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Rosemond: Preschool might be beneficial distraction
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Question: Our family just moved to a new city and my 2 1/2-year-old son won’t do anything during the day but follow me around. If I give him something to play with while I unpack boxes, he ignores what I’ve given him and starts messing with things he knows he’s not supposed to touch, like my computer. If I move from one room to another, he moves with me, asking me question after question or getting into everything. Should I try some form of punishment or just cater to his clinginess for the time being?
Answer: For the time being I’d cater, sort of. I hesitate to recommend punitive discipline for behavior that has suddenly appeared during a major family transition. Nonetheless, you are not obligated to answer every single one of your son’s questions. He may not like it, but he will not be scarred for life (or for any amount of time, for that matter), if you respond to his episodes of persevering-interrogation disorder with “Mommy can’t talk right now” or something similar. The most practical thing for you to do while you’re unpacking and getting organized is to provide him some playthings and gate him out of rooms that you are working in. You can even gate him in his room for 15 to 30 minutes at a time, but I would not recommend doing so for clinginess per se. You might also consider putting him in a morning preschool program two or three mornings a week. The separation might do both of you a world of good at this point.

Q: After school has become a nightmare in my house. My 7-year-old and 5-year-old fight nonstop from the moment I get them from school. They fight in the car all the way home, and they fight all day and through the evening.
I’ve tried everything! Do you have any suggestions for me before I go STARK RAVING MAD (if I haven’t already)?
A: Yes, I have a suggestion for you, but none of your friends will approve. So when they ask why you’re so chipper and devil-may-care, just tell them you’re on a new medication or something.
The next time you pick the kids up from school and they start fighting and bickering and acting like little sociopaths, say nothing. Just drive home while whistling maniacally to yourself. When you get home, take one by the hand and take him to his room. Say nothing more than “This is where you are spending the rest of the day. I’m even going to serve you your dinner in here. Oh, and you are going to bed, lights out, at 7:30.” Then do the same with the other child. When they ask “WHYYYYYYYY????” just smile and say, “I’m solving MY problem; I hope you solve yours.” Say no more. I guarantee they will figure it out within minutes. They may act confused, but they will not be confused in the least.
The next day, I predict that they will be as good as gold in the car.
Shortly after you all arrive home, the “fun” will begin. As soon as it does, put them in their respective rooms for the remainder of the day with lights out at 7:30. It’s essential that you do this with no warnings, threats, or second chances. If you start warning, etcetera, you will begin to feel the anxiety goblins awakening in your body and you won’t be able to maintain your cool, which is essential to the success of this plan.
Repeat this procedure as often as necessary over the next two weeks, and I will be so bold as to say your problem will be solved. If it ever begins to rear its ugly head again, however, nip it in the bud with the same cool-headed action.

John Rosemond is a family psychologist. Questions of general interest may be sent to Affirmative Parenting, 1020 E. 86th St. Suite 26B, Indianapolis, IN 46240 or