Ask Amy

Sunday, February 14, 2010 at 11:45pm

DEAR AMY: As a grandmother, I am concerned about my grandson's lack of discipline.

The parents have opted for a "no-spank" approach to child discipline, which I support.

However, what I see is essentially no discipline.

This precious child rules the roost, and the parents pretty much let him get away with just about everything.

They say things like, "That's not nice" and "You shouldn't do that," but I don't see any consequence for wrong behavior.

I'm pretty sure a 3-year-old doesn't care whether something he does is "nice" or not.

We are separated by some distance, so I don't feel that I've earned the right to gently rebuke the child for wrongdoing.

My husband and I have a hard time sitting and saying nothing in the midst of what is basically a child-run home.

However, my husband tells me to "button it" or we'll damage what is for now a good relationship with our son and his wife.

I love this tyrannical child and his parents. I value your advice and will do as you say.

— Wanting to Do Right

DEAR WANTING: Three-year-olds are famously challenging. At times they act like the spawn of the devil.

If this child does something that affects you directly (knocks you with his toy hammer or calls you a "poopy head"), you say, "'Brandon,' I don't like that. That hurts me. Let's find something else for you to do that doesn't hurt anybody." And then you should redirect his attention by helping him to find another activity.

You should also catch the child being "good," by praising pro-social behavior when he exhibits it.

Your assistance should be positive and helpful — not geared toward punishing the child or his parents.

If the parents are flummoxed, talk to them about how they might alter their parenting style by offering boundaries and swift, simple, certain and predictable consequences.

I admire the work of pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton. Check out his book (co-written with Joshua D. Sparrow, a child psychiatrist): Discipline: The Brazelton Way (De Capo Press, 2003).

I'm 53, and my boyfriend and I have been involved for 12 years. We get along well; he is a good man, except he is an alcoholic, which at this point has stopped me from marrying him.

He lies about, and sneaks, his alcohol intake. He will improve for a while, then go back to drinking more heavily.

I've tried everything, and know I should walk away but haven't had the willpower. Everything else about our lives is great, but I don't want to spend the rest of my life like this — the uncertainty is extremely stressful.

I never know when I can count on him to be sober or appropriate.

I've asked him over and over to get counseling, but he refuses. He makes one broken promise after another.

— No Exit

DEAR NO: You need to make healthy choices on your own behalf, and you could start by redirecting your extreme efforts away from your loved one and toward the only person you can change — that's you.

Someone in this partnership does need therapy. Get some for yourself.

Your guy is locked into a vicious cycle with a disease that will control his behavior and damage his relationships until he pushes himself into recovery.

You can't manage your loved one's drinking; trying to do so is exhausting and fruitless.

You'll benefit from attending an Al-Anon meeting. You'll find a community of brave souls who may offer you the perspective you need. Check for a meeting near you.

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Filed under: Lifestyles

1 Comment on this post:

By: sidneyames on 2/15/10 at 9:45

Dear No, Listen to Amy: "Someone in this partnership does need therapy. Get some for yourself." She's right and you are depriving yourself of a REAL, down to earth relationship while you're "hoping" for Mr. Wrong to get right. Drop him like a hot potato and fix you. You're better than that.