Q: My 3- year- old goes to a nursery where other children are learning to read and write. He won’t even pick up a pen. Should I be worried?
A: Definitely not. I know of a youngster who didn’t show any interest in reading or writing until he turned 7, causing much anxiety to his parents. Now he is nearly 16 and is just completing writing his second book! It is really important that everything the under 5s do is seen in the context of play. So ‘play’ with pens and pencils and colours and shapes for as long as your 3-year-old remains interested and stop when he is not. Slowly and playfully turn the colours into shapes and then start to sound out the names of the shapes. This is excellent preparation. I suspect the day will come ( quite soon) when he will ‘connect’ with more formal reading and writing and you probably won’t be able to hold him back!
Q: I saw my friend’s 14-year-old daughter out late with a group of much older boys and girls. She seemed perfectly happy but was obviously embarrassed to bump into me. Should I tell her mother?
A: Put yourself into the shoes of your friend and you will know how grateful you would be if a friend alerted you to something similar in your own family. Chances are the whole thing was safe and innocent, but you can confirm that if you lightly and carefully raise it with her mother. Make it clear you are not interfering; just wanting to ensure that the mother did know and was happy with it. It is very important in situations like this not to complicate them; you are simply acting like any parent would who is concerned about the welfare of children in general, not just your own. It wasn’t that long ago when communities as a whole took on the care of all the children as a matter of duty. Children were safer then, not because of legislation but because the community acted together. Maybe we can’t return to that today, but friends can certainly help one another in ways like this. And should do so.
Q: Why won’t my children ever do what I ask them first time? I have to nag and nag and inevitably end up shouting. Help please.
A: Habits form so quickly in parenting that somehow, in the deeper recesses of our mind, we expect something to happen and of course it does. You are looking for a change in your children, but it is not going to come until there is a change in yourself. Look very carefully at the ideas you hold about your children. If you think they are going to disobey they almost certainly will. Try and let some light and space into your thinking. Perhaps gather them around the table one evening and tell them you have been looking at ways of making their lives sweeter and easier; that you have seen a mental pattern in yourself which you are sure is causing them to react. Tell them you are going to try to change but that you need their help for you to do so. I suspect you will be astonished at how this “forgiving” approach can work. To “forgive” is to give something much better than previously; it is a powerful parenting tool, especially as adolescence arrives.