Jump directly to the Content

Ask Dr. Mary

A Good Friend's Bad Influence

It took my third grader a long time to find a close friend. We were glad when she finally hooked up with a classmate, but now we're having second thoughts. This "friend" is a really negative influence. We'd like to guide our daughter away from this girl. How can we keep them apart?

By the time a girl reaches 8 or 9 years of age, she is starting to enjoy the independence of choosing her own friends. So attempts to keep your daughter away from her friend might be counterproductive.
Instead, encourage the girls to participate in group activities. Children like your daughter, who take a while to find close friends, sometimes feel they can only relate to one person. As a result, they latch on to a single friend and hesitate to make friends with anyone else. Groups offer a nonthreatening way to hold on to a "social security blanket" while meeting other possible friends.
During the elementary-school years, the telephone can help build relationships: it's much easier to talk with an unseen person than face-to-face. Encourage your daughter to call other classmates for help with homework or to check on the meeting place for activities. Telephone acquaintances can quickly become personal friends.
Support your daughter's involvement in church activities?you might even offer to take her and her friends to a church work day or the Friday-evening skating party.
In casual conversation, talk about your own friends: what you look for in a friend, what's hard about being a good friend and valued friends you've had through the years. Be careful, though, that your heartfelt and legitimate concern about your daughter's one friend does not become a focal point of your conversations.

Tattle Troubles

Why do kids tattle on each other? And how can I help my 4-year-old son not to be a snitch, but to tell me when there's something important I should know?

Preschoolers are very interested in rules, so a 4-year-old who tattles might simply be checking his personal understanding of correct behavior. A preschooler who boasts, "Katlyn isn't sharing and I am sharing" might want affirmation or assurance that it's good to share. Even 4-year-olds have learned it's easy to look good when compared to someone who isn't following the rules.
Your child is just now developing a conscience, or an internal voice that will help him judge situations. Forming a conscience and learning to use it will take many years, so be patient. As your son grows, he will begin to distinguish between what is and isn't important. For example, if a stray dog gets into your yard, he should tell you. If a friend won't share a toy, encourage him to work it out. A combination of his observations and your consistant responses to situations will help him mentally categorize what he needs to tell you and what he doesn't.

Time for TV?

People say parents should watch TV with our children, but I don't know why. How will my 2-year-old benefit by having me watch "Teletubbies" with her? That would be a total waste of my time.

Television is an inherently passive activity. But your presence and active involvement can turn television into an interactive event in which your daughter participates in her own learning. You make all the difference in your child's television viewing.
How do you do that? Let's say you're watching a program about animals. You and your daughter could walk with your legs outstretched like a giraffe or squiggle on the living room floor like snakes. If you dance and jump with an action song, you'll capture some of her youthful spirit and you'll both enjoy your uninhibited response to rhythm. If you read a book about a snowstorm before you see a winter weather report, she might look for snowplows, winter hats and snow shovels in the news.
These are all ways to help your child process and understand what she's seeing. And by being physically and mentally active, she is doing more than just absorbing random visual images on the screen.

Pay Attention

Everything I read says that toddlers have a short attention span, but my 16-month-old will stand on her little stool and play at the sink next to me for the longest time. Is that normal? She whizzes through high chair meals and can empty her toy shelf in a minute, so she does do some things quickly.

Your example is an excellent description of a happy child at play; toddlers have a long attention span if they're involved in something of interest to them. Many toddlers can play for an hour or more in a sandbox, rock pile or water. They continually shape these playthings to fit their needs and often make accompanying noises. The repetitive movements and sounds of pouring water or dumping rocks can be very soothing and calming for a 16-month-old who moves on a fast track during most of her waking hours.
Toddlers, like many children, have a shorter attention span when they're told to do something they don't want to do, something that's hard for them or something developmentally inappropriate.

Mary Manz Simon is an author and speaker. She has written The Prince of Egypt Timeless Values series.

Have a question for Dr. Mary?
Send it to: "Ask Dr. Mary," Christian Parenting Today,
465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
fax: (630) 260-0114, e-mail:cpt@christianparenting.net

We'd really like to know what you think about this article!
Is this the kind of article you'd like to see more of?
Is there a topic you'd like us to cover?
Please send your suggestions tocpt@christianparenting.net

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help you make sense of how faith and family intersect with the world.

Read These Next


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters