Dear Amy:

How old is too old to hold a child?

My brother constantly holds my 8-year-old daughter. He carries her in his arms at any given time.

I have insisted to him that she is too old to hold and carry like this.

His response is that she is petite and he loves her, and there is nothing wrong with it.

Besides the fact that I don't think it's appropriate, while holding her, he often has conversations with adults that I don't want my daughter to be privy to. I feel that if I ask him to refrain from something, he should, whether or not he agrees with me. He absolutely refuses to pay attention to what I say.

I have let him hug her, kiss her and hold her briefly, but this business of carrying my daughter around has got to go.

My children adore my brother and he loves them. But honestly, this lack of respect for my values is beyond frustrating.

Am I way off base in thinking that my 8-year-old is too old to be in someone's arms for great lengths of time? If you say so, I will back off, even though I feel my brother should still respect me, even if he doesn't agree with me.

Frustrated Mom

First I must tell you what you already know but seem to forget whenever your brother is around: You are the parent. Your brother must respect that. This is non-negotiable.

You MUST be an advocate for your kids. An 8-year-old who is uncomfortable with her uncle holding her might not ever tell anyone -- even you -- especially if she loves her uncle and knows that you love him too.

I won't lay down a definite guideline, age-wise, as to when children should no longer be held, sit on laps or be carried around. Your sense of what's happening is all you need to know.

Because this business makes you uncomfortable (and it makes me uncomfortable in part because it makes you uncomfortable), you should declare an absolute when it comes to your brother. You should tell him that he must respect your guidelines when it comes to your children and that if he can't, you'll have to limit his contact with them.

Then you should talk with your children. Tell your daughter that she's growing into a big girl and that she gets to make choices about all sorts of things, including who holds her and for how long. You must reinforce these lessons at home. Your children need to know that they can talk with you about these things -- and about everything.

Talking with your kids is one line of defense from sexual abuse. You watching them like a hawk and being firm and sure about their contact with others is another.

Write to Amy Dickinson at or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

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