Hi Cathy, I need advice, badly. My husband and I received our first foster child 2 months ago, a 12 year old girl. Severely neglected. It’s like teaching a toddler how to take care of herself. Wiping, showering, hand washing, and of course the monthly issue, and the bodily fluids. She won’t eat anything other than meat and then she gorges on it. She can barely talk. So many details I could give you, but my biggest concern is my 13 year old daughter. She stares at her and follows her around. My daughter is hiding in her bedroom. I’m worried about how this is affecting her. I feel like a failure for wanting to give up after only 2 months.
At wits end in Ohio, USA
CG: Dear Karrie, if this is your first foster child then you have been thrown in at the deep end. I hope you are getting some good support. If not ask for it ASAP. This girl has a high level of needs due to severe neglect and she will be like a big toddler. She will need to go through the various developmental and learning stages before she can move on. Don’t struggle on alone, ask for support, therapeutic input and also some respite so that you and your daughter can spend time together. Obviously talk to your daughter and explain why the girl is like she is. Meet with her teachers and discuss strategies. The strategies in my books Happy Kids and Happy Mealtimes For Kids will help. However, progress may be slow to begin with: the longer the neglect, the longer it takes. Your own daughter’s wishes need to be taken into account and it may be that in the end, despite your best efforts, this girl’s needs are beyond what you can reasonably meet. Let me know how you get on.
Hi Cathy, I just wanted you to know that your book Happy Kids is amazing! There are definitely less tears and tantrums now :). My son is very challenging and at present your book has helped me and my husband loads!! I was also pleased to read about the different additives as my son has recently seen a dietician. So thank you for this wonderful book.
I have just finished reading your book Happy Kids. I am not a parent, but work in childcare. I love your 3R’s technique and will be implementing it in my room. When you study to teach they concentrate on the teaching/planning side. Even though I have learnt through experience it is great to learn more. Thank you.
Hi Cathy, I have just finished your book Happy kids and wanted to thank you. I am a mum of 3 and at times have been at my wits end. Since reading and implementing your strategies I have restored order and control once again. I feel for the first time that actually I can do this. I am a business woman running a small company from home employing 6 staff. I consider myself an intelligent woman but was failing my children miserably. I cannot change my past actions but I am sure of the future ahead. I feel a sense of empowerment I never had before. I can honestly say your book has changed my life as a mum. From the bottom of my heart I thank you.
My brother picks on me by calling me fat. I’m not fat at all. I told mum and she says he’s winding me up and does nothing about it.
CG: Dear Kellie-Anne, calling you names won’t mean much to your brother; it’s just a bit of teasing his sister, but I appreciate just how upsetting it must be for you. You need to approach your mum when she isn’t busy and tell her exactly what he is saying and why you are upset, so that she takes the matter seriously. You can also tell your brother that you find his comments upsetting as he is unlikely to be aware of the impact his words are having. Your mother may find reading my book Happy Kids useful, there is a lot of advice on siblings. Have that chat with your mum and let me know how you get on.
HI Cathy, I have a 16 year old granddaughter who I raised on and off since she was 2. My son and his girlfriend are alcoholics/drug addicts. In 7th grade she began acting out and I found out that her Mom’s boyfriend was molesting her. He went to jail. Her Mom introduced her to smoking cigarettes and pot, not sure what else, and piercings. She didn’t do well at school. She is presently living with the last people her mom lived with who have encouraged her to go to school. My husband and I would like our granddaughter to visit more often and be part of our lives. Her mother is not good for her. God Bless you and your family.
CG: Dear Lori, you have done so much for your family and appear to have received little in return. However, all those years of parenting your granddaughter will count for a lot. Believe me. She knows who was there for her. At present she has a lot to contend with and is having little contact with you. My advice would be to keep the lines of communication open but to give her the space she needs. Also a word of warning: don’t be tempted to point out her mother’s faults to her. Children are often fiercely loyal to their mothers regardless of what they have done. She is at a difficult age and appears to be doing okay at present. Knowing you are there will be a great security to her, although she may not say so.
We have an adopted boy who is 9 now, 4 when he joined us. My goodness what a battle it’s been. Family therapy helping now and reading your books about the children gives me such hope!
I have daughters aged 5 and 2. The eldest is always pestering me for food and drink, even if she’s just eaten. If I don’t watch her she takes bottles and food from my younger daughter. Her behaviour is wearing me down.
