All my 7-year-old son wants to do is play his Wii or play on our Smartphones. When his allotted playing time is over and I try to make him do something else, he melts down. How can I limit his time with electronic games and gadgets and help him understand why I’m doing it?
As a parent, you should establish consistent, specific rules and time limits that govern how your children interact with technology, especially video games, Smartphones, computers and TVs. Technology is good but can be harmful to children if they are allowed to overuse it. Setting limits on the time and places your children can use technology for pure entertainment or pleasure is one of the most loving things you can do as a parent. Since your son is throwing temper tantrums whenever you take the Wii away from him, you should continue to consistently enforce the limits you set and explain to him why they are necessary. Over time, you should see his tantrums become less frequent and less intense. Here are a few limits we recommend:
- Cell phone games can be played only when a parent does not need the Smartphone
- One hour of TV per weekday and two hours of TV per weekend day
- No Wii at all during the school week and two hours of Wii per weekend day
- Computer is used only for school work during the week and can be used to play computer games for one hour per weekend day
Model reasonable use of technology for your son by making sure you’re not constantly plugged in to something, too. You can also plan family activities such as playing a board game together or going on an outing. When kids spend too much time with technology, it cuts in to the physical activity they need, interferes with conversation time, discourages reading time, encourages a demand for material possessions and can affect schoolwork.
If your son begins telling you that he’s bored when he can’t play Wii, create a “bored” jar filled with slips of paper that have small tasks or activities written on them. Each time your son says he is bored, have him take a slip of paper from the jar. Tasks or activities can include reading for 20 minutes, taking out the trash, drawing a picture, playing outside and others.
Remember to set limits that make sense for your family and be consistent. As your family does more things together and fewer things individually, you’ll find your relationships growing stronger than your Internet signal has ever been.
My 14-year-old son has recently developed a very troublesome attitude, which is new for him. For example, he recently called a female student bad names at school and refuses to follow instructions at home. How do I address this and discipline him in a positive way?
The teenage years are some of the most difficult to navigate. Keep communication open and talk with your teenager on a regular basis. We always encourage families to eat dinners together each night if possible; this time together is critical to good communication and healthy parent-child relationships. It's also a perfect time to reflect on the day, confront certain issues and discuss positive events. Your son has made some poor choices, but it's not uncommon for kids his age to test the limits and boundaries of others around them. It's also quite common for freshmen to try to fit in at school, and sometimes go to great lengths to be accepted or gain respect from upper classmen. Talk with your son about positive values like respecting others and how they shouldn’t be compromised just to fit in. Discuss what it means to be a follower and the strength it takes to be a leader.
Strongly encourage your son to make a personal apology to the girl he called bad names, either in person or in a letter. This will make him take accountability for his actions and help him understand how his actions affect others.
If he refuses to apologize, then take away his privileges until he does so. If his negative attitude and behavior continues, have him start working as a volunteer in your community. This is a good way to instill empathy, acceptance and giving back.
My husband and I have three children, ages 17, 12 and 11. I’ve inherited my father’s business, which is located four hours away from our home. For almost a year now, I have been required to be away from home for several days at a time. My husband also works hard, often six 10-hour days a week.
Our children do nothing around the house, and as a result, it looks like a pigsty. There are clothes, dirty dishes and garbage, etc., on the floor. They admit to being lazy but don’t seem to care. We’ve tried rewards, punishments, yelling, etc., to no avail.
Your children are certainly of the age when they can help out around the house. And hopefully, your work situation is temporary. If Mom and Dad are never home, then it is difficult to have a happy home. The longer this situation continues, the more disconnected your family will be.
Serious problem-solving is in order. You need to explore your options:
- Move closer to work so you don’t have to be out of town for long periods of time.
- Enroll the younger two children in school in the town in which you are working. The three of you will be able to ride together during the mornings and evenings.
- The three of you live there during the week and return home on the weekends.
- Sell your father’s business and invest in something close to home.
Whatever you do, your family has to know that you are working toward a solution. Your problem is more than just that your children are not doing their chores. Your family is functioning without a mother. The amount of time their father is around is not enough either.
The 17-year-old may be OK with the current arrangement, but the younger two are not. The behaviors you are seeing now will worsen and possibly lead to undesirable activities.
The consequences are not working because the parents are not around to enforce them. The children are not motivated to do their chores because there is no one present to monitor them.
Many families who own small businesses include all family members on their staff, and the family members earn wages. If this option is explored, a housekeeper could be paid to keep the house in shape.
