My 6- year-old son started first grade recently and is making bad choices when it comes to his friends. He’s started cursing because his new “friends” curse. How can we help him make good choices?
Start by giving your son consequences like time-out or losing certain privileges if he curses or uses other inappropriate behaviors at home. Then talk to your son’s teacher about a plan of action for when he displays unacceptable behaviors at school. Part of the plan may include:
- Having the teacher send home a daily note about his behavior (positive and negative) and any consequences he received.
- Giving him a consequence at home if he received one at school .
- Asking the teacher to have your son sit apart from negative peers and near the teacher in the classroom.
If your son is very energetic, make sure he is gets a lot of time to burn off that energy after school. Working hard to stay on task all day can be extremely tiring for little ones. He may not look tired when he is running around, but his mind is. Also try helping him practice good behavior at home. He'll probably think it is silly, but that's okay. For example, help him practice standing quietly in line and show him how to ignore others when they start talking. Role-plays like this will teach him how to use good behaviors and avoid bad ones.
Our 12-year-old son has undergone a drastic change in his personality. He used to earn straight As and was in the gifted and talented program at school. He had plenty of good friends and was responsible. Now he does not care about school, which is reflected in his falling grades. He is openly defiant and challenges authority in a rebellious, disrespectful manner. He still has his old friends, but he is also hanging out with a group of kids that we have deemed to be a bad influence. Now he is stealing from us.
We have tried every conceivable consequence: removal of privileges, removal of electronic devices and removal of all items in his room except his bed and clothing. We have talked to him frankly about the value of hard work and earning what you have.
He has basic household chores, and he will work this summer at my husband’s business sweeping floors, etc. We are also placing him in a Bible/mentoring program to reinforce a sense of morals and personal responsibility. We are at a loss about how else to handle this situation.
You mention many good strategies, but you did not say what your son is doing with the money he is stealing. Is he buying things with it or giving it to other kids? What is he doing to make up for the stealing? If this behavior continues, he runs the risk of earning jail time. There has to be consequences and restitution.
Do you suspect that he is smoking pot or using any other illegal substances? There are kids all over the country taking advantage of a substance that can be purchased online or possibly at a mall. It is called K-2. It affects each child differently, mostly because it is a manmade chemical that is applied to natural leaves. This may be the cause of your son’s personality change.
Since he is not responding to traditional consequences, have him evaluated by a counselor or someone who works with substance abuse. Sometimes parents are too emotionally close to a situation to see what is really going on.
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 9-year-old has been taking money from my purse. Despite my punishing her, she just did it again.
Stealing is not OK, and it indicates a serious lack of respect for other people’s property. Hopefully, when you confronted her about the missing money you did not ask her IF she took it. Instead, say you know that the money is gone and that since she took it, she will no longer have the privilege of _________. The next time she needs money, she is to come to you or her father for help in determining how she could earn the money. This is showing respect.
Choose a privilege that is meaningful to her, and make the time without it fit the severity and frequency of the behavior. Since this is not the first time she has stolen, the loss of the privilege will be longer than if it was a first-time offense. Deliver the consequence by saying something like, “Since you stole, you will not be able to use your ____________for a week.”
Find out what she wanted the money for. If she no longer has it, she must replace it with birthday money or do chores to earn it back. She also needs to learn to respect other people’s property. This involves asking someone for his or her permission to touch their items before actually doing so.
A natural consequence of her stealing is that you have lost your trust in her. So she must stay in the common rooms of the house so you can keep an eye on her. She should be kept busy with chores and stay out of trouble. When you are at a store, she must stay with you at all times. She cannot go to friends’ homes because you are afraid that she will steal from them. She will have to work to rebuild your trust in order to move about more freely once again.
I am a single mother with a 16-year-old son who is much bigger than me. Up until today I would say that we have had a good relationship. But today he skipped school, went to the mall and shoplifted. I received a call from mall security while I was at work to pick him up. I picked him up, paid the fine (for which he will reimburse me) and went back to work.
When I came home in the evening, he attempted to go out. I grounded him and told him why. He told me that if he couldn’t leave the house, neither could I. When I tried to leave to go to the neighbor’s house, he blocked the door. I asked him politely to move, but he would not. What do I do about situations like this?