CG: Hi Carol, I can understand you are concerned about your 5 year old’s behaviour but please be reassured it is not unusual for a 5 year old to want to be a toddler again, which is what your daughter is trying to do. She will have started big school not long ago and as a big girl she no longer has a bottle. Children a lot older then 5 like to suck – hence thumb sucking etc. Also at her age she will be doing a lot of things for herself and while she likes this autonomy and independence she will also be harboring a feeling she would like to be two again and have all the attention that toddlers demand. I suggest you make light of her taking the bottle, let her have one suck if she wants, then say something like ‘I’m so glad you are a big girl now and can eat grown up food. That’s so much more interesting etc.’ Also make sure she is getting enough attention, and play a game with her in the hour after your toddler has gone to bed and before it is her bedtime. You may find reading my book Happy Kids helps, which contains lots of useful strategies for dealing with this type of behaviour.
Hi Cathy I just wanted to say thank you. I got your book and read it in a week. I have been using the techniques in the book and we haven’t had an incident since. It’s been wonderful. I really do appreciate it as she had been a nightmare to deal with for nearly 3 years. It was so distressing not knowing how to deal with it all but as I said she’s on the mend now. Thank
Dear Cathy, I had just placed an order for the Happy Kids book. I try to practice your style with the kids I look after in the Orphanage, and so far so good. The local bookshop here carries all your books. If they are out of stock, they order them from Kuala Lumpur.
Pause For Thought: Children must be taught how to think, not what to think. Margaret Mead
Dear Cathy, I have 2 daughters and I’ve just found out I’m pregnant. I’m pleased but also very worried. My last baby was a difficult birth and she nearly died. The images of that day still scare me. I later suffered from severe PND (post natal depression). I dearly loved my daughter but I couldn’t cope. I am very scared that I might fall back into that dark place, it wasn’t nice for oldest daughter to see her once happy mummy change. I found it very hard to get out of bed, cook, clean and all of the basic’s really.
CG: Dear Amy, You are a fantastic mother, I know that from reading your email. I can also understand your concerns. PND is a lot more common that people think and as you know it can change a usually very happy and positive person. There is no reason why you should suffer from PND with this birth because you suffered before. However, you do need to raise your concerns with the professionals involved in your care so they can support and advise you as necessary. I suggest you speak to your GP, I assume he or she treated you before, and I think you will find he or she is most sympathetic and can reassure you and will arrange support. I know you are a very intelligent and caring person and you will get through this period of uncertainty. Cathy x
Thank you. I spoke to the doctor today at my local GP and because of the PND last time I’m going to be seeing a midwife who specializes in mental health throughout the pregnancy, as well as my Community midwife. After the birth my health visitor will make more regular visits too. I’m sure I will be ok. I’ve got my supportive partner and now that I know that help
Happy Kids arrived yesterday and I’m finding it has heaps of ideas. As of tonight we have been using the 3R’s approach – Request – Repeat – Reaffirm with the consequence that N did as I’d asked once and then lost 10 minutes TV time. He was not a very happy little boy – but it WORKED! I’ve also been reinforcing the respect issue for ALL.
I have a 9 month old baby boy. He goes down for his naps in the daytime all right but at night he screams. My health visitor told me to let him cry it out, but I refuse to just let him cry. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
CG: Hi Linsey, I wouldn’t let a baby cry itself to sleep either. There is clearly something the matter and I suggest you look at the differences between the way you settle him for his nap during the day and at night. There is something at night that is different from his nap during the day and is making him fractious. You may also find using the sleeping routine detailed in my book Happy Kids useful. Try it and see. Cathy x
I downloaded your Happy Kids book and tried the 3r’s, and hey presto he goes down now. The first night it took half an hour, the second night he went down straight away and tonight it took 5mins. I don’t know why I didn’t try it before. Thank you so much for your advice and amazing book. You advice is better than my health visitor’s advice!!
I have twin girls aged 10 and one of them gets very anxious during school exams so her results do not reflect her ability. I have seen this in other areas such as playing the piano. A friend has suggested hypnosis. Would you recommend this or do you have other suggestions to help my daughter overcome her nerves and anxiety during tests?
