Ask Amy: Parents ponder son’s athletic ability

Dear Amy: My wife and I have a 4-year-old son who is interested in trying various “pee wee” sports. He has started playing T-ball and soccer.

Both my wife and I are pretty good athletes. In fact, we met in college while playing intramural sports.

Our son is (how to put it?) kind of a klutz. His attention wanders, his coordination isn’t quite there, and overall she and I agree that he doesn’t seem to have the makings of being an athlete. (We’re fine with this, by the way.)

Our issue is that after he comes off of the field, he asks us if he “did good,” and definitely wants his praise, even when it’s obvious that he did not do well.

I guess we could lie to our son, but we don’t feel comfortable doing that. Doesn’t over-praising a child create problems?

— Dad in a Jam

Dear Dad: I don’t think it is possible to over-praise an enthusiastic 4-year-old. But you need to ask yourselves if he is asking for praise because he is anxious and wants reassurance, or because he thinks he is awesome and is looking for agreement.

You might hedge by asking him some questions: “Did you have a great time out there today? “Did you try your hardest?” “Did you have your listening ears on when the coach was talking?”

If the answer is “yes,” then I’d say that he is a winner. High-five him all the way to the car.

Also find genuine good traits to point out: “We saw you running really hard to get to the ball.”

Please don’t label your son as a “klutz.” Children do develop at different rates, and here is where I make my standard pitch for exposure to music and drama as being invaluable and inclusive experiences.

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Dear Amy: Recently I have had a lot of dental issues to deal with. This is due to poor health care in my youth, as well as skipping some of my regular checkups during the pandemic.

I have a lot of fear going to the dentist, so the entire time I’m there, I am in somewhat of an anxious state. This can make some of the experiences (drilling, for instance) seem worse – because I am so tense.

I have a couple of questions. After my most recent visit, on the way out as I was paying my bill, the receptionist mentioned several additional “services” and treatments that the practice offered.

It seemed as if she was trying to pressure me to sign up for these extra things, even though my dentist had not suggested them.

Is this right?

I’m also wondering how to get back on track in order not to be so freaked out during my visits. I still have some work that needs to be done, and I’m already worrying about it.

Can you give me some advice?

— Worried

Dear Worried: Dental anxiety is common, and to some extent, perfectly rational. The important health care that dentists offer is invasive, noisy, and oftentimes uncomfortable or painful.

It is important to let your hygienist and dentist know that you are nervous.

They might offer you increased pain control and also agree on a signal during treatment if you would like them to stop and give you a breather (raising your arm, for instance).

Listening to music via earphones during treatment can help.

Some dentists will write a prescription for one dose of anti-anxiety medication to take before a bigger procedure, while others will offer sedation for some treatments.

Dentists know that anxiety or fear can keep patients from receiving important care and treatment, and this can negatively affect your overall health.

In terms of the receptionist “upselling” you on the way out — this is definitely something to mention to the dentist, because it is adding to your distress. If this dental practice doesn’t serve your needs well, you should research recommendations and consider switching.

Dear Amy: Once again you showed tremendous insensitivity to “Really Tired,” whose partner “jokingly” called her “an old bag.”

This woman was emotionally hurt and you made a joke out of her situation. Clearly you are not able to be sensitive to people’s need for sane, solid advice.

Simply put, she needs to either leave or realize she’s being purposely hurt.

— Disgusted

Dear Disgusted: I quoted professional comedian Josh Gondelman in my response, and we both agreed on two points: This comment is mean and not funny when directed at a partner, and this “comedian” doesn’t know how to read the room.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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