Issuing consequences for his behavior is necessary, but it looks like he is also testing your limits. If you continue to implement consequences for his blocking the door, for example, then it is likely that he will “up the ante” and try to do the same for you. For instance, if you disconnect his cell phone, he may try to disconnect yours. On and on the cycle of retaliation would go.
Still, you need to stand your ground and say that preventing you from leaving is not OK. Tell him you will call for help if necessary, which means calling the police. You will also call the police if he leaves without your permission. If he does this, technically he is a runaway.
It is helpful to plan the consequences in advance so your child is not taken by surprise. The list should be meaningful to your son. When he goes to school, is respectful, honest and helps around the house, he retains his privileges. When he is not, he loses them. The number of privileges and the length of time for their loss depend on the severity and frequency of the infractions.
My ex-husband’s mother is my daughter’s day care provider. My former mother-in-law does not treat my daughter like the rest of the kids she cares for. She favors her, giving her everything that she wants. This concerns me, especially since she is becoming a certified preschool teacher so she can teach my daughter. I would rather my daughter be in a preschool with other children so she can learn independence. I don’t know how to approach the subject with my ex-husband without starting a fight.
My daughter has also been throwing major temper tantrums, sometimes to the point where I cannot get her to calm down. When I put her in time-out, she will stay there but acts like she is trying to leave.
If your mother-in-law becomes certified, she will have to follow a strict preschool curriculum. In this structured environment, she will be less likely to display favoritism toward your daughter. The best you can do is research your preschool options, make an informed decision on what program would be best for your daughter and present this information to your ex-husband in a calm manner.
As far as the tantrums go, they are not unusual but need to be addressed. Your daughter needs to be taught a more acceptable way to act when she is feeling angry or frustrated. Putting her in time-out perhaps is being used as a way for her to calm down or as a negative consequence for inappropriate behavior. The differences between the two can sometimes be confused.
If she has a tantrum and is put in time-out to calm down, then she should have a separate consequence for the tantrum. Or once she is calm, she can sit in time-out quietly for three minutes as a consequence before she is allowed to return to playing.
Teaching her calming techniques should be the focus right now. One well-received technique for children her age is to have her hold up as many fingers as she has had birthdays. When she is angry, she blows on each finger and folds it down. This is referred to as “blowing out her birthday candles.”
Regulating a person’s breathing helps with emotions and has a calming effect. Getting her favorite blanket or stuffed toy to hold close is another calming technique that is effective with children her age. Teach her these techniques when she is calm, and practice them so she is familiar with them when she is upset.
My granddaughter is 6 years old and she lies. Is this just a phase or a preview of things to come? Is she just seeking attention?
Whether it is just a phase or a habit she is forming, her lying needs to be addressed as a negative behavior so she will learn that it is not acceptable. You and her parents need to stop this behavior from happening just as you would any other negative behavior.
Address it immediately when you see it happening by describing specifically what she is doing. Then issue a consequence for her engaging in this behavior. Follow up by teaching her an alternative, more acceptable behavior that you would like to see instead.
Our two children, ages 7 and 9, are very defiant. They bicker all the time and refuse to listen to my wife and me. Consequently, I feel like we are fighting with them daily. We do everything for our children and feel like they are ungrateful. How can we instill respect in them?
When we discipline them it is usually in the form of removing a privilege, such as taking away their cell phones or video games.
My daughter (age 7) even took money out of my wife’s purse. I calmly but sternly told her why this is wrong, but think this is yet another way to lash out at us. Please help.
Our main role as parents is to teach our children the necessary skills to become successful adults. Most of these skills are socially related and pertain to such skills as following instructions, accepting consequences and respecting others. Typically, telling your children what to do will not be enough. Children learn best through consequences and repetition.
You would like your children to accept your decisions without argument, so break down this skill into simple steps. Be specific so they understand exactly what you expect. Tell them that this has been a problem behavior for them, so you want them to use this skill when they are listening to decisions that have been made or instructions from you. They will then have more time to do the things they enjoy because they will not be spending the time arguing with you.
When you give them an instruction or decision, they must:
- Look at you so you know they are listening.
- Say “OK” so you know that they understand.
- Don’t argue and go do the task immediately.
Now that they know your expectations, have them practice. This can consist of role-playing or playing games that require them to follow instructions and accept decisions. "Simon Says" and "Mother May I" are two examples.
