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Angel At School Hits At Home

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My 6-year-old daughter hits either me or her brother when she gets frustrated or doesn't get her way. I've tried everything to teach her that hitting isn't acceptable. She always has excellent behavior at school. I'm a single mother who works, and I try my best. What am I doing wrong? -- Punching Bag Mom

Dear Mom: Your daughter is a perfect angel at school. I'm sure she becomes frustrated there, yet she doesn't hit anyone. That's because she knows hitting is not acceptable behavior. There are likely firm consequences and no-nonsense policies set in place at school. At home, it's probably a different story.

You have some introspection to do. Bring a single parent means you have to do all the work for two parents. That's all the financial burden, all of the parenting, all of the worrying and all of the disciplining. At the end of a long day, it can be exceedingly difficult to manage it all perfectly. The good news is that everyone struggles from time to time. Taking a hard look at how you are operating can help find the trouble points to make improvements.

Your daughter knows how to behave. Your challenge now is setting clear expectations for behavior with concrete consequences. Make sure you are not sending mixed messages, or allowing for any wiggle room with the expectations and consequences. Be firm and unmoving, as the teacher would be in school. Imagine if you had 26 kids to manage. What would you do differently?

For a few weeks, cut out all negotiation. If you say no dessert, then it's no dessert. If you say only one book, then don't negotiate to two. Additionally, stop rewarding misbehavior with your attention. If your daughter hits more than just a minor infraction, do an immediate timeout. If you are as consistent as a kindergarten teacher, you will create an environment where your daughter can shine with excellent behavior right at home.

Dear Family Coach: We bought my son several expensive Lego sets for his birthday. They were the exact sets he requested. He opened them immediately and built them for a few days, but he hasn't looked at them in months. He doesn't want to take them apart and use the pieces, and he doesn't play with them. I'm furious because it feels like such a waste of money. He's already asking for more sets for Christmas. Do I have to get him what he wants? -- Played


Dear Played: With gifting, there should never be a "have to." It is always rewarding to give something you know someone will enjoy. But it isn't a requirement. You are under no obligation to waste more money (your opinion, not mine). I'm sure there are many other gifts your son would enjoy. Buy him something else on his list. If he insists he wants a Lego set, maybe a grandparent would be interested in purchasing that gift.

While it is frustrating to see your Lego gifts sitting on a shelf, it doesn't mean your son doesn't still love them. Building is part of the fun. But admiring the finished product is another dimension. I still have a painting that my son made in the third grade; it hangs in the dining room, and just walking by it gives me a smile.

Despite not actively playing with his projects, your son is still asking for more Lego sets. He clearly loves them in a way you might not be able to fully comprehend. If you can accept that, buy some more. If you can't, that's OK, too.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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