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Parenting--Toddlers/Infants/Pre-Schoolers/Crying when leaving me & parents leaving 18 month old alone for 10 or more minutes


QUESTION: When my grandson is with me and has to go home he cries when his dad picks him up and holds his arms out to me.  If I go to their apt which is seldom he cries when I leave him.  Why does he do this?  It breaks my heart. I don't think he gets much attention at home and is yelled at a lot.  He also has had night terrors since he was 4 months old.
Also his dad and mom both leave him alone in his crib (18 month old) while they take his 6 yr old half sister to the bus stop which is a block away.  I told them this is dangerous and child neglect and anything could happen. They live on the second floor.  They have been warned what could happen but insist on doing it and if we don't like it we will be kept from seeing him.

ANSWER: Hi Carla,
Some children do have separation problems during the second year. But if your grandson does not get enough attention and is yelled at a lot, that could account for him not wanting to leave someone who is kind and attentive to him.
It is not unusual for children to have night terrors throughout the early years, but if they happen far too often those night terrors, too, could be related to some of his experiences at home.
It might be concluded that his parents are not responsive enough to his emotional and psychological needs, nor are they careful enough with his physical well being. While you probably can't change his parents, at least you can always he there for him. Hopefully he grows up knowing that his grandmother is a wonderful, caring, loving person in his life.
James Windell

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: What should I do about his parents leaving him alone in the apt?  Should CPS be contacted?  His sisters welfare seems more important than his.  There are numerous parents at the bus stop who could watch out for her while this 18 month old baby is in his crib in a second floor apt by himself.
What can I say to the parents?  I have already told my son what could happen but he and his girlfriend still insist on leaving him.

Hello Carla,
Contacting CPS is a judgment call, but you risk alienating them from you and that may mean you won't get to see your grandson as much -- or ever! I think that would be a disservice to your grandson.
I think you have said what you can or should to your son and his girlfriend. They do not accept your opinion. This will cause you worry. But I think it is better that your grandson have you in his life so you can provide a measure of safety and security.


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James Windell


I can answer questions related to normal child development, disturbed behavior and how to provide appropriate guidance and discipline.


I've been a clinical psychologist in a juvenile court, worked in school settings, been a child psychotherapist in a private psychiatric clinic and consulted with schools, courts, hospitals and daycare centers.

American Psychological Association
Michigan Psychological Association

I have been a columnist with the Oakland Press (Oakland County, MI) for 21 years writing a weekly column called Coping With Kids, which is also published weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been a mental health columnist with the Detroit Free Press and a columnist for Working Mother Magazine. In addition, I have published articles in professional journals. I have published 16 books, among them are "8 Weeks to a Well-Behaved Child" (IDG Books), "Discipline: A Sourcebook of 50 Failsafe Techniques for Parents" (IDG Books); "Children Who Say No When You Want Them to Say Yes" (IDG Books), "What You Need to Know About Ritalin" (Bantam Books) "6 Steps to an Emotionally Intelligent Teenagers" (John Wiley & Sons), "The Fatherstyle Advantage" (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) and "Defusing High Conflict Divorce" (Impact Publishers). My latest parenting book (2012) is "The Everything Child Psychology and Development Book." Articles about my work with parents has appeared in the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. My website at includes more information about me, my books and includes many columns I've written.

B.A. in Psychology from Wayne State University
M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University

Awards and Honors
Best Educational Program by Juvenile and Family Court Judges Association (National award for the development of a parent training program for parents of delinquent teenagers. Beth Clark Service Award from the Michigan Psychological Association.

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