Life Advice



Ask Amy: Young nephew’s behavior causes concern

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

– Clueless Aunt

Dear Aunt: I am not qualified to diagnose any particular issue with your nephew, although some of what you describe would be familiar to a person on the autism spectrum.

Your nephew’s behavior could also be explained by many other factors and dynamics in his household, including his diet, sleep schedule, as well as the inconsistent direction he might be receiving by a stressed and tired parent.

If your nephew is 4 1/2, I’m assuming that he has not had any consistent in-person schooling yet. The pandemic has interrupted so many childhoods, and this little guy’s life could be transformed by regular contact with other children his age, as well as skilled teachers who would help to guide him – and his parents.

Most of us learn by trial and error, and your nephew might be exiting a stage where tantrums “worked” for him. Early childhood education is vital in guiding children toward pro-social behavior.

You could help by taking him to the playground for lots of fresh air and exercise, introducing him to the wonderful world of bugs, dinosaurs, and building things with blocks and LEGOS. You would learn more about him by spending one-on-one time with him, listening to him, reading together, and encouraging him to explore in his own way, without too much judgment or correction from you (unless he is hurting himself or another child).


Your concern and willingness to stand up for this child is commendable. Your dig at this mother for her own lack of self-care is not.

Dear Amy: I have a large group of friends. We all have kids between the ages of 18 and 30 that technically still live at home for financial reasons. They are either in college or out in the work field.

Our friends’ adult children stay out several nights a week and sleep at their partners’ homes – and all of them are still living at home with their parents.

No one in our friend-group allows this at our homes, but our kids say that we’re old school and that everyone does it.


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