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When Our Children Lie

Dear Dr. Bill,

Ever since my second daughter could walk and talk, she has been sneaky and a little deceitful.  She’s now almost 6-years-old and is very smart and sweet, but her tendency to lie and misbehave without regard for consequences continues to baffle me.  Recently has begun lying right up to the point of absolute denial because she was afraid of facing discipline for disobedience.  What should I do?

–Krista

Dear Krista,

It’s likely that your daughter has found that lying works for her—at least some of the time.  She’s learned that telling a fib helps her to avoid or at least delay punishment.  So the first step you need to take is to make the consequences for lying much more severe than for other types of misbehavior.  In other words, if she deliberately breaks one of her sister’s toys, she will receive a consequence, but if she LIES about it, her punishment will be considerably more severe.

You’ll need to clearly explain this to her, so that she knows in advance that she’s much better off telling the truth and admitting to an infraction, even if she does experience a negative consequence for her misbehavior.

The key is to follow through, and to find consequences that are truly meaningful to her.  For example, let’s say her favorite activity these days is playing with Barbie dolls.  If she tells a lie, she loses Barbie for two days.

In addition to consistent, powerful consequences for lying, you should also begin praising her when she tells the truth.  We often forget how important it is to “catch our kids being good.”

My guess is that you’ve fallen into a negative cycle with your daughter, and the best way to break that cycle is to consciously work toward praising and rewarding her when she obeys and tells the truth, rather than simply punishing her when she disobeys or lies.

Thanks for writing Krista.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, just click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

Click here for the audio version of this article.

5 Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen

By Vicki Glembocki

A few months ago I crashed headfirst into my most frustrating parenting problem to date: My daughters were ignoring me. I could tell them five times to do anything — get dressed, turn off the TV, brush their teeth — and they either didn’t hear me or didn’t listen. So I’d tell them five more times, louder and louder. It seemed the only way I could inspire Blair, 6, and Drew, 4, to action was if I yelled like one of The Real Housewives of New Jersey and then threatened to throw their blankies away.

This was not the kind of parent I wanted to be. But their inability to obey or even acknowledge my husband, Thad, and me made us feel powerless. While walking through Target one Saturday, I heard no fewer than five parents say some variation of, “If you don’t start listening, we’re walking out of this store right now!”

I recognized that at least part of the problem was me. After much lamenting about my lame parenting skills, I got lucky: A friend’s mom mentioned what she calls “the Bible” on the subject: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. When I checked it out at fabermazlish.com, I saw that there’s an accompanying DIY workshop for $130 (both were updated last year in honor of the book’s 30th anniversary). Granted, the authors are moms, not child psychologists or toddler whisperers. But the book was a national best-seller, and parents continue to host workshops using the authors’ ideas.

To see if their advice still held up, I wrangled four equally desperate mom buddies and ordered the workshop. I got two CDs and a guide with directions for leading the group. We met every Tuesday night in my living room for seven weeks, spending much of our 90-minute sessions talking about our struggles with listening-challenged kids as if we were in a 12-step program. We followed along as actors played out scenarios on the CD, did some role-playing of our own, and completed weekly homework assignments, such as reading parts of How to Talk and Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, by the same authors, and then applying our new communication skills. Not all of Faber and Mazlish’s advice rang true for us. Their suggestion to post a to-do list on the fridge so we wouldn’t have to keep reminding our kids of their responsibilities, for instance, didn’t pan out (especially because I had to keep reminding my girls to look at the note!). But other tips truly got our kids to start paying attention — and, better yet, got us to stop screaming at them. Carrie, the mom of a 6-year-old, summed up our collective reaction by the end: “This really works!”

1. Say it With a Single Word

The situation My daughters have only one assigned chore: to carry their plates to the sink when they’re done eating. Still, not a night went by when I didn’t need to tell them to do it, sometimes three times. Even that didn’t guarantee they would — and who would finally clear them? Take a guess.

The old way After they ignored my repeated commands, I’d sit Blair and Drew down and preach for ten minutes about how I wasn’t their servant and this wasn’t a restaurant.

The better way Kids usually know what they’re supposed to do; they just need some simple reminding. “They’ll tune you out when you go on and on,” Faber told me. “Instead, try just one word to jog their memory.”

The result After dinner one night, all I said was “plates.” At first the girls looked at me as if I were speaking in an alien tongue. But a second later, they picked them up and headed for the kitchen. After roughly a month of reinforcement, I don’t need to say anything; they do it automatically. “Teeth!” works equally well for getting them to brush, as does “Shoes” to replace my typical morning mantra: “Find your shoes and put them on; find your shoes and put them on”. And when I hear Blair screaming, “Give me that!” I simply say, “Nice words” (okay, that’s two words). I practically faint when she says, “Drew, would you please give that to me?”

