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Parenting coach Meghan Leahy takes reader questions

Parenting coach and columnist Meghan Leahy answered questions recently in an online chat with The Washington Post. Here is an edited excerpt.

Q: My 3-year-old girl has lots of feelings (of course), and she is very much doted upon by my extended family as the only grandchild. For much of 2020 and 2021, nobody in our extended family saw her in person except for her grandparents. I heard a lot of comments about how they couldn't wait to squeeze her, cover her in kisses, etc. We are now getting back to seeing extended family, and she doesn't remember any of them, but they are obsessed with her and frequently scoop her up into hugs, plant kisses on her neck without warning, etc. She freaks out when this happens. Honestly, I don't blame her. And I'm trying to start early with ideas of consent. I want her to feel comfortable telling people not to touch her body. What I'm struggling with is that she has hit people hard and yelled at them. Hitting is a hard no in our house. I find myself apologizing to the person who got hit, and I would rather be (gently) explaining to them that they're not allowed to touch her without asking first. I don't have the right words to tell her that I 100-percent support her stance but not her methods. Do you have any advice?

A: I advise her to keep hitting!

No, seriously: She is expressing (very clearly) that she doesn't want to be touched and scooped and kissed. It is your job to put a stop to that, not to discipline your daughter.

You are speaking the words she cannot yet say, so please tell your family the truth: "Lily has grown accustomed to having her private space over the pandemic, and she doesn't want to be squeezed and hugged. Please give her time to warm up to you by keeping a bit of a distance. I, on the other hand, would love to be hugged by all of you!"

If your family cannot respect this, then you will have to block your daughter from them and continue to reassert your boundaries.

Q: How can I teach gratitude to my three children (ages 4, 5 and 12)? My husband and I have worked really hard to pull ourselves out of poverty. Our children now seem to be ungrateful and lazy, and they seem to have no regard for others. We try to show them how important it is to be humble, but it goes over their heads.

A: Humility and gratitude are not the same, so you have to choose your goal here. What are you going for? One is about staying grounded, and one is about appreciating your life.

In either case, your children need real work. That means chores. Set up a system that works for your family, where they all have age-appropriate work that supports the whole household.

If you decide on consequences (and this should be done together), then you can help them move toward less laziness.

 

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