What's wrong with tickling my child, and what should I do instead?

Q: You said in your last post not to tickle. Why? I tickle my child just a little bit and she seems to like it -- she even asks for it!

A: There are lots of different lines of thought about tickling, of course, and lots of different responses from kids.

Some kids have a love/hate relationship with tickling -- they love the playfulness and attention from their parents, but they hate the feeling of being out of control that being tickled produces.

My child is hyper and revved up in the evenings. How do I get him to settle down for bedtime?

Q: My son gets so squirrelly in the evenings that he just can't seem to settle down at bedtime. We've tried music, stories, warm baths with lavender, massage, calming teas, and every other soothing aid we can think of, but he just seems to become more determined to bounce around or shout or throw things around. What else can we do?

A: Here's a different angle to try:  wrestle and play other highly physical games with him to allow him to playfully experience resistance and warm, fun physical contact with you. It might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes when kids wind up in the evening it's due to a backlog of unexpended energy or some unprocessed emotional experiences that have accumulated during the day, and if that's the case, calming activities don't seem to settle them down (f anything, they sometimes have the reverse effect and wind them up even more!)

What NOT to say if your elementary-age child experiments with stealing (and what to say instead)

Your child stole something and you found out. You are simultaneously embarrassed, shocked, and worried that you've failed to install a sense of morality in your child.

It seems like it's time for a nice long lecture about how he's broken your trust and will now have to go to great lengths to earn it back, right?

Not necessarily.

How can I make my daughter's father see that he is hurting her feelings?

Q: I am so worried about my 18 year old daughter. Her dad and I split up when she was a toddler, and she does not have a good relationship with him at all. He criticizes her often, and leaves her out of family events and outings with his wife and their children. Both my daughter and I feel hurt and upset about this, and she recently told me that he's been texting her but she refuses to respond. What can I do make him realize that it's wrong to treat his daughter that way, and that he's having a huge negative impact on her?  

A: I totally understand that seeing your daughter being left out could trigger a "mama bear" reaction. And it's important (and often quite challenging at times) for parents to separate our own reactions and feelings from our children's.