2. Provide Information

The situation My friend Michele had just served lunch when, as was her habit, 2-year-old Everly jumped off her chair, climbed back on, turned around, stood up, and then stomped on the cushion.

The old way When Everly wouldn’t respond to a patient “You need to sit still,” Michele would get annoyed and say something like, “How hard is it to understand? You must sit down!” Everly would cry but still not sit. In the end, she’d get a time-out, which didn’t change her behavior.

The better way State the facts instead of always issuing commands. “Who doesn’t rebel against constant orders?” asks Faber. (I know I do.) Kids aren’t robots programmed to do our bidding. They need to exercise their free will, which is why they often do exactly the opposite of what we ask them to. The trick is to turn your directive into a teaching moment. So instead of, “Put that milk away,” you might simply say: “Milk spoils when it’s left out.” This approach says to a child, “I know that when you have all the information, you’ll do the right thing,'” Faber explains.

The result The next time Everly played jungle gym at mealtime, Michele took a calming breath and then said, “Honey, chairs are meant for sitting.” Everly smiled at her mother, sat down, and then started eating. “That never happened before,” Michele reports. She still has to remind her daughter now and then, but in the end, Everly listens. The technique applies to other situations as well. Rather than saying, “Stop touching everything,” Michele now points out, “Those delicate things can break very easily.” Ditto for “Legos belong in the green bin so you can find them the next time you want to play with them” and “Unflushed toilets get stinky.”

3. Give Your Child a Choice

The situation Three days after our final session, Joan took her kids to Orlando. At the Magic Kingdom, she handed them hats to shield the sun. Her 6-year-old put hers on willingly. Her almost-5-year-old, Sam, refused.

The old way “I’d try to persuade him to cooperate,” Joan says. Inevitably, she’d end up shouting, “If you don’t put it on, you can’t go on any more rides.” Then he’d bawl his eyes out, and no one would have any fun.

The better way Offer your child choices. “Threats and punishment don’t work,” Faber explains on one of the workshop CDs. “Rather than feeling sorry for not cooperating, a child tends to become even more stubborn. But when you make him part of the decision, he’s far more likely to do what’s acceptable to you.”

The result Joan left it up to her son: “Sam, you can put your hat on now or after you sit out the next ride.” Sam still wouldn’t comply. “But after he missed out on Peter Pan’s Flight, I said, ‘Sam, here’s your hat,’ and he put it right on,” Joan says.

4. State Your Expectations

The situation Amy let her kids turn on the TV before they left for school. After one show was over, she’d take Adrian, 4, to get dressed while Angela, 7, kept watching. But when it was Angela’s turn to get ready, she’d whine, “Just ten more minutes. Please? Pleeeeeeeaaase!”

The old way Amy would yell: “No, you’ve watched enough. That’s it.” Angela would complain some more. Amy would yell, “I said no!” Then, after more begging, she’d add, “You’ve already had more TV time than Adrian. You’re being ungrateful.”

The better way Let your kids know your plan ahead of time. Amy should tell Angela something like this: “After you’ve brushed your teeth and are totally dressed and ready to go, you can watch a little more TV while I get your brother dressed. That way you’ll be on time for school.”

The result The first time Amy tried this tactic, Angela turned off the TV without saying a word. But the second morning, she refused and started bellyaching again. Amy quickly realized she hadn’t reminded Angela of the plan in advance this time. So the following morning she stated it again clearly: “When I leave with Adrian, I expect you to turn off the TV.” Success. She finds the strategy equally effective for other situations (“No starting new games until the one you’ve just played is put away”).

5. Name Their Feelings

The situation Carrie’s daughter Tatum, 6, was happily blowing bubbles with a friend. Suddenly, Tatum stormed into the room, wailing, “Mina’s not giving me a turn.”

The old way “I’d say something like, ‘There’s no reason to cry over this,'” Carrie says. What would Tatum do? The opposite — cry more and likely ruin the rest of the playdate.

The better way Parents need to listen too. “Everyone wants to know they’ve been heard and understood,” Faber argues. Telling a child to stop crying sends the message that her feelings don’t matter. Kids often cry (or whine, yell, or stomp) because they can’t communicate why they’re upset or don’t know how to deal with the emotion. “You need to give them the words to express it,” Faber says.

