Parenting Q & A- Fighting, falling behind in school, wearing a helmet

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By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist

Edition: April 27, 2008 | Topic: Questions from readers


My 5- and 8-year-old boys are always arguing. It doesn't matter what is going on, they seem to take delight in verbally disagreeing with each other. They fight about television programs, computer games, who sits where in the car, etc.

They've learned that I am very strict about physical aggression, so they never hit each other. I get tired of the constant bickering, but my husband feels it is best to let them work it out. Is this just normal sibling interaction?


Such arguing may be common but it isn't acceptable, desirable or inevitable.

The boys have learned from you that fighting is not tolerated in your family. It would be reasonable for you to have a similar family rule about arguing, helping the children distinguish between voicing a different point of view, and the yelling, screaming and bickering that is ongoing within your family.

Clearly communicate your expectations about what are acceptable and inappropriate ways to disagree. Help the boys develop other ways to resolve disagreements, and then use appropriate consequences whenever they argue, just as you did when they were physically fighting.

I'm with you on this one. I don't think it's reasonable to put up with this type of unpleasant home environment.


My son will be 8 years old next month and he is still in first grade. He is doing poorly and has no interest in school. He was tested by the school psychologist, who thought my son was capable of doing the work. I want to hold him back until he starts taking school seriously, but his teacher adamantly refuses.


Your child is too old to be retained in first grade. I suggest that he be promoted to second grade, but you work to get him help with his schoolwork. Speak with the school psychologist to determine what special programs might be available. Call local colleges or universities to see if they have any tutoring programs that may be available in their education departments. Determine if there are any students to help your son on a volunteer or paid basis. Make sure that there is a very clear homework routine so that schoolwork gets done before he watches TV or does other special activities.


My 9-year-old son adamantly refuses to wear a bicycle helmet. He will wear it when we are watching, but then will take it off when he rides around the neighborhood. We have tried everything to get him to wear his helmet, but he says he just doesn't like it. He loves this bike so much. I can't see taking it away from him.


Your child's physical safety is more important than his enjoyment of bike riding. Next time you see him riding without his helmet, take away the bike for a week. Working in a children's hospital, I've seen too many instances of children with severe brain trauma due to their parents being wimps about not enforcing this very simple rule.

Dr. Ramey Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at

©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.


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