The bottom line is: Your family needs to come together to discuss a plan for change.
My husband and I have two daughters who are 22 months apart. They are very different from each other. My husband gets along well with the oldest, but is at odds with the youngest. The peace I make between them is always short-lived. I feel like he is not handling this with maturity. I think he needs to recognize that although they are sisters, they are not the same person and shouldn’t be treated as such.
Both parents need to make an effort to connect with both children. Your younger daughter may be seeking negative attention from her father because negative attention is better than no attention.
To illustrate the value of being different, try this exercise with your husband. Write down several categories, such as favorite music, sport, food, best friend, happiest family memory, best vacation, favorite holiday, color, time of year, school subject, book, etc. Have your husband record what he knows about each of his daughters and you do the same. Do not discuss this with each other – just do it.
When you are finished, share your answers. Assess how much each of you knows about each daughter, and stress how important it is to get to know your daughters individually. If your husband tends to take the oldest girl to her sports practices, for example, switch duties with him so he can take the youngest daughter instead. Spending time together is important.
Some dads even schedule a “date” with their daughters. Breakfast out, a cup of coffee, a walk or dinner together are just a few ideas. The more time and attention he gives his younger daughter, the better their relationship will be.
I have been a divorced, single mother for three years, and I am concerned that I lack the necessary skills to effectively parent my two girls, ages 11 and 6. I was adopted and raised by my mother and brother. My mom was unavailable to me; she worked and kept her distance emotionally. My older brother was my adult figure, and I was exposed to adult situations when I was far too young. I essentially raised myself and spent a good deal of time with my peers.
Up until now, I thought I was doing an adequate job of parenting my girls. But I am stressed out daily and resort to yelling to be heard. I can ask my girls to do something, and they won’t comply unless I yell. In essence, I have relinquished my role as the authority to them. They are the bosses in the family.
I would like to regain their respect, and I need some concrete tips on how to communicate with them. I feel that if I can reestablish myself as the parent in my older daughter’s eyes, the younger one will follow suit.
I am fearful that my daughters will travel down the same path that I did. Their father is a good provider, but he is not involved in their lives and lacks parenting skills. I do not want them to make the same mistakes that I did by hanging out with the wrong crowd on the streets and picking men who make poor husbands.
One of the most basic skills we encourage parents to focus on is the skill of following instructions. You need to teach your children this skill. First, explain the skill to them so that you are all on the same page regarding what you will be expecting in the future. Convey that you agree that yelling is not acceptable, and that part of the solution for this pattern of behavior on your part is the development of the skill on their part.
Break the skill down into steps. Say “When you are asked to do something, you should …”
- Look at the person so he or she knows you’re paying attention.
- Say “OK” so they know you understand.
- Do the task right away.
- Check back to let the person know you have completed the task.
This is a new expectation. Your girls will need practice and consistency, so follow the above steps each time you ask them to do something. Tell them that each time they do not follow instructions, there will be a consequence such as an additional chore or the removal of a privilege. When they do follow instructions, they will receive a positive consequence.
If the instructions are not followed the first time you ask, issue a negative consequence, reteach the skill, practice it and then ask them to follow the original instruction once again. By following this pattern, you decrease your frustration and thus, your tendency to yell.
Children like visuals. It is helpful to make a chore chart of each of your daughters’ daily expectations. That way there is no room for misunderstanding or “forgetting” on their part. They know exactly what they must do to retain privileges such as cell phones, computer games, etc.
As parents we are teachers. We teach our children the skills that they need to lead happy, productive lives. We also teach them what healthy relationships are. Healthy relationships involve time spent together bonding.
Schedule a family night once a week that is NOT OPTIONAL. Take turns planning activities. This could be a game night, bike ride, picnic in the park, doing make-overs, etc. The activity should allow for conversation and be something that all family members can do.
Boys Town offers Common Sense Parenting classes that you might find helpful. You can also learn more about the book “Common Sense Parenting” at our website boystownpress.org. If you ever need to talk, many states have family help lines to assist parents with parenting concerns. You can also call the Boys Town hotline at 800-448-3000 24/7 to talk to a counselor for support.
My husband and I got divorced last year. Our daughter lived with him at first, but gave him such a difficult time that she now lives with me. Now she is behaving poorly with me. I have taken her phone away, but she is still rebellious. Her grandmother recently passed away, and I know that she deeply feels the loss. But her bad behavior is beginning to affect her sisters. I am afraid that she will run away and I don’t know what to do. Is there somewhere I can take her to receive discipline help?