The result Next time, Carrie looked Tatum in the eye and described what she thought her daughter was feeling: “You seem really frustrated!” Tatum stared at her in surprise and then announced, “I am.” Carrie held her tongue to keep from giving advice (“You need to…”), defending her friend (“Mina deserves a turn too”), or getting philosophical (“That’s life”). Instead, she said, “Oh.” Tatum kept talking: “I wish I had two bottles of bubbles.” Carrie asked, “How can we work this out so it’s fair to you and Mina?” Tatum said by taking turns. Carrie suggested they use a kitchen timer, and Tatum explained the plan to Mina. Everyone wound up happy. “It’s hard to stop yourself from saying too much,” says Carrie. She’s right. Phrases like, “You never listen to me” and “How many times do I have to tell you?” become ingrained in our brain. During the workshop, my friends and I realize that it’s going to take a bit of practice to stop uttering these expressions. But that’s the entire point: to change the way we talk to our kids, so they not only understand what we’re trying to say but actually want to listen. 


This article first appeared in the January 2013 issue of Parents magazine.

How to Prevent Stomach Flu

Want to know how to prevent the stomach flu… Grape Juice might be the answer!

Marijuana & Teenagers

Could marijuana be linked to psychotic symptoms in teens?   Or are psychotic teens more likely to use marijuana?

According to a story on Reuters Health, new research from the Netherlands has looked at the relationship between pot and psychosis.

Earlier studies found links between marijuana use and psychosis, but scientists questioned whether pot use increased the risk of mental illness, or whether people were using pot to ease their psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions.

Dr. Gregory Seeger, medical director for addiction services at Rochester General Hospital in upstate New York, says “What is interesting in this study is that both processes are going on at the same time.”

Dr. Seeger says researchers have been especially concerned about what (THC), the active property in marijuana, could do to a teenager’s growing brain.

He points out that adolescence is a vulnerable period of time for brain development, and that individuals with a family history of schizophrenia and psychosis seem to be more sensitive to the toxic effects of THC.

In the Dutch study, the researchers found a “bidirectional link” between pot use and psychosis.

For example, using pot at 16 years old was linked to psychotic symptoms three years later, and psychotic symptoms at age 16 were linked to pot use at age 19.

The new study doesn’t prove that one causes the other, but Dr. Seeger believes there needs to be more public awareness of the connection.

He says: “I think the marijuana is not a harmless substance. Especially for teenagers, there should be more of a public health message out there that marijuana has a public health risk.”

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Click here for the audio version of this article.

Healthier Kids in 2013

Here’s a New Years’ resolution that will help your child stay healthier in 2013. Give them cheese and veggies as an afternoon snack.

A new study has found that healthy snacks can help take the edge off of kids’ between-meal hunger pangs.  In fact, it may even help put a dent in rates of childhood obesity.

According to a story on WebMD.com, children who were given cheese and vegetables as a snack ate 72% fewer calories than children who snacked on potato chips.  The impact was even greater for kids who were overweight or obese.

The study involved about 200 kids entering third or sixth grade. They were given chips, cheese, veggies, or a combination of veggies and cheese, and allowed to snack freely while watching a 45-minute TV show.

Kids who chose the veggies-only option took in the fewest calories, but those offered the combo snack or cheese only took in about the same number of calories. Either option meant far fewer calories than those who were served chips, which suggests that replacing potato chips even with cheese alone may be an option.

The good news is that children will accept healthier snacks.  Erin Corrigan, a clinical nutrition manager at Miami Children’s Hospital in Florida, says “snacks are an important part of a child’s diet if you provide nutrient-dense foods.”

Although cheese can be high in calories, it is also high in protein and calcium, Corrigan says “Fruits and vegetables have more fiber, which helps people feel full quicker and longer.  When combined with protein it’s the perfect combination for a well-balanced snack.”

Other possible healthy options include and yogurt and granola, hummus and veggies, and peanut, sunflower, or almond nut butter with fruit or whole-grain crackers.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Click here for the audio version of this article.

Rude Grandson

Dear Dr. Bill,

My 9-year-old grandson likes to express his views in a rude and critical way.  Recently, I took him and his younger siblings on a trip to Florida.  But when things weren’t going the way he wanted, he began to criticize me about how his little sister who is 4, wasn’t having any fun.  In reality, I had made a special point of entertaining her while her brothers were fishing.

We seem to get into a situation like this every time we spend an extended amount of time together.  I love my grandson dearly, but I can’t stand his rudeness.  What should I do?

–Nicole

Dear Nicole,

If your grandson is rude and critical, that is a character problem that his parents need to deal with.  I’m assuming you’ve discussed this issue with his parents—if not, you need to.

Naturally you’ll want to choose your words carefully, and whatever you do, don’t criticize their parenting skills.  Instead, let them know how much you love your grandson and want him to succeed in life.  Explain that you’ve noticed he often expresses his opinions in a rude and critical way.

If his parents agree that it’s a problem, ask if they would like your input.  If they’re open to it, you might suggest they read a good book on instilling character in kids.  One suggestion is Jill Rigby’s book “Raising Respectful Children in a Disrespectful World”.

