Age Appropriateness

Written by The Parenting Center   

Q: My seven-year-old son’s best friend acts way older than his age, talking tough and playing lots of “M”-rated video games—which my son now wants to play, too. How can I control what my son is exposed to at his friend’s house?

A: Your dilemma is one that many parents face as their elementary-school age children begin to spend more time with friends and families outside their own home. It’s commendable that you monitor the content of the media your son is exposed to; a video game that’s rated “M” is not recommended for children under age 17 due to graphic violence and/or sexual content.

You can approach the other parent before the next play date, and say, “I don’t let Jacob play games that are rated “M.” Would it be okay to stick with the “E” rated games when he’s at your house? I’d be happy for him to bring a couple of games from home to try.” This response does not pass judgment on the other parent, but makes your position clear. If the parent seems lukewarm about the solution you have offered, you may have to suggest the boys play at your house, especially if you have concerns about the level of supervision at the friend’s home.

Expect to have a discussion with your son about how different families have different rules in their homes about many things, and these are the rules you’ve established about video games. Explain why these rules are important to you so your son begins to understand how rules and limits are tied to values. (“I don’t want you to watch movies or play games that show people hurting each other.”) Ideally, you will be able find other families in your son’s social circle who share some similar values and you can support one another in the way you are raising your children.


Q: My daughter is 12 weeks old and has yet to sleep through the night. Is there anything, other than “crying it out,” that will work?

A: During the first six months of life, babies can be expected to sleep around 16 to 17 hours or more in a 24-hour period. At first they tend to get this sleep in two to four hour takes. But as they adjust to the stimuli of a daily routine, they begin to develop a longer stretch of sleep at night; a 12 week old may get up to five hours. At this point your baby may also be starting to sleep for two predictable periods during the day as she develops a nap schedule.

Sleep training, such as the “cry it out” method, is not recommended before your baby is six months old. Even then, your best efforts may be interrupted by teething and other developmental realities. Due to the incredible amount of physical growth and neurological development in the first 12 months, your baby’s sleeping patterns will change.

Here are a few tips to promote a better nighttime routine:

– Keep a consistent evening/bedtime routine, such as bathing, massaging, reading, feeding.

– Avoid activities that may excite your baby before bedtime.

– Make sure your baby is not too warm or too cold during the night.

– “White noise,” like static from a radio, can be soothing.

– Between three to five months, some sleep experts suggest putting your baby in bed while still awake, but drowsy. This allows your baby to learn self-soothing skills. Dim the lights and pat and shush your baby to help her get to sleep.

– Avoid too many rituals that create dependency on mom or dad to get to sleep during night wakings so she may be able to self-soothe and go back to sleep on her own. Repeat the patting and shushing, if possible.

It is not surprising that “sleeping through the night” is such an important milestone to parents of a newborn. If allowed to handle things on their own schedule, babies will get the sleep they need. Parents, on the other hand, tend to be sleep deprived during what may already be a very stressful adjustment to parenthood. Creating routines with infants take time and patience. There are some good books that address sleep: Sleep, The Brazelton Way, by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. & Joshua D. Sparrow, M.D.; No Cry Sleep Solutions by Elizabeth Pantly; and Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber, M.D.

To discuss the routine at your house, call a parent educator at The Parenting Center. Any persistent concern about your baby’s sleeping patterns should also be discussed with your pediatrician.

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