Now more than ever it is important to have house rules and to issue either positive or negative consequences based on your child’s behavior. You’ve already done this when you took her phone away. You must be consistent. She may be feeling insecure dealing with the two recent losses in her life. Thus, she needs her parents to be as consistent as possible right now even though she rebels.
If you and her father are communicating, you need to make sure that you are both on the same parenting page as far as discipline is concerned. If your daughter will not sit down and open up to you, it may be beneficial to take her to a counselor – possibly a grief counselor.
If she does open up to you, validate her feelings. She can’t help how she feels, but she may need help with how to act appropriately on those feelings.
It is important to communicate to your daughter that running away from home is not a good option. The dangers of the streets, lack of money, missed school days, bad weather and lack of shelter are just a few good reasons to remain at home.
If she does ever leave home without your permission, call the police so the law in your area can keep a lookout for her as well. Tell her that you want her to call the Boys Town Hotline (1-800-448-3000) if she ever feels like running away. There are many crisis counselors here who would be happy to talk to her.
Another suggestion is to talk to her when she is having a good day and share with her how you are feeling. Children do not need to know all of the adult details related to a divorce, but sometimes it can strengthen your relationship when your child realizes that you, too, have feelings.
Look online at www.centering.org. This website offers numerous books on grief. Boys Town's www.yourlifeyourvoice.org is a website just for teens. There are many articles under “family life” that she can read. She can also email a crisis counselor.
The key is getting her to open up to someone. Just venting can do wonders.
I have a 13-year-old daughter who lives an hour-and-a-half away from me. Despite the distance, we have been very close – until recently. I asked her to remove a post from Facebook, and she was still upset with me when the conversation ended. I then sent her a text regarding our disagreement, which she misunderstood as me saying goodbye. What I actually meant was that I would wait for her to call. Weeks went by before we talked, and when we finally connected she said that things felt different between us. Now she does not answer my phone calls or want to see me. What can I do?
While we can’t be certain about what has caused such a rift in a previously strong relationship, it is good to be aware that age probably plays a significant role. Thirteen-year-old girls can be very dramatic. Nonetheless, there are some steps that you can take to rectify the situation.
First, talk to her mother if possible. Describe the conversation that caused the problem and ask her to intervene for you. Perhaps her mother can explain things to her more clearly and help her see that you really care about remaining close and in contact. If her mother is not willing to intercede on your behalf, maybe your mother or another close female relative could do so.
Do you think your daughter would be willing to read a letter or email from you? Perhaps you could write her a brief message asking her to take your phone call on a certain day. If she answers that she will, call her that same day.
Can you drop in to see her? Give her mother some advance notice that you might be coming by, and take this opportunity to talk to your daughter then.
Lastly, if this miscommunication happened very recently, you might try giving your daughter some time – a week or two – to be angry with you. Eventually, she will more than likely take your calls once she has settled down.
My partner is upset that our 3-year-old daughter does not call him “daddy.” She refers to him as “you” or “him.” He wants to always be called “daddy.”
Your partner needs to know that your daughter’s use of these terms is not meant to hurt or offend. Likely, she is using these terms because she sees them as safe and lacking the rigidity that “daddy” sometimes has. This does not mean that she does not see him as her father. She is just processing things on a level that she can understand.
Of course his feelings are real, and he has a right to feel this way. But getting frustrated or angry with your daughter will do more harm than good.
Try having an age-appropriate conversation with your daughter about her feelings toward her father. Allow her to tell you in her own words what she understands the relationship to be. Why doesn’t she call him “daddy?” What is their interaction like? Does she feel close to him? Does he feel or act like a dad to her? Her answers will give you an idea of how she views the relationship. This will provide you with insight on what to do next.
You can also try exploring other names of endearment with which she may be more comfortable. Nicknames are good for children her age. How does she respond to her “cuddly” such as a bear or blanket? What does she call it? This is a sign of comfort for her. Such a name for her father could have the same effect. When she adopts her own nickname for your partner, he will come to know that it’s her special name for him; he may find it even more endearing than “daddy.”
Forcing or coercing your daughter to call your partner “daddy” may evoke more negative than positive feelings and reactions. Allowing your daughter to adopt a nickname in her own time and for her own reasons is necessary. Reinforce to your partner that your daughter is young. Her relationship with him will develop over time, and she will become more open to the idea. Pushing her is not the way to go.