If his parents deny there is a problem with his behavior and react defensively, there are obviously much larger issues at play in the family.  In that case, you can only control how you respond to your grandson.  Be loving but firm, and instruct rather than simply getting angry.

Thanks for writing Nicole.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

Click here for the audio version of this article.

Reconciliation

Dear Dr. Bill,

My ex-husband and I were divorced several years ago because he was not committed to spending time with our son.  He was not a Christian at the time.  But since then, he found the Lord and has changed dramatically.  As a result, we are thinking about getting remarried.  We both feel like our past issues have been sorted out, but we’re a little unsure of how long we should wait before making this new commitment.  What do you suggest?

–Lexi

Dear Lexi,

First of all, let me tell you how encouraged I was to read your e-mail.  In a day when divorce is so rampant and reconciliation is so rare, it was truly a blessing to hear your story.

Regarding your question, it’s hard to give you a specific timeline for remarriage.  You say that your “past issues have been sorted out,” but other than the parenting problem, I’m wondering what other issues you’ve worked through.

Also, you mention that your husband has dramatically changed since his conversion, but you’re a bit unsure about remarriage.  That leads me to believe you may still have some lingering concerns.

Jesus tells us that a “good tree produces good fruit.”  Given your past, it’s important to see the “good fruit” of your husband’s conversion manifested over time before you jump back into marriage.  Your son has already been impacted by your divorce, and you certainly don’t want to make matters worse by remarrying and then splitting up again if things don’t work out.

My advice would be to meet with a family therapist who can help you determine the best course of action.  He or she can help you fully explore whether you are truly ready for remarriage.

Thanks for writing Lexi.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the audio version of this article.

Possum Trot Inspiration

Here’s an inspiring holiday story from an unlikely place–the tiny Texas town of Possum Trot.

Over the last 16 years, 25 families in that working-class community have adopted 76 children in need

According to NBC’s Today Show, W.C. Martin, the pastor of the local Bennett Chapel Baptist church, helped organize his congregation to help foster children in need.

Pastor Martin says “It’s not a whole lot that we have to offer children right here in Possum Trot. But love, peace and joy and happiness – we can offer them that.’’

Pastor Martin and his wife Donna have adopted four children themselves.

Donna told NBC News “The challenge with the kids is (them not) really, really trusting the love that you have to give them unconditionally.”  She points out that many of the children came from homes in which they were abused or neglected.

The foster families in Possum Trot care for these children despite their own difficult financial circumstances.

After giving so much over the years, the families received a surprise Christmas gift, courtesy of Walmart.  The company donated enough food to reopen the local food bank and provided each of the 25 adoptive families a cart of fresh groceries and a $500 gift certificate.  They also bought Christmas presents for each of kids

Pastor Martin was also given a $15,000 gift card to Walmart.  He says “This is like a prayer being answered,’’ “That we have prayed so hard for God, for someone, to do something. We didn’t know when, we didn’t know where, but we knew he was going to do something.’’

To learn more about this story, go to TodayShow.com and enter “Possum Trot” in the search engine.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

 

CLICK HERE for the audio version of this article.

Winter Driving Tips

Well, the snow and ice are finally here. Were you slipping and sliding this morning? Here are some tips to help you drive safely during these winter months.

Concerned Grandma Asks About Grandson’s Development

Dear Dr. Bill,

My daughter has a 1-year-old boy who is starting to walk but hasn’t begun talking yet — no “Mama,” “Dada” or anything else. If he wants something, he just points and screeches very loudly!

I’ve also noticed that he often stares off in his own little world for a moment or two several times a day. He comes back eventually or you really work to get his attention otherwise. Is this normal behavior? Or could my grandson have some kind of problem — like autism? What do you think?

–Diana


Dear Diana,

I appreciate the fact that you are such an involved, observant grandmother. Your grandkids are fortunate.

Here are my thoughts on your 1-year-old grandson. First of all, the fact that he isn’t talking yet shouldn’t be a concern. Language development varies greatly from child to child.

Many children don’t begin saying “mama” or “dada” until well into their second year of life. Their level of verbal development at their first birthday does NOT predict how verbally skilled they will be by age two or three, or tell you anything about their overall level of intelligence.

On the other hand, I am concerned about the fact that your grandson seems to stare off into space several times each day, and that you have to work to regain his attention. This could be a sign of a hearing problem, a developmental delay, or even recurring minor seizures.

Given your description, I would suggest your daughter make an appointment with her family physician right away, and describe the behaviors she is observing at home. The physician should give your grandson a complete medical and developmental evaluation.

Thanks for writing, Diana. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click on the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

CLICK HERE for the audio version of this article.