Questions from Parents

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

Edition: February 17, 2011 | Topic: Questions from readers

Unless you have reason to be concerned, your child's text messages should be private. Unless you have reason to be concerned, your child's text messages should be private.

Do you think I have a right to read the instant messages of my 12-year-old son? Iíve been doing this for a while, but now Iím feeling guilty that I am somehow being deceitful. I trust him but Iím still not sure he can handle this level of freedom.

Unless your son has given you cause for concern, I would not covertly read any of his e-mails or instant messages. If you feel that there are concerns or that he is too immature to handle such technology, then you should not be allowing him to have computer access to e-mail.

At his age, I would be certain that the computer is in a public place and that you make explicitly clear your expectations regarding its use. Discuss the issues of sexting, cyberbullying and gossiping.

I try to stay involved in my childrenís lives and frequently ask them what is going on in school. My attempts at conversation go nowhere, particularly at dinner time. My 13-year-old said that she frequently feels like she is being interrogated across the dining room table and has come to resent family meals. What can I do to change this?

Focus on other issues rather than asking your children about how their day went in school. Kids are more apt to talk if they donít feel pressured to respond to specific questions. Try speaking with your spouse over dinner about things that went on in your day, current events, problems, movies or hobbies. Donít pressure your daughter, but gently seek her opinion on some of these issues that may be of interest to her---sexting, bullying, ďSkinsĒ on MTV, etc. Donít be quick to offer a different point of view or try to convince her that she is wrong. Perhaps as she engages in these more neutral discussions she may be more willing to discuss what is going on in her life.

I have two preteen children who are about a year and a half apart, one boy and one girl. My eldest childómy daughter, frequently complains that her younger brother gets more privileges because he is a boy. How can I convince her that I do in fact treat both kids equally?

Iím sure your two children have different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, you shouldnít try to treat them equally, only fairly. Focus on meeting their individual needs, not on trying to raise one child exactly the way you raised the other.

Have a frank discussion with your daughter whenever this issue arises. Remind her that her privileges are a function of the level of responsibility that she has exhibited. Be specific regarding your expectations, particularly what is required of her to obtain additional privileges.

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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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