CG: Many children suffer from exam nerves, my daughter Paula did. As a result the exams may not reflect the child’s true abilities. One of the reasons for reconstructing the GCSE to include course work was because so many children suffer from the pressure of exams. Your daughter may also feel pressure from having a twin: that she has to do as well as, if not better than her sister. I am sure this has never been part of your family’s doctrine but it is surprising what young children can internalize. I am not sure hypnosis is the answer as it could be counterproductive and make her feel under even more pressure – i.e. it is so important she does well in her exams that you are paying for her to see a hypnotist. If she were my child I would have a one to one chat with her and make sure she understands that you know she does her best in exams, and her and her sister are individuals and will excel in different ways. I would also limit the exams she sits to those that are essential. Please let me know how you get on.
Hello Cathy, I’m a very big fan of you. I wanted to tell you about my sister. She is only one year younger than me. She is very sweet and loving but sometimes gets angry easily if someone laughs at her because she tripped or something. Do you have any advice?
CG: Hi Stella, I really don’t think there is anything to worry about. No one likes to be laughed at, especially if it is from a family member, and in particular a sibling. We might tolerate it from a friend at school, but we don’t show the same restraints when someone in our family laughs at us. Having said that, make sure there is nothing worrying your sister. As you are close she is likely to confide in you. Cathy
Hi Cathy, My 10 year old son is a lovely boy 95% of the time, but recently he has bouts of being moody and does not want to play with his friends so much. I’ve asked him if there is anything wrong and he has reassured me there isn’t. I spoke to his teacher and she says he is doing fine.
CG: Dear Jo, the behaviour you describe is quite normal for a boy aged 10 however it was sensible to rule out any other cause, for example, bullying. Boys of his age are often incredibly sociable one day and withdrawn the next. Can I suggest you read my book Happy Kids which has a chapter dealing with children of this age. In the meantime let your son socialize when he wants to and have time alone when he wants to. I would only be worried if he had suddenly stopped seeing his friends completely and spent hours alone in his room and withdrew from the family, but from what you are saying this is not the case. Keep in touch and let me know how you get on please. Cathy
Pause For Thought: The art of raising children is knowing what negative behaviour we can reasonably overlook while praising all positive behaviour.
Have you ever prepared your children for 11+ and sent them to grammar school? What are your views on this matter? My son is in Year 5 now and reaches excellent grades without tuition. However, he does not cope well with pressure and stress. Our good, local high school is only a 5-10-minute walk away, whereas the grammar school would require a 60-minute bus ride each morning and afternoon.
CG: Dear Anne, I have never had my children coached for entrance exams and they didn’t ever sit any. They all went to our local secondary school. Personally I feel children are under enough pressure at this age that they don’t need any more. However, had any of my children been really ‘high flyers’ and could take entrance exams in their stride I would have discussed with them if they wanted to try for a school other than our local one. But like you I would be mindful of the travelling distance which eats into the day. You know your child best. What does your son think?
Dear Cathy I emailed you before Christmas with problems with my 10 yr old step-daughter. Your advice and assurances have helped, and things are definitely getting better, slowly. I am talking to her more and explaining why there are consequences to her negative behavior, and rewards for her good behaviour. I ask her if she understands so i can explain further if she doesn’t,
Hi Cathy, I am at the end of my tether! My son is two and a half and within the last few weeks he has changed – having awfully scary tantrums. What am I doing wrong? Any ideas? Thank you,
CG: Hi Louise, You are not doing anything wrong. Your son is at the age when children test the boundaries – a lot. That’s why it’s sometimes called the terrible twos. Having said that I assume there haven’t been any big changes in his life recently? Can I suggest to you my book Happy Kids for strategies to deal with his behaviour, and then email me again if you have any specific questions, when I will help you further. Take care. Cathy x
Hello Cathy, we adopted our son seven years ago and he is twelve now. He has started running away, truanting from school, and telling everyone who will listen that he wants to go back in care. I was wondering if you had any advice for us?
CG: Dear Gaynor, I am sorry to hear your son is going through a bad patch. I’m afraid he’s of the age when he will test the boundaries. It is also the time when adopted children examine and question their history. What your son needs more than anything is reassurance that you are his permanent family no matter what he does. His real family – by law and in the role you play and the love you give him. Forget about promoting his birth family for now. He doesn’t want to hear about that. So many times I see adopted parents, wanting to be politically correct, promote the birth family to the detriment of what they are giving. He wants normality – a normal family that is rock solid and not going to give up on him. The reason he is saying he wants to go into care is because he wants to hear you say: ‘No! Never in a million years! You are our son. We are your parents. When you run away we will bring you home.’ You will all come through this as a family but your son still needs firm boundaries for good behaviour and I suggest you read my book Happy Kids for strategies on how to achieve this. Cathy x
Having just finished Happy Kids I was shocked how many E-numbers are in our food.
