- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2006

Should I stop my mom from giving my three preschool-age children presents every time she visits? She is usually here once a month for about a week, and every morning, she gives a small gift to each of the children.

They love it (of course), but I am a little concerned they will begin to think of her only in terms of the things she brings for them rather than the time she spends with them. I also am a little uncomfortable with the avalanche of trinkets and toys that are soon forgotten or broken or that we end up donating to a good cause.

My husband and I have discussed it and are undecided whether we should try to intervene or just let it ride.

A: Let it ride. Your mother’s largess is causing no harm to anyone but her, and even that is questionable.

Though I agree there is some possibility the children will begin to think of her as a cornucopia of gifts or a walking entitlement dispensary, I wouldn’t be willing to go out on a limb and say that is going to happen for sure and forever.

Besides, your mom is a big girl. She is capable of realizing she has made a mistake and correcting it. Also, attempts on your part to micromanage her grandparenting are going to succeed about as well as would attempts on her part to micromanage your parenting. Let her have her fun and keep those donations coming.

Q: My 6-year-old son is still experiencing separation anxiety about going to school, to a friend’s house or whatever. I am a homemaker, and he has never been in day care.

My husband and I tell him he just needs to “cowboy up” and get used to the fact that we can’t or aren’t willing to be with him all the time. We have gone so far as to tell him that if he doesn’t go to school, he’ll eventually be living in a box under a bridge.

He adjusts fairly well once I drop him off at school or a friend’s house, but on the way there, he becomes anxious and tells me how much he will miss me and how he wishes he could just stay home with me all the time. What would you do?

A: I would stop badgering him about this. I would stop telling him to be a good cowboy or he’s going to end up living in a box, lest he develop a phobia regarding large appliance boxes.

If I were in your shoes and my 6-year-old son began telling me, on the way to school, how much he was going to miss me, I would handle it with a sense of humor. I would become very melodramatic and exclaim, “Oh, favorite child of mine. Light of my life. I am going to miss you, too. I am going to miss you more than ice cream on brownies, which I miss every minute of every day. While we are apart, I’m going to think only of the incredibly humongous love I have for you and you alone.”

Then I would pull the car over to the side of the road and collapse against the steering wheel and wail, “I need a hug.” Everyone would laugh and live happily ever after.

In short, I would not take this very seriously. Believe me, in the course of raising this child, you will have bigger fish to fry. Save your energy.

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

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