Kids tell little lies every day – about who spilled the juice and whether they brushed their teeth – but they don’t always mean to deceive. “Lying is a self-protective device that children learn to use at different ages and stages,” says education professor Sally Goldberg, developer of the blog Parenting Tips with Dr. Sally. “It’s perfectly normal, but how you handle it is important.”
Learning why kids lie is the first step in getting them to stop.
The Age: Toddlers
Why Kids Lie: Kids as young as 2 and 3 may tell simple lies (e.g., “I didn’t try to sit on the sleeping dog”), usually to avoid something unpleasant or to get something they want. But they don’t always grasp that fibbing is wrong.
Coming Clean: Don’t accuse your child of wrongdoing and ask her to fess up; that just sets her up to lie. Instead, focus on why her action is problematic. “When the dog is sleeping, he gets scared when something lands on him. He squealed because he was startled, and he may even be hurt.”
The Age: Preschoolers
Why Kids Lie: Fear of punishment is still a driving force behind lying. But at this stage, kids have rich imaginations (“Elmo ate a cookie in my bed!”) that easily transform wishful thinking to reality. Boasting (“I can do 1,000 somersaults in a row!”) is the kid version of keeping up with the Joneses.
Coming Clean: Don’t bother arguing that Elmo is a puppet on TV. Simply focus on what happened – someone ate a cookie in the bedroom, which isn’t allowed – and suggest a way to fix it: “Should we go clean up those crumbs together?”
The Age: Elementary school kids/preteens
Why Kids Lie: By this age, lying has become a misguided survival tactic. It’s not at all unusual for kids to lie occasionally to avoid punishment and skirt their chores, but now they’ll also lie to boost their self-esteem, impress their friends and otherwise assert control.
Coming Clean: Try to determine what drove your child to lie, and help her find better ways to address the problem. If she said she did her chores, you may need to adjust your expectations; if she insists there’s no math homework (because she’s having trouble in math), offer to do it together.
Parents need to teach the value of honesty, says Goldberg. Let your kids know that lying can hurt their credibility and relationships. Thank them when they tell the truth, even if it’s ugly. And model honesty yourself.
By the time they hit middle school, most kids either have cell phones and Facebook accounts – or are begging to get them (“Everyone else has an iPhone!”) – leaving parents to figure out how much digital time is too much. Setting boundaries early can help keep things in balance, at least for a while.
Once kids hit their teens, social media takes a huge bite out of their free time. The average 12- to 17-year-old blasts out 60 texts every day, according to a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center, and nearly one-fourth of teens plug into a social media site at least 10 times per day, according to a 2011 report in the journal Pediatrics.
Here, experts explain how to set limits on your teched-out tweens … while you still can.
Talk before you make rules. Kids are more rational than we give them credit for. “If you ask kids whether they want to spend five hours a day in front of a screen, most say it’s unreasonable,” says Dr. Dina Borzekowski, professor of health, behavior and society at Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health. Then set rules that they agree to keep.
Choose a hard number. It may be difficult to always enforce, but come up with a set time formula for kids to stick to, suggests Dr. Larry Rosen, psychology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and author of Me, MySpace and I: Parenting the Net Generation. Start with a 1-5 ratio: For every minute of gadget time, younger kids should spend five minutes of free time doing something else. As tweens become teens, adds Rosen, expect that balance to shift, perhaps tipping to 5-1 the other way.
Pick the right plan. Pick a phone package that gives your tween enough usage time but not too much. “Otherwise, you’re going to get a $500 phone bill for text messages,” says Rosen. Tell her how much time she has to use monthly, and explain that she will have to pay for overtime using her own money.
Create a no-phone zone. If the phone’s within reach, it’s hard to ignore — for kids and parents. Choose times and places at which phones aren’t allowed: the dinner table, the family room when everyone is together, and the kids’ bedrooms at night. That includes your phone, says Borzekowski: “If parents constantly check text messages during supper, what’s going to prevent a tween from doing the same?”
Establish penalties. Consequences are what make rules stick. If your tween breaks one of the rules (e.g., bringing his phone to bed), start with a short-term punishment, such as banning video games for the rest of the day, suggests Rosen. If they continue to disobey, double the punishment to two, and then four, days. “Pretty soon, they get it,” says Rosen. “I’ve rarely seen kids get past four days.”
The limits you set for your middle-schoolers may not last, but they will help keep tech time in check for a while … and set an example for spending more face time and less screen time in the future.
Although some children naturally handle friendship better than others, all kids need to be taught, and practice friendship skills. Kids grow into these skills and need help from parents and other adults to learn the rules of friendship.
Talk to your child about what makes a good friend. Kids don’t always know what it means to be a good friend. Make a friendship list with all the qualities of a good friend. Have them tell you what they think makes a good friend. Keep the list close and talk to your child about trying to be that kind of friend. Some possibilities to consider for your list:
Good friends have much in common. They are…
- Helpful to others
- Positive and Kind
- Have the ability to share
- Can keep confidences
- Listen to others’ thoughts and ideas
- Accept mistakes
- Are good winners and losers
- Can hold a conversation
- Give and receive compliments
Role Play, Role Play, Role Play
Talk through scenarios like:
- What do you do if you want to play with a group of friends who are already playing together? You observe first and then join in without interrupting or being pushy.
- What if you ask a friend to play and they say “no”.
- How would you feel if someone was mean to you?
This prepares your child for situations they are certain to face and teaches them empathy for others.