Emma H – Facebook comment
My son is 11 months old and he throws a tantrum when I say ‘no’ to him. If he carries on I put him in his cot, but I can’t just leave him to cry as the health visitor suggested. Can you help please? He has a tantrum when he wants to climb stairs and I say no, when I go out of the room, when he wants to sit on my lap and I can’t have him on my lap for some reason. Also, if I’m eating or drinking he has to have some of it and screams if I refuse. I’m not sure how I can go about showing him he can’t always have his own way.
CG: Hi Natasha. Decide what your son can have and what he can’t. Really think about this. Sometimes as parents, especially if we are stressed, we say no without really thinking about it. You should be saying ‘yes’ to him more times than you are saying no. If he really can’t have something or has to be stopped from doing something, then say no and introduce him to a different activity. At his age, distraction is the best policy. He is far less likely to have a tantrum if his interest is immediately captured by an alternative activity. Children of this age can become insecure and cry if their main care-giver (you) goes out of sight so don’t worry about that. Take your son with you if you can or keep talking to him while you are out of sight. It will be reassuring for him to hear your voice when he can’t see you. Many a time I’ve sat on the toilet talking to a toddler on the other side of the door! Cathy x
I bought Happy Kids for when I foster but it has helped me loads with my kids. I am a single mum to two children. I have read a few parenting books, yours is excellent and the technique works so well, I have been telling my friends too!
We have been fostering a 9 year old boy, S, for 3 months who has very challenging behaviour. He was badly neglected and has a lot of problems. We want to do the best for him but he takes over and tells me what I am doing is wrong. He is so young in many ways and grown up in others. He is on medication for ADHD. He sleepwalks and has nightmares. He smacks the younger children we look after and also smacks the dogs. I am wondering if we should re-home the dogs? I need some advice.
CG: Dear Marie, it will take time to correct all of S’s behaviour. From your letter I can see you have already achieved a lot with S so give yourself a pat on the back. Keep the boundaries for good behaviour in place and reward and sanction as necessary, as you have been doing using the 3Rs. Cleary S has had a lot of responsibly (and power) so make sure he isn’t ‘top dog’. Please re-read the chapter in Happy Kids called Difficult Children to correct this. S will have to learn to be a child and this will take time. The nightmares and sleep walking are classic signs of severe abuse and neglect. Reassure S he is safe with you and leave a light on low at night. I would also ask for a referral to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service which offers therapy for children like S who have clearly suffered a lot before coming into care. Re your dogs – they stay. There is no question of them going. Teach S how to respect the animals just as he is learning to respect other people. Reward and sanction him for his behaviour towards the dogs as you are doing with his other unacceptable behaviour. You have achieved so much in 3 months, and in another 3 months the child will be unrecognisable from how he is now. Let me know how you get on. Cathy.
I was so glad to receive your email. My husband and I were having such a tough time with S that to be honest were both feeling that perhaps it was time to ask for S to be moved to carers who were more qualified and experienced than us. However after receiving your email we have had a total turn around. Oh my goodness, you hit the nail on the head! The light has been turned on. We honestly did not consider or comprehend the idea that these poor children who have been so neglected and abused also get the chance to have power. This was exactly what was confusing us. Thank you for all your help. We are again feeling optimistic for our future with S.
Pause For Thought: Children will not remember you for the material things you provided but for the feeling that you cherished them.
Hello I’m big fan of you and your books. Right now I’m reading Happy Kids. I am worried about my two and a half year old brother who I look after while my mother works. He only speaks a few words although he understands everything people tell him. I have tried telling him words but he won’t repeat them. One day I repeated a word all day but he still refused to say it. The doctor said there isn’t a problem for a child his age.
CG: Well done for taking such good care of your little brother. That is very kind of you. I am sure your mother greatly appreciates it. I would take the doctor’s advice and not be concerned about your brother’s lack of speech. I assume his hearing was checked and found to be fine. In which case he will be hearing the words and it is only a matter of time before he starts to repeat them. Children develop at different rates and he is only young. I think it is a good idea not to make an issue of it. Just keep talking to him as you have been doing and I am sure it won’t be long before he is talking in sentences. However, if you and your mother still have concerns in six months time you could approach your doctor again.