I have four children: three boys ages 20, 13 and 11; and one girl, age 16. My two youngest sons fight and call each other names. They are mean to each other. I have unsuccessfully tried to stop this. Do you have any suggestions?
It is a good idea to take the time to sit down and develop a plan to affect change. Define exactly what you want your children to do when they have disagreements or conflicts. Consider how you want their interactions to look and sound, including what tone they use and what words they exchange. Describe how one must listen while the other speaks and vice versa. If they cannot solve the issue themselves, then provide them with the opportunity to come to you for help.
Then consider the negative consequences that will be earned if they do not utilize this new way of communicating and resolving conflict. We recommend using the smallest consequence possible that will affect change. It must be meaningful to the boys, be equal in size to the severity and frequency of the infraction and be immediately carried out.
Planning these consequences in advance of the behavior is helpful. Doing so will make it less likely that emotions will dictate your actions. Negative consequences entail both loss of privileges and added work chores.
If you are parenting with the boys’ father, include him in devising this plan. You must both agree on the plan and also agree to be consistent in implementing it. Then at a neutral time, present this plan to your entire family – not just the two youngest members.
Start out by telling them that things have to change and that this change begins now. Say that all of us have differences of opinion and personality conflicts throughout our entire lives. The sooner we handle them in an acceptable way, the better off we will be. This is how you expect conflicts to be handled in your home. Then define your expectations and ask if everyone understands what you have said.
You are NOT asking for their opinion or input or whether they agree with you. You are only asking for understanding. This is not debatable! Then move on and let them know that there will be consequences earned immediately if this new method is not used or followed. Again, this is not debatable!
Let your sons know that you understand that it takes two people to fight, so when arguing occurs both parties will earn consequences. It does not matter who starts it or whether you were there. If you hear angry voices or name-calling, the new way of behaving is not being used. You are not an investigator, and you will not make changes to the consequences or expectations based on what they say or who is to blame.
When you address the negative behavior again, begin by describing what you just heard and saw. Then issue the negative consequence, reteach your expectations and have them practice by redoing what just happened. Make sure to follow through on the consequences. If using added chores, have them do the chores together when possible.
I have been divorced for three years and have recently met someone. My 10- year-old daughter does not accept this. She is angry that I would be with anyone but her father. How do I introduce this new person into my children’s lives?
While it is good that you are ready to move on to a new and promising relationship, it is apparent that your daughter is not quite ready. For a while to come, it is likely that your daughter will feel a strict allegiance to her biological parents because they are all she has known for most of her life. She will probably accept your new relationship eventually over time, but it is not something you can force. Time and patience are required.
You use the term “introduce” when referring to your boyfriend meeting your daughter. If she has not met this man yet, it might be wise to postpone the introduction. Right now your daughter needs to feel that she is a main priority in your life despite the changes your family has undergone due to the divorce.
Please remember that while you know she is your priority, she may not feel that way. From her perspective, she may feel like she is not as important as she once was. We can never assume that children accept and understand everything they see or are told. Many times their take on things is very different from what we see or think.
If she has met your boyfriend, try to keep her exposure to him neutral. Limit their time together until you and your boyfriend know that your relationship is progressing to a serious level. When you are all together, make sure the situation does not cause you to divide your attention between her and your boyfriend.
When your daughter seems receptive, let the time you spend together happen naturally. Don’t force activities. When she seems resistant, let her know that it is OK as well. You want to acknowledge her feelings but not cater to them. She has to know that while you love and care for her, you will not be manipulated by her.
Often in divorce situations, when parents start to date again children feel like the absent, biological parent is being replaced. Assure your daughter that her father will always be her father whether he lives with her full-time or not. He will always love her and be part of her life. Your boyfriend is not a replacement for her father; no one could replace him. He is another adult who will love and care for her. You may have to explain this many times before she understands it or accepts it.
Communication is vital. Keep talking with your daughter. How she views the divorce now at age 10 is different than how she viewed it when it first happened at age 7. Her friends may also be sharing their own stories of divorce with her. Even if the situations are different, your daughter could be applying a friend’s divorce circumstances to her own family’s situation.
Spend time talking with your daughter when your boyfriend is not present. Keep reminding her that he is not taking her dad’s place, nor is he taking you away from her. Neither is happening now or in the future.
If you and your ex-husband manage a positive co-parenting relationship, you could enlist his help as well. Perhaps he has started a new relationship too. He could have similar conversations with your daughter to reinforce what you have discussed with her. She may come to understand that all will be well if both of you are doing the same thing.