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Q: My two daughters, ages 5 and 9, are generally quite good about playing together and sharing their toys; however, it is almost inevitable that when one of them, using the other's things (with permission), has a game set up (with dolls or what have you) the other one suddenly and inexplicably wants her things back. At this point chaos and anger ensue, each certain that the other is just trying to make them mad, as in "You just want it back because you saw me playing with it!" I'm pleased that they share so well most of the time, but this issue causes major daily discord. I don't know how to solve it except by not allowing them to share, but that doesn't seem right. Today, I asked the older one for her solution, and she told me to ask you. So I am.

A: Your daughter was right to suggest that you ask me because I do indeed have a relatively simple solution that will require two kitchen timers and one pad of paper, an investment of less than $15.

When one of the kids lets the other play with a toy, the owner must let you know. You tear a slip of paper off the pad, write down the name of the toy, set that child's timer to ring in one hour, and put the timer on top of the slip of paper. The rule becomes: When the timer rings, the owner can either renew the "lease" or ask that the toy be returned, but not before. If the owner forgets to inform you that she has shared a toy, and an argument begins, then the toy lease begins at the moment you become aware of the loan.

This will involve some conscientious administration on your part, but that will amount to far less hassle than you are currently experiencing.

Furthermore, as time goes on, you'll begin to notice that the girls no longer let you know when toys are on loan, but that arguments are no longer occurring. They just need to get over a "hump," and this simple management device will accomplish just that.

Q: We recently discovered that our 8-year-old daughter is not wearing her new glasses at school. Even though they are really quite attractive, she says they make her look "nerdy." We have tried taking away privileges, but she seems impervious to any and all punishment for this. The teacher has taken to insisting that she wear them. That works, but I hate for the teacher to be responsible. Any suggestions?

A: Obviously, you and the teacher are in daily communication about this, which is the first hurdle. The problem is that if the teacher doesn't insist that she wear her glasses, then the punishment you levy at home is more than nullified by the reward of not wearing them at school. So go ahead and ask the teacher to take on the responsibility, but take away a privilege at home on those days when the teacher is called to action. In short order, your daughter will realize that there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away with not wearing her glasses. She will also learn that when the novelty wears off, none of the other kids will pay any attention to her new look.

John Rosemond is a family psychologist. Questions of general interest may be sent to him at Affirmative Parenting, 1020 East 86th St., Suite 26B, Indianapolis, Ind. 46240 and at his Web site:
If you or someone you know has parenting problems, call the Parents Anonymous 24-hour confidential Help-Line at 892-2172.

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