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Dear Debbie

"Dear Debbie" is a column dedicated to answering your questions about how to better handle the everyday struggles of life with children. She'll tackle anything-from tantrums and potty training to dealing with playground politics and post partum depression. Send your questions to:

Dear Debbie,

The constant tattling in my house makes me insane. Any quick fixes for the "he did it" syndrome?

Tattling is a great way to get mom's attention. When it works, it becomes a habit. "Hmmm" thinks little Joey, "if I go tell mom, she pays attention to me, gets up from what she's doing to see what's going on, and my brother gets in trouble." It's a winning situation for the kid!! To stop tattling, stop reinforcing it. Focus on helping him solve conflicts himself and don't get too involved. Here's how:

Comfort. Don't cure. When a child is upset, your job is emotional support, not problem solving. Comfort the child, but don't intervene. Try: "Wow. That must hurt your feelings. Need a hug?"

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Empower him to solve it himself. Say: "Thanks for letting me know. I can't wait to hear how you solve that."

Redirect him. A change of scenery can come in handy. Try: "Hmm. That doesn't sound like fun. Maybe you guys would like to go outside for awhile?"

Kiss the Boo-boo. Offer to put a hug on that hurt feeling or a kiss on that mad face and see if it gets better.

Have "tattle-hours." Kids are welcome to tattle, but only when you announce tattle-time. Each child gets to tell one thing, privately, to you. Then kiss them, say you're sorry that happened, and send them on their way.

Give him an out. Kids tattle when they're upset and need a breather. Try: "If you need a break, you can take hang out in your room or with me for a minute."

Create a tattle-jar. Kids can use words or pictures to write a tattle for the tattle jar. They get to "tell." And you don't have to hear about it.

Let him be mad. Tattling is a way kids vent anger. Tell him to be mad by: putting mad faces on a chart, drawing an angry picture, yelling at a pillow, stomping around...and he won't have to come to you!


Dear Debbie

Need grocery-cart entertainment while you shop? Try these tips and get through your list without a meltdown!

Dear Debbie

I need tips for getting my child to the car without a meltdown. Every day is a wrestling match to get the kid buckled in the seat….even if he’s going somewhere fun! Help!

Dear Debbie

How about some ideas for making a graceful exit at the end of a playdate. Our current tradition of a full-blown tantrum in our friend’s foyer leaves a bit to be desired. Help!

Spring Potty Training

Dear Debbie, I want to potty train my child by this summer. What do you suggest? Strip him down and head outside. Potty training, nakedness, and the great outdoors go hand in hand.


Dear Debbie, Help me end the mess in our crazy house! Any ideas? —Drowning in dust bunnies

Separation Anxiety

Dear Debbie, My six year old cries when it’s time to go to a birthday party, weekly dance class, anywhere not in her daily routine. She is a little shy. But she loves everything once she gets there. What is going on and how do we get out the door without these meltdowns? —Too many tears

Preschool Choices

Dear Debbie, How many days/week should my daughter go to preschool? I don’t work full-time. So she could stay home with me. But she loves school, too. What is best for my child? I’m driving myself insane with this decision!

Magical Solutions for the Witching Hour

Dear Debbie, It’s 5pm and my three kids are driving me insane. How can I save my sanity during the “witching hours?”