Massachusetts preschools, ages three to five and a half. They taught the kids a memory test in which they were asked to remember where various pictures were located on a grid.

Each child played the game without a nap, and after a nap. And they played it the following day.

Right after a nap, there wasn’t much difference based on the sleeping. But later in the afternoon, the nappers recalled ten percent more of the picture locations. And the benefit remained the next day.

You know, I’ve been misplacing my car keys lately—maybe I need a nap!

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

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Breaking Lazy Habits

Dear Dr. Bill,

I have two daughters, ages 16 and 10, who seem to be very lazy.  They won’t help me around the house and wait until the last minute to do their homework!  As a single parent, I usually don’t have the strength to make them do what I know they should.  How do I break this bad habit — not only in my kids, but in myself?



Dear Sheila,

You answered your own question. Even though it’s tough, the best thing you can do for your daughters is to establish house rules on chores and homework, and then follow through.  You’ll need to be consistent and firm, even when you’re tired or frustrated.

Unless you make some major changes in your parenting now, your daughters are going to have a tough future ahead of them.  If they haven’t learned personal responsibility and self-discipline, how are they going to succeed in college or hold down a job?

One method you can use is called the “Premack Principle.”  Basically that means that a less desirable activity needs to be completed before a person engages in a more desirable activity.

Say your 16-year-old loves texting or talking on the phone with her friends, while your ten-year-old enjoys riding her bike or watching TV.

Tell your girls you want to help them get ready for the “real world,” and because of that, you are going to set some new household rules. One of those rules will be that all homework and chores are to be done immediately after school, BEFORE they are allowed to engage in “fun” activities, like texting or watching TV.

It’s critical that you follow through—even when you’re tired or don’t feel like being firm.  I’d write up a contract that clearly spells out the rules, and even build in some special rewards your daughters can earn by keeping their end of the deal.

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

Listen to today’s audio here.