Hi Cathy, I have just become a nanny. I love it but the little boy can be very cheeky and says things like ‘My mummy is the boss and only she can tell me what to do’, and if I’m singing a song to the baby, he says ‘She doesn’t like that song so can you stop singing it please?’ Today he hit his bother and when I asked him to apologies he raised his voice and said ‘Don’t look at me like that! I don’t like angry voices!’ despite the fact that I hadn’t used an angry voice, simply a firmer tone. I’m writing down everything in a diary to back myself up, but I’m worried that he will tell his parents things and twist it around. I’m telling the parents what the children have been doing every day, but there’s part of me that’s worried that his parents may misinterpret something. I think it’s mainly because he is used to having his mummy and daddy around all the time, and now I have come along. How would you deal with this situation?
CG: Congratulations on your new post. I am sure you are doing a great job although I can see why you are worried. You are right to be making notes of what the child says in respect of your care of him and his siblings. It is also appropriate to advise his parents. I think you can say to the parents that you feel he seems to resent your role so that if he does make an allegation they will have a better understanding of why. Foster carers see a lot of this type of behaviour and we always keep detailed log notes. You are right when you say that the boy is reacting because a nanny is now looking after him and not his mother. Even so he needs to learn that you are in charge and his comments are not acceptable. You can say this to him but it would be better if you and the parents sat down together to speak to him. Also, there are lots of useful tips and strategies in Happy Kids including a chapter especially for Nannies.
I am reading your book Happy Kids. It is the first book that has made any sense to me about raising kids. Thank you.
Youlla, Hong Kong.
I really got so much from your book Happy Kids. It has helped me with parenting my little girl and I have recommended it to my friends.
Dear Cathy I have a 3 year old daughter and I am happy with her behaviour. My father is very strict and doesn’t have much patience with young children. When we visit him he calls her naughty and shouts at her which leads to me arguing with him and saying “no she’s not naughty she’s 3”. I used to get hard smacks as a child and have memories of hiding from my dad behind the cupboard door. All my life I have lacked confidence and have very low self esteem. I don’t want her to have the type of upbringing I had as she is a confident happy little girl and I don’t want to destroy that. At the same time I don’t want to stop visiting my dad.
CG: Dear J, You are not alone in this situation, so many parents have to deal with their parents attitude to child-rearing. I fully appreciate your concerns and of course you are right in all you say. Your daughter is only doing what normal 3 year olds do. You don’t say how often you visit your father but I am guessing it is quite frequent. I think you need to explain to your father (again) that you are bringing up your daughter to be a confident happy child and the boundaries for good behaviour that your daughter respects are the correct ones. If he persists in interfering then I suggest you reduce your visits or even stop them for a while. This will give him the wake up call he needs. Clearly he loves you and his granddaughter but cannot see the damage he is doing. Let me know how it goes.
Hi Cathy, I live in New Zealand and have your book Happy Kids. It is very well written and I am using your useful tips. I have a couple of things I would like to ask you. The first is about the little girl, B, aged 4, I look after regularly on respite. Her mother sulks and it is rubbing off on her daughter, so that if I have a word with B or have to impose discipline she will stop what she is doing and sulk. My usual response is “B… stop sulking or I will put you in time out” but to me it doesn’t feel like the correct response. I have tried ignoring it but she will hide in a dark corner and not come out for a long time and I don’t feel right about that either. I am wondering what else I can do? The other issue is with B interrupting whenever I praise my son. I praise her too, often, but that doesn’t seem enough. I really hope you can give me some advice. Thanks very much
CG: Dear Kourtney, you are doing a good job and handling the situation firmly but sensitively. In respect of B’s sulking, I would make light of it by acting slightly surprised and moving on- e.g. ‘That’s a funny face, B..,’ then carry on with what ever you were doing. You are right when you say she shouldn’t be left hiding in a dark corner for any length of time, but if you are dismissive of her sulking – making light of it – this is less likely to happen as it won’t develop into an issue. In respect of her interrupting, I agree with your comments. Your son deserves his own praise. When B interrupts pause from what you are saying and without looking at B (thereby marginalizing her interrupting) say: ‘I’ll listen to you in a moment when I have finished talking to…..’ If she flounces off in a sulk, ignore it, and carry on as normal. But if she hides in a dark corner for more than ten minutes bring her out. As you have realized B’s behaviour is probably being learnt from her mother but it can be unlearned, although it will take time. Try the above, continue with the strategies you have been using and let me know how you get on. Cathy