Parenting Q & A- Time outs, teenage angst, smoking pot

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

Edition: March 16, 2008 | Topic: Questions from readers


My 5-year-old is driving me crazy! I put her in time out after she hits her younger sister, but it only seems to make things worse. At the end of the five minutes, she is crying, upset and needs to be comforted. Any suggestions?


You are using time out incorrectly. Your daughter should remain in time out until she is quiet for five minutes. If she cries, screams or yells during the five-minute restriction, simply tell her the time will begin when she is quiet. Do not engage her in any conversations or negotiations.

After she has been quiet for five minutes, carry-on in a routine manner. Donít give her extra attention by trying to comfort her or discuss her misbehavior. Iím sure that at her age she is aware that hitting her sister is inappropriate. Your talking is only giving her unnecessary attention that may be inadvertently rewarding her misbehavior.

Keep in mind that punishment for bad behavior is only effective if you are combining it with rewards and praise for good behavior. Be certain that you are noticing her positive interactions with her sister and complimenting such behavior.


My son is 17-years-old. He is basically a good kid but recently we have been having a battle of wills. Every conversation gets misconstrued and becomes a fight. I am at my witís end. I also threaten him a lot, but do a bad job of following through. He leaves for college in the fall. How do I go about mending fences?


Your son may be going through some very age-appropriate issues concerning independence, a situation that can easily escalate into a ďbattle of willsĒ. It doesnít help that you have no credibility with your threats. Since your son is leaving home in several months, itís important to maintain a good relationship with him, while also setting and enforcing reasonable limits on his behavior.

First, look for areas of common interests. Talk to him about things that are of interest to him, rather than simply correcting and criticizing. Second, itís useless to threaten unless you are going to follow through. Focus on a few things that really matter and make sure your son has a clear understanding of both the rules and consequences for appropriate behavior. Finally, spend some time with him doing routine tasks, like running errands or other activities. Through these difficult times, try to build up a reservoir of good will that will help both of you reconnect emotionally.


My son is in high school and occasionally smokes pot with his friends. He is an excellent student and will be heading off to college next year. He is well-admired by teachers and other adults.

I occasionally smoked pot in college, and feel it is hypocritical for me to advise my son on the dangers of a drug that I feel is essentially harmless if used in moderation. My wife and I have adopted a ďdonít ask- donít tellĒ policy. We donít ask him what he is doing so he doesnít have to lie. We feel we are just ignoring a harmless behavior. Your thoughts?


Iíve had this same discussion lately with many teenagers in my office, talking about the relative dangers of pot versus alcohol, cigarettes and other substances. These discussions generally go nowhere.

Hereís what I say to kids: marijuana is illegal. If you get arrested, you will have a record for the rest of your life that will make it very difficult for you to get a job. Is the temporary satisfaction of getting high worth life-long consequences of having to explain a drug conviction on your record? I doubt that itís worth it.

You are failing to do your job as a parent by not dealing with this issue. Have a frank discussion with your son regarding the risks he is taking in using illegal substances. If this is occurring in your house, particularly if there are other teens involved, you are placing yourself and your family at risk. This is a bad decision on your part.

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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