Questions From Readers: Arguing, Grades and Staying Home Alone

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

Edition: June 20, 2011 | Topic: Questions from readers

Questions From Readers: Arguing, Grades and Staying Home Alone


When should I step in when my seven-year-old son gets in arguments with other kids? I think itís important for him to learn to resolve these things on his own, but he and most of his friends seem incapable of dealing with any type of disagreement. Should I walk away and let them figure this out by themselves?

Learning to resolve problems with others is a critical skill that kids donít learn on their own. Try the following.

First, establish a couple of simple family rules regarding problem solving. Most parents focus on a rule about no hurting or hitting anyone else, and not using bad words or yelling.

Once you have established those guidelines, then teach your child some skills about resolving conflicts. For example, role play how compromise might be used to deal with some difficulty. Have him explain how he might have used this technique in a disagreement he recently had with his friend. As your son is able to apply that skill, teach him other techniques such as good listening skills, identifying alternatives, anticipating consequences, and self-control.

My fourth grader is above average in intelligence, but finished the school year with Bs and several Cs. I donít want to punish her by sending her to summer school or tutoring. I want her to enjoy her school and feel that learning is interesting and fun. However, her grades are unacceptable and Iím not sure what to do.

Assuming your daughter has no special learning or emotional problems, her decision to do poorly in school should have some logical consequences. The most reasonable consequence would be for her to study and master the material over the summer that she chose not to learn during the school year. Stop being so focused on making sure that learning is fun and communicate to your daughter that it is her responsibility to get good grades consistent with her ability.

Can a 12-year-old be left alone for several hours at a time during the summer? My son is too old for daycare, but Iím also uneasy about leaving him by himself.

This is a tough question faced by many parents this time of the year, but youíve already answered your own question. If you are uneasy about leaving your child alone, then itís best to make other arrangements. Most 12-year-olds can be left alone for short periods of time, but that depends upon their level of maturity and responsibility. Certainly technology does help, with different ways you can connect to your son throughout the day. Even so, that same technology places your child at risk for getting into all kinds of difficulties.

Based upon your concerns, I would not leave him alone during the summer months for an extended period of time, but rather for a few hours and monitor how he does.


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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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