You asked the questions, child psychologist Dr Aaron Frost gives you the answers. If you have a question you’d like answered, email it to us via email@example.com.
Q. What are the pros and cons of holding our child back from starting prep next year, if we feel he is too immature to start?
A. This is a great old chestnut of a debate. The pros of holding a kid back from Prep are that they get to be the biggest and possibly smartest kid in the class when they start. This can be a big boost in self-esteem for a kid. But the upside of this is that the smartest and biggest kids aren’t always happy. It can be boring reading chapter books when everyone else is learning “A is for apple”, and upsetting when you injure one of your friends in a friendly wrestling match. Get to know a few other kids who are starting next year. Does your child look and feel like them, and do they play well with these kids? If the answer is yes, then go for it. If you are really unsure, then get some professional advice. It’s a big decision and sometimes a bit of help is OK.
Q. Other than tying them to the trolley/stroller, what strategies can I use to keep my young daughter from wandering off all the time when out in public?
A. You can also tie her to your hand or to other inanimate objects around the shopping centre. Just kidding! All jokes aside, the best thing to do is preparation – have a big chat to your daughter about your expectations for her behaviour. It also doesn’t hurt to chat to her about her expectations for ice cream at the end of the trip, and how one might depend on the other. A clear set of rules and some clear incentives for following the rules is a great starting point. It is also good to be realistic about how much you can expect your child to pay attention and follow the rules. As parents, we all have those days where you have to just cram everything in. It is important to just recognise that your children will hate being dragged around and will be miserable, tantrumming and wandering off. If you can, try to space out your trips. If it’s the choice between six hours in a car and a shopping centre with a child today and then a day stuck inside watching all day TV tomorrow, I would aim for smaller trips each day. You will both have a better time.
Q. How do we deal with our son, aged 9, who we believe is addicted to his iPad?
A. I am really interested when people say a child is “addicted” to their iPad, yet I never hear parents concerned that their kids are addicted to Lego, playing tiggy or building forts. It is like we have all read somewhere that good parents don’t allow children to play on iPads, that they must have a Paleo childhood instead. When we were young, we were more likely to spend all day riding to one another’s houses, then riding out into the bush and throwing rocks at the windows of dumped cars. Today that type of childhood would be considered neglectful. However, the neglectful part is simply the lack of parental supervision. Leaving your kids prowling the neighbourhood causing trouble is no more neglectful than leaving them babysat by Minecraft on their iPad. The problem is not the iPad, the problem is not being involved as a parent. Ask him to show you his games, even join in for a few rounds. You will see he is doing amazing things. You will also learn what he is getting out of the iPad that might be missing from his everyday life. If he is craving adventure, take him surfing. If he is looking to be creative, buy him some modelling clay.
Dr Aaron Frost is a clinical psychologist and director of Benchmark Psychology at Mount Gravatt.