Q: Our 18-month-old is a table terror! While I’m preparing dinner, she walks around acting like she’s starving, but as soon as we sit her in her highchair she takes a few bites and then wants down, screams, cries and will sometimes throw food. Through all this, our 5- and 3-year-old try to talk to us but can’t get a word in. We absolutely dread eating in a restaurant. How should we address her behavior?
Until they are at least 3, children should be fed before everyone else in the family sits down to eat.
After your daughter has eaten her fill, let her get down, and then, but only after she’s occupied with something, serve those who qualify as civilized. If she wants to get back up to the table while everyone else is eating, which is going to be the case for a while, pull out a regular chair for her, put a plate in front of her, give her some finger food, and pay her as little attention as possible. If she begins to disrupt, pick her up, take her to her crib, and let her scream until everyone’s finished.
In general, I’m convinced this problem is largely due to giving the infant/toddler too much attention during the family meal. The child gets used to being the center of attention and becomes disruptive as a consequence. If you insist upon having a young one at the table, give finger food, then ignore her as much as possible and be ready to remove her.
Q: My husband and I have a 21-year-old daughter from his first marriage. She was suspended from college for bad grades and is waiting until she can go back. She works for my husband to earn spending money, but rent and food are free. The problem is that her work performance is consistently poor and she is consistently disrespectful. She won’t listen to instructions and takes forever to do anything. Meanwhile, her dad is going slowly insane. She’s disrespectful at home as well. I think he should fire her, then we should kick her out and let her fend for herself. What do you think?
Whenever someone asks me if I intend to ever write a book on how to deal with irresponsible, disrespectful young adult children, I answer, “Well, no publisher will accept a book that consists of only two words: Stop Enabling!” As long as this child (her chronological age may be 21, but I estimate her emotional age at 14) can do as she pleases and still enjoy all the comforts of home, she will continue to do as she pleases.
Yes, give her her walking papers. To grow up, this child needs to experience the slings and arrows of the real world and learn to deal with them without protections.
That applies to a lot of young adults these days, by the way.