- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 7, 2008

Q. We’re having a discussion somewhat of a debate, actually in our church over when it’s appropriate to allow children to sit with their parents during worship. What is your recommendation?

A. The folks in your church may be wasting their time and energy. This issue has nothing to do with age. A child should not be attending worship services (assuming they are not exuberant occasions) until he or she is able to sit reasonably still for an hour or more and pay reasonable attention. Church is not where children should be disciplined. Rather, they should be disciplined before they come to church.

Q. My 7-year-old, Michelle, has a wonderful example in her 12-year-old sister, Emma. Emma is very helpful around the house. She even asks me if there’s anything I need her to do. When I ask Michelle to do something, I get pushback. Is it too much to ask that she accept tasks cheerfully? My thought is that even if she doesn’t feel eager, she should fake it. Am I expecting too much?

A. No, but you aren’t going to be able to solve this problem within the status quo. Emma obviously has usurped all the responsibility in the family; therefore, Michelle feels she is entitled to be a slouch.

I would handle this by telling both kids, together, that because Emma has been so helpful for so long, she has earned a “responsibility vacation” for at least two weeks, maybe longer. During her older sister’s hiatus, Michelle will do EVERYTHING, just as Emma did until Michelle came along, and she will continue to do EVERYTHING until she learns to do it with a reasonably good attitude (not cheerful, mind you, but without the current resistance).

At that point, you will split household responsibilities 50/50 and put Emma back to work. In other words, Michelle will determine when Emma comes off holiday. I’ll bet it only take two weeks.

Amanda from Illinois shares a great idea concerning nighttime “potty” training. She writes: “When my first daughter was daytime trained at 21 months, I took her diaper away completely, meaning she wet the bed at night. I’ve done this now with four kids, all day-trained before age 2. Two of them got it right away. One took a fairly long time, but I eventually figured out that she was cold, and warm jammies fixed that. I’m on my fourth at the moment. In the last three days, she has peed the bed only twice between naps and nighttime. That’s six trips to bed with only two accidents! You’d be surprised how one or two nights of sleeping in a puddle helps with self-control.”

Amanda’s very helpful suggestion is consistent with two things I have been saying for years: First, the earlier daytime training takes place, the quicker nighttime training will occur; second, a child learns not to wet the bed by wetting the bed. So, get those diapers off!

* Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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