Q: Our 4-year-old son (middle child with older and younger sisters) frequently uses "baby talk." It doesn't seem to be a way of seeking attention because when we ask him to repeat in his "big boy voice" he will do so, and he only does this with us. Is correcting him making a bigger deal out of it than necessary and possibly making it worse?
A: On the one-to-ten scale of important parenting matters, I give this a one. No offense intended, but this is something about which your great-grandmother, when she was raising her kids, would not have given any mental energy. Today's parents often worry so much about small details, many of which are completely insignificant (as is the case here) that they miss the bigger picture. Beware falling into that trap.
My advice is that you give this no attention. In fact, I recommend that you have fun with it. Talk to him in baby talk — not always, but occasionally. Sometimes, when he slips up and talks in his "big boy voice," tell him you can't understand him. Obviously, he can articulate properly, so you have no reason for worry. Be assured, this will resolve itself in due time. I seriously doubt that he will repeat his marriage vows in "baby talk."
Q: My 14-year-old son does not brush his teeth, except during the week before going to the dentist. He doesn't have any cavities, his breath is fine, his check-ups at the dentist are at the "acceptable" level (not great, but passable), and his teeth look fine. So he feels like it's an unnecessary bother. I nevertheless am concerned that he is setting himself up for dental problems. My wife wants to clamp down on this and enforce him brushing his teeth very closely, which would consist of being in the bathroom with him and supervising his brushing. If we didn't watch him, he will go in the bathroom and just do a perfunctory job, or just wet his toothbrush and say he brushed. Any advice?