How to Deal With a Kid Who is Addicted to Screens

Dear Kid Whisperer,

My seven-year-old son loves his iPad so much that he has started to ignore the rest of the world. He doesn’t care about anything else. We recognized this as a problem, but my husband and I have had a very hard time taking the iPad away. My son goes into hysterics when we do, and he will scream and yell until he gets it back. We went to family therapy about this. We tried talking to him about how using the iPad so much is bad for him and how he should play outside, or go to a friend’s house, etc. This does not help. What should we do?    -Tana, Des Moines, Iowa

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How to Handle a Kid Who Refuses to Wear a Coat

Dear Kid Whisperer,

My four-year old loves to go out and play outside without a coat or long pants, even when it is 5 degrees out. I used to yell at him and lecture him. Then a friend told me I should just let the natural consequence of being cold happen so that he would get cold enough and put on appropriate clothing. I tried that. He went outside for 45 minutes straight in 5-degree weather and played happily. Thinking that someone would call children’s services on me, I had him come inside and forced him to put on winter clothes while we yelled at each other. Now what? -Jeanne, St. Paul, MN


This was a quality first attempt on your part. Experimenting with letting a natural consequence take its toll was a good idea, even if it backfired. Your kid has developed a super-human ability to withstand cold temperatures due to some combination of two factors:

  • He genuinely is not bothered by cold, choosing instead to concentrate on shiny objects and how quickly he can freeze his snot


  • He wants to show you how TOTALLY WRONG you were about forcing him to wear a jacket.

You have managed to give him the Holy Trinity of Kid Behavior: You gave him

  • Attention
  • Emotion
  • The Thing He Wanted

He achieved all of this just by dressing like a Hawaiian surfer in the snow. For a young kid who is figuring out who and what he’s in charge of, this is pretty powerful.

No worries. Let’s fix him.

Here’s how I would handle your kid if he tried to walk into a blizzard dressed like Jimmy Buffet.

Notice how I don’t give him any of The Trinity. This includes the fact that I don’t give him attention even in the form of an explanation for my rules regarding cold weather clothing. Also, notice that I am expecting his behavior to get worse before it gets better.

Kid Whisperer: Oh, dear. What are you forgetting?

Kid: I am going outside without a coat because I am a Greek god and impervious to the earthly elements.

Kid Whisperer: You can go outside as soon as you are wearing your pants, winter coat, a hat, and gloves.

Kid: Aries needs no such items!

Kid Whisperer: And what did I say?

Kid: I banish you to Hades!!!!! (Kid attempts to run out the door)

Kid Whisperer: Oh, drat. (Kid Whisperer physically stops Kid from escaping, gently placing Kid just inside the door while Kid Whisperer stands in front of that door wearing a smile)

Kid Whisperer: (Still smiling) And what did I say?

Kid Whisperer repeats this process and does not deviate from the last question in response to Kid’s protests, arguments, and claims of ancient, divine providence.

Kids have a fantastic sense of the inevitable. When they truly know that they will not get what they want with a behavior, they will do what you want them to do– immediately after exhausting all other options.



How to Train your Kids to Remember the Things they Need

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I am so tired of taking things to my kids after they forget them at home. So far I have delivered a cheerleading outfit, homework folders, and yesterday, I delivered basketball shoes. No matter how much I remind them, they still forget everything. I can’t let my kids not have these things. They need them so they can participate in activities, school, and sports. I also don’t want to keep driving 15 minutes one way to school three times a week because they can’t remember anything. Please help.

-Beth, Des Moines, Iowa

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How to Retrain Your Kid to Stop Bothering Adults

Dear Kid Whisperer,

My 11-year-old daughter is extremely nosy, butts into adult conversations, and tends to stand with adults even when kids are around. She even adds commentary that isn’t her business and sometimes honestly it just doesn’t make sense. I often have to get MEAN and yell in order to get my point across and to get her to go away and go be with the kids as opposed to the adults. What is a logical consequence, and how can I break her from this before it gets her in trouble?

-Kim, Abilene, Texas

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How to Help Your Kid Remember Things

Dear Kid Whisperer,

My fourth grader is very smart, but very forgetful. He usually leaves his lunch at home and often forgets his homework, either at school or at home. I have ten questions that I will use to prompt him to remember to do things and be more responsible, but I often end up bringing him his homework or lunch or both. I’ve tried everything to try to get him to be organized. Is there anything else that I can do? -Kim, Biloxi, Mississippi

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How to Use an Effective Alternative to Time-Out

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I use Time-Out with my kids: when they do something bad, I put them in their room. When I have a chance, I go and tell them what they did wrong so that they know and then I tell them to knock it off. Then they can come back. Basically, it used to work, and now it doesn’t. I have my 11-year-old in her room practically all the time now. No idea what to change or do differently. -Austin, Lexington, Kentucky

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How to Deal With an Abusive Adult

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I have heard you speak and you mentioned that the skills that you teach work on adults too. This question involves a child but mostly is needed for an adult. My boyfriend and I have a six-year old girl and we all live together. Very often he is verbally abusive, to me and my daughter. Especially lately, he has really started to belittle, berate, humiliate and threaten us for no reason. Let me be clear that my daughter is in no way a behavior problem. He picks fights with both of us and intimidates us. How do I set limits with him so I can protect my daughter? -Tayla, Dayton, Ohio

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How to Know if Your Strategies are Working

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I follow you online and I went to your conference last summer, and it has changed my life. I have been able to be calm and much more strict with my seven-year-old. I am skeptical about something, though. Whenever I tell my son to feel free to be with the family as long as he can be pleasant, and then he isn’t pleasant and has to go to his room, and I tell him he can come back when he can be pleasant (just like you taught me), he will sometimes have a screaming, hysterical fit in his room. It happens less than it used to, but what am I doing wrong when he does this? -Karen, Centerville

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How to Have a Calm Response

Dear Kid Whisperer,

I just gave birth six months ago and I have a three-year-old. Since the new baby came, my three-year-old has become very aggressive and reacts with anger towards me and others. I have already been given the advice to make time for just spending time with my three-year old. That has been somewhat effective. I am dealing with a bit of post-partum depression and sometimes have a hard time not reacting with anger myself. How do I teach my three-year old to not react with aggression, especially since I am having trouble with it myself? -Alexandra, Cincinnati, Ohio

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