Q. I know you don’t believe in consequences, but is there ever a circumstance where a consequence is effective even when knowing the root cause of the behavior? Example: My 10-year-old son expressed this morning that he wished he didn’t have to go to school. He was moody and angry. I did some digging and turns out he hates music and it’s his first class of the day. I get it. I said missing school isn’t an option and asked if he could think of anything to make the day bearable. He was super angry and wasn’t open to hearing me and started to call me vulgar names/swears. I told him that calling me names is unacceptable—something I’ve told him many times. He stormed outside to ride his scooter for a bit, and I was left wondering if he should lose YouTube after school. Will it make him remember or think twice when he is in the red zone swearing at me? Is it just a thing parents do to feel in control when the situation feels so out of
I hate the word chores, and I can guarantee your kids do too. Asking kids to do chores is like saying I want you to take on this drudgery, this burden. And then when the expectation is that they should do them willingly because of all you do for them—that’s a catastrophe waiting to happen.
First, think of another word. I have heard them called contributions, which has exactly the right intention behind it. Jobs can feel a bit more important than the onus of chores. Do your chores sounds like an imposed sentence.
Second, set your expectations of your kids appropriately. Do not ever expect that your kids will be happy to help. Wanting to help out and having consideration of all you do, comes with maturity. Children are naturally egocentric and care only about their own happiness—frustrating, yes, but developmentally appropriate. They grow into being considerate when their needs are considered.
Third, set your expectations of yourself appropriately. Expect that from a very young age, your children are going to do tasks to be helpful. Just don’t expect
In the wake of the recent college admissions scandal, my concern is with the students who are waking up to a whole new vision of themselves. Many of them from fifty known families—so far—apparently knew none of what their parents were up to—until now.
Some received a sports scholarship in a sport never played using photoshopped headshots; some had their SAT and ACT tests corrected by paid off proctors; some even had their tests taken for them. Coaches at the elites took huge amounts of money from an agent of a falsified non-profit who took even more from parents desperate to give their children a prestigious resume and a bumper sticker for their cars. The illegal non-profit allowed the parents to deduct their payments as donations.
Imagine what it must feel like to be that college student oblivious to what got you accepted? What happens to any trust you have in your parents—or any trust you thought they had in you? And then to find out your parents are under arrest for their illegal conduct. How could you not feel
Kids don’t want to do chores. That’s a fact. Expect this. That doesn’t mean let them off the hook. It is essential for our kids to be contributing members of the family to develop an investment in and consideration for their family members. A family is a team. When you are on a team, every team player is important to the working of the whole.
But when you yell, bribe, or threaten them to do their chores, the underlying assumption is that they should want to but they don’t. This unrealistic expectation means you will yell when that expectation is not met. But if you understand that kids don’t want to do chores, you will be more effective at ensuring they get to work.
Remember when your toddlers and preschoolers begged to run the vacuum, fold laundry, wash windows, and sweep the floor? It would have taken the entire morning and you’d have to do it over anyway. You didn’t have the time or patience so you got them out of the way to just get it done. Well, you
I doubt if there is a parent alive who is okay with a daughter being sexually compromised, unable to stop unwanted advances, or getting less pay than her male counterpart — or a son becoming a bully or sexual predator who objectifies women for his pleasure and who expects higher pay than his female counterpart. Surely, we want our children to grow strong in their voices and opinions, while respectful of all those they are in relationship with.
So how do you do it? How do you raise a strongly opinionated woman who can stop any unwanted influence if you get angry and impatient with her demands at age three, seven, ten, fourteen? What does she learn about herself when the grownups in her life shut down her strong emotions, even when they get physical, with put downs, blame, shame, and punishment?
What about your boys who may not be into sports but would rather keep close to home, or who cry and have meltdowns beyond the point at which you think they should? What do they learn when they
Refusing the Toilet
Q. My 3 yr old daughter goes to a small home daycare and uses the toilet there without accidents but refuses to use the toilet at home. I understand that it’s more of a control issue than a potty training issue. I have been letting her wear pull ups at home as long as she puts them on herself. She still refuses to try the toilet. There hasn’t been any event that I can think of that would have scared her. She is very verbal and will tell me that she just doesn’t like to use our potty. She won’t poop at daycare either. She holds it until she gets home and gets a pull up on and then she goes.
Do you think I am doing the right thing by letting her wear pull ups at home? I have tried not letting her, and she lays on the floor and screams. I am trying to make it her idea to use the potty and am trying not to make a big deal about it. She is
“Bad” Preschool Behavior
Q. Our 31/2 year old grandson just started preschool, and has already gotten an email (in 6 days) about how bad his behavior is. Not listening, not being nice with other kids, etc. I don’t think he is old enough to verbalize what is bothering him, so how do we figure out how to help him? I remember your story about your child when she was young and even now you said it almost breaks your heart because she couldn’t say what was bothering her.
A. If your grandson’s preschool is complaining about his behavior,
- They don’t know how to handle impulsive children
- He is not ready for school
- This school is not the right place for him
Or all 3 of these may be true. In any case, I would remove him from this school immediately. If they see him as having “bad” behavior (not true), they do not understand behavior and it likely means they have already decided too much about him that will color all their interactions with him going forward. He needs a
Sharing and Hogging
Q. My three-year-old has a very big issue with sharing and hogging. She has an 18 mo. old sister who is not allowed to touch anything. I understand that my daughter still is having a hard time with her arrival, she has to share me, she doesn’t get to have me all to herself, she doesn’t even get to read books alone with me and on top of it all I am three times as tired, have to do a lot more chores, can’t play with her at the drop of the hat, and she doesn’t get to have all of my adoration just for her. I still feel really guilty about that. At first I thought, fair enough the toys were hers, so I opted to buy my youngest toys for herself. I told my eldest and explained before we bought anything that I was buying for her sister so she doesn’t have to touch hers. She agreed but once the toy is bought she wants to have it and play with it. She gets so
Q. How do you encourage gratitude in your children when they receive gifts? Mine just tear into them and could care less where they came from. I feel the cold stares from my family members when they are not acknowledged, or I have to tell my kids to say thank you. They’re old enough to know better.
A. Expression of gratitude is not to be expected in the early years of naturally egocentric development—generally before six or seven. The egocentric stage means they are not cognitively able to step out of their own spere to see and comprehend how someone else experiences life. Consideration for someone’s else’s feelings is often expected way too early. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to tell them how you feel and validate their feelings when expressed. But to say, How do you think your friend would feel if you grabbed a toy from him? in an effort to teach kindness, will only feel like blame to your under six child and could set her back even further in self-protective mode.
Whenever I talk to parents about ending the use of rewards and punishments, I hear, “But doesn’t my child have to experience a consequence for her behavior?” Sounds logical; sounds appropriate. The problem is most parents don’t allow the kinds of consequences that actually teach lessons—natural ones.
Natural consequences of behavior often bring with them sadness, anger, disappointment, even failure for our children, which sometimes reflects negatively on us. We will do anything to avoid that—even by punishing. Taking away a privilege often shuts down a child’s unpleasant feelings or coerces corrected behavior—so we get what we want and think it’s working. Leaving our children to the natural consequences of their behavior may feel like abandoning them to the wolves.
Handing over the job of homework to your child may mean it doesn’t get done or turned in on time. Can you allow that? When children are hitting each other day in and day out, are you willing to learn how to facilitate conflict resolution so they learn to work out their own problems or do you insist on taking