Talk about “Best Friends”
When we push our children to tell us about their “best friend”, we are subconsciously teaching them to exclude. We are teaching them there is a criteria for friendship. Talk about the need to be friends and accept everyone.
Our children watch everything we do. Are we modeling good friendships skills?
We can model friendship skills when we play with our children. It is an opportunity to talk to them, and show them how to act. When they beat us at Candy Land, show them how to be a good loser. When we win, model how to be a good winner.
Talk about what to do when they are rejected by a friend.
- It is okay to move on. Encourage your child to put effort into friendships with children who reciprocate, and move on.
- Don’t say “I told you say.” Avoid talking about all the things your child did wrong. When a friendship goes south, we need to show extra love to our children. The rejection has already made them feel vulnerable; they don’t need us to add salt to the wounds.
Have a conversation about friendship with your child today.
All parents want their kids to feel like they can take on the world. So you may naturally gush over her every scribble, tied shoelace and successful trip to the potty. But is that the best strategy to build competence today and success in the future?
“Confidence is not something you can bestow like a gift,” says Vickie Holland, a parenting coach in Santa Monica, Calif., and the author of the forthcoming book Parenting That Works. “You have to give kids a roadmap for finding confidence from within. It’s the difference between giving someone a fish and teaching them to fish: They need the tools to succeed, without your help.”
Here’s Holland’s advice for providing your child with opportunities every day to say, “I’m strong! I can do this!”
- Put him to work. Give age-appropriate jobs to your child, such as watering plants, feeding the fish, pairing his socks or making his bed. Completing a task provides a sense of accomplishment and fosters pride in his abilities.
- Let her solve her own problems. Resist the urge to rescue! Giving her a chance to troubleshoot the spilled box of blocks or the cup she can’t reach empowers her to think for herself, learn new skills and tackle new challenges with confidence.
- Give him choices. Crayons or chalk? Cereal or muffin? The opportunity to make simple everyday decisions gives him a sense of control over his life and instills the belief that his opinions are valued.
- Cultivate his inner approval system. A big “Wow!” from you can turn a simple watercolor into a masterpiece, but it also pins his self-worth on your reaction. Instead, help him find approval from within by asking what he likes about his creation. When you do give feedback, be specific (e.g., “I like how you made the sun’s rays come up from behind the mountains”).
- Emphasize effort over talents. Whether she aces a task or comes up short, praise her effort over natural talent or smarts, because effort is something she can control. When you praise her efforts, it reinforces the idea that her actions make a difference.
- Take her seriously. Spend time with your kid on her terms — playing with LEGOs on the floor or trying on silly hats — and truly hear and consider her ideas (no matter how zany). Giving her your time and attention validates her sense of self. It sends the message, “You’re important.”
Praise may provide a temporary boost in confidence, but allowing your child to develop skills on his own helps him to believe in his capabilities. And that’s a gift that lasts a lifetime.
When I had my son – a decade ago now! – I knew nothing about babies and children. I was an only child growing up and my cousins lived spread out across the vastness of Western Canada. Dealing with a new baby was terrifying and I sought out all sorts of information from (hopefully) reliable guides and experts. So much so that a friend of mine dubbed me the “book mom.” However, over the early months and subsequent years I have determined that many of the skills and tools learned through my life and career are applicable to childrearing. Even just good problem-solving skills and analysis of detail helped me think through what on earth this baby might want now!
More recently, I’ve seen how management tools for assigning roles on projects can be valuable in overseeing the health and safety of a child – or even broader management of a household. I started thinking about this when our process for giving Elliott an allowance began unraveling. We had begun giving Elliott a small amount of money when he was quite young, mostly to help curb the “I want, I want” syndrome. That worked beautifully, but as he got older we wanted to use the allowance as more of a way to instill discipline and apply consequences for good and bad behavior. The problem was that we had lost the habit of giving the allowance regularly, since that hadn’t been important when he was younger. Now it was required if we were to link the money to completing certain tasks around the house. But the issue was that each time my husband and I missed our allowance deadline, we seemed to think the other one was going to get the money from the ATM, or sit down with Elliott to go over the week’s progress.
And I saw this issue in other areas, ones that could negatively impact our son’s health. Like who was responsible for making sure he got his allergy medicine mornings and evenings? Who was going to make sure he had his bath on the assigned nights? Who thought about getting him breakfast or lunch on the weekends? It couldn’t always be me since I wasn’t home every evening and needed to run errands some weekends.
In my career I had often used an approach called RACI to help ensure everyone’s role on a project was clear – which stood for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. Many people can be “responsible for” or “consulted /informed” about a task – but only one person can be accountable. This person has to feel like he or she is on the hook for the completion or success of the task, no matter who else is involved. I realized that the root of many of the issues my husband and I were having was that – while we were both responsible at various times for baths, medication, meals and allowance – no one really felt accountable for these tasks.
After this revelation, we made a few changes. I took accountability for baths. If I wouldn’t be home on bath night, it was my job to remind my husband about the task – I also added a note on each of the days to our family calendar that hangs in the kitchen. My husband is now accountable for allergy medicine – which means he has to remind me about giving the doses, and make sure we always have a ready stock. In the end we divided up accountability for allowance. My husband has to make sure we have a stock of bills for allowance, but I’m accountable for reviewing the week with Elliott and giving him his money. Our new approach isn’t perfect and some things still drop through the cracks, but at least we’re no longer pointing at the other person when they do.Pin It