September ’17 Q&A – Getting Out the Door, Talking About Suicide, Sibling Conflict

Getting Out the Door

Photo credit: Bridget Coila

Q. HOW do I get my 3.75 yr. old to MOVE in the morning?? It’s not a matter of getting up earlier or being more organized. When he knows we’re going to school, he puts the breaks on and repeatedly tells me he doesn’t want to go to school. This is his first year, and he goes 2 mornings a week. This has just started happening 2 weeks ago. I don’t recall a change and teacher say nothing happened there in particular. When I pick him up he’s always happy but just doesn’t want to GO. So how do I make getting ready to leave a fun thing to do if he doesn’t want to go?!

A. The first thing you want to understand is that there is no reason whatsoever that a 3 or 4 year old should want to leave the house in the morning. Even if it’s something fun, they don’t usually want to get up, dressed, eat, and out. They want to stay in pjs, play what they want, and not be rushed into anything. Your expectation needs to be set to that level. It may be because his temperament is slow moving and he hates having to move when he doesn’t want to. If he feels rushed, he may think there’s something wrong with the way he is and may fight you on it.

That said, I wonder if something happened with another child that no one else knows about. You might try saying at some point, “I wonder how things are with the
other children in your class. I bet there are ones you like and ones you don’t. That’s
always the way.” Period. See what he says. Then perhaps, “Who are your favorites?
Is there anyone you don’t like?” If there is someone he doesn’t like, the next time he
doesn’t want to go, you might say, “I wonder if you don’t want to see so-and- so
today.” When you connect in this way, you are likely to find out more than when you
make assumptions that usually aren’t true.

Remember, he wants to do ONLY what he wants to do. He might want to go to school
but only when he feels like it. Try, “Looks like you don’t want to go to school today. I
bet you don’t want to get out of your warm, cozy pjs and put on your cold clothes.
And I bet you don’t want to say goodbye to me.” When you can acknowledge what’s
going on with him, he feels gotten, and that alone can make all the difference. When
you get frustrated, he thinks you don’t understand and he feels alone. Don’t worry
about putting words in his mouth. Connecting with his feelings is what he needs


Talking about Suicide

Photo credit: Ryan Melaugh

Q. When I was 11, my 19yr. old brother hung himself. We don’t know why. That day feels like the end of my childhood. My sister died when she was 49. After I had kids, I hid all family photos and did not mention siblings to my kids because I felt it was too difficult to explain the circumstances. My kids, who are now 7 and 9, started asking about my siblings – did I have a sister and brother. We finally told them about my sister and about 2 years ago told them that I had a brother who died, but have not said how. They did feel betrayed that I didn’t tell them about my siblings and still ask if there are more. They keep asking how my brother died, and I keep changing the subject. I can’t get my head around informing them that this is even something possible. I understand that I am partly driven by fear (don’t want to be giving anyone any ideas) and partly to protect them from these awful mental images. Also it wouldn’t be enough to tell them that he took his life, I would need to go into the nitty gritty of exactly how he did it. I really really don’t want to tell them this story, yet. What can I do?

A. While I completely understand your reluctance, I highly recommend telling them
the truth — as much as you know including the nitty gritty. Your experience of your
brother’s death is all you know. That is what you are projecting onto your children.
That’s understandable. You must understand that they will not have anywhere close
to your experience with the telling of what happened. The reason it is so important
now to tell the truth is the consistent asking of questions. They have already felt
betrayed and may not be able to trust you to tell them the truth about anything. That
is far worse than your children knowing the details of suicide.

I would encourage you to tell your kids that you want them to know the truth and
the reason you haven’t told them before is because you thought they were too young
to understand. Explain that your brother took his own life and that when people do
that they are desperately sad and feel completely and utterly hopeless and that it is
rare for people to get to that point of hopelessness. That tells you that your brother
must have felt that there was nothing he could do to feel better. If they insist on
knowing how he did it, tell them. I believe they’re old enough to deal with it and
since it’s not their own experience like it was yours, it will not effect them in the way
you fear. If you cry, that is fine. They will understand how much you care and how
horribly sad it is.

Suicide is a terrible experience. None of us want our children to get close. But not
telling them about it is not a protective factor. It’s much better to talk about what
happened in your family and what can happen to others so your children know they
can come to you when they hear confusing and horrendous things — which they


Sibling Conflict

photo credit: Miss Messie

Q. I have a question about sibling conflict.  I love the problem-solving concept of supporting them in coming up with solutions to their conflicts. But my  girls, aged 11 and almost 7, don’t so much have arguments about problems as they just antagonize each other. Neither can seem to resist the urge to begin an unprovoked train of negative comments nor resist the urge to retaliate to these comments. It is so saddening to see my girls, who used to adore each other and play together for hours now behave like arch-enemies. What is even worse, my 3 month old son becomes distressed by their arguments and is now mimicking them in his baby sounds.  Do you have any suggestions as to how I can fan the flames of the girls’ love and put out the fire of their hostility?

A. I would suggest problem solving between you and the girls. Sometime when they
are not bickering, tell them that you have a problem.

“When I hear you two start arguing with each other, I feel quite upset because I think that you really do not like each other and want the other to be miserable. Am I correct about that?” Then depending on their answer you might need to add, “This is not okay with me. First I want you to learn to be kind to each other even if you do not like each other at the
moment. Second, the baby is clearly showing his distress by the tone of your
arguments. That means your arguments affect both of us and that’s not fair. We need
to figure this out. Any suggestions?” See where they go with this. They may just want to leave, in which case you need to impress upon them that you want to find a solution to your problem. Ask if the 3 of you can brain storm? If you start off you could say, “Perhaps you could come up with a word to let the other know you disagree without getting into an argument? Can you think of something else?”

Nothing is guaranteed to “work”. But you will need to keep at a process like this.
Eventually the goal is to uncover some deeper resentment between them that may
have gotten them off track.”

To submit a question, email me at with your short question and I will answer you within a few days. It may appear in the newsletter at a later date.

Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You'll Love to Live With

Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With can help you shift your perspective of your child and his behavior so that your anger can shift to compassion and understanding — frustration probably; annoyance undoubtedly, but much less anger.