Then let them know what the consequences will be if they do not use this skill. Also tell them what the positive consequences are if they DO use the skill appropriately.
The value of respect is essential, and it is important that parents remember the difference between a need and a privilege. When parents overindulge their children, they deprive them of a fair chance to learn value and respect. Things like computers, cell phones and video games are privileges, not rights. They should only be given to children who have attained the maturity and responsibility to use them wisely.
If the atmosphere of your home is tense due to fighting, it might be time for you and your wife to “clean the slate” and start over in order to have your children earn the privileges of playing video games or using a cell phone. They can do this by demonstrating respect and compliance to you and your wife.
Also, consider what is age-appropriate for your children. It is a mistake to give your children too much at too young of an age. You run the risk of having nothing left to give them or remove from them when they are older and consequences are needed.
My 4-year-old recently threw a temper tantrum complete with yelling, crying and dropping to the floor when I did not allow her to push the cash register buttons while checking out at a store. I offered her stickers if she would get up and walk out of the store quietly. She did not. So my boyfriend, her father, picked her up and took her to the car screaming. Once at the car, I again offered her stickers if she would get into her car seat quietly. (She does not like to ride in her car seat.) She complied and thus earned the stickers.
My boyfriend feels that she should not have received anything given her poor behavior. I feel that parents should reward children for good behavior (in her case, getting into the car quickly and quietly), and ignore bad behavior (the initial temper tantrum). Who is correct?
Young children often have difficulties at stores. They want things and they are often (rightly) denied them. We can predict that this situation will likely result in a temper tantrum if we don’t do some pre-teaching about proper behavior.
Do this before you go to the store next time. Make sure you approach this subject with your daughter during a neutral time when you are not upset. Focus on what you want her TO DO and not what you don’t want her to do.
Say something like, “Honey, we are going to check out. Remember that the lady is the only one who can push the buttons. Mommy doesn’t get to and you don’t either. You can use a calculator to keep track of how many items we buy (give her a calculator from your purse).”
If she has a total at the end of the transaction, give her a high-five or a pat on the back. Praise her, saying that maybe one day she will be able to work in a store like the lady behind the counter.
You asked who was correct: you or your boyfriend. In a way, you both were. Your daughter getting into her seat quietly was good behavior and should be praised. But instead of stickers, reward her with a hug and verbal praise. Remind her that now she will be safe in the car.
Using stickers to coax her out of poor behavior may be confusing for her. If she didn’t earn them earlier for leaving the store quietly, she should not have another chance to earn them moments later.
Her father also has a point. Her temper tantrum was not acceptable, and this behavior needs to stop. Instead of just ignoring poor behavior, she should be taught a more acceptable behavior.
On the drive home or once she is at home, she should also lose a privilege that she enjoys (a negative consequence). Rather than watching her favorite cartoon, she can practice self-control strategies to use the next time she feels like throwing a temper tantrum.
Teach her to count to 10 or to take a deep breath. She can hug herself firmly to control herself. Make sure she knows that the loss of the cartoon is a result of her temper tantrum. We have to help children connect their behaviors to what happens to them as a result. That is what consequences are.
Parents are bound to disagree on discipline sometimes. But you must not disagree in front of your daughter or she will become very skillful at manipulation. Sit down together and list a few rules you want to establish for your daughter’s behavior in social settings and at home. List the desired behavior in these situations and the privileges she will earn if she meets your expectations. Also list the negative consequences she will earn if she does not. Please agree on these ahead of time as much as possible.
My 9-year-old son is very bright and is doing well academically in school. But his behavior is poor. He started out as the class clown, but now his behavior has progressed into lying and cheating. I have tried taking things away, assigning manual labor tasks, sitting him in the corner, talking to him and offering choices and consequences. Nothing seems to work. He doesn’t seem to care. The only thing I have not done is remove him from his sports teams. I prefer not to do that.
Make sure you take the opportunity to teach him whenever he misbehaves. For instance, if he comes home and says he does not have homework and then you find out that he actually does, talk to him about lying. Sit him down and briefly describe what he did wrong: “You told me that you did not have homework, but you do.” Then give him an appropriate consequence like you have been doing. Make sure that you clearly link this consequence to his misbehavior. Say something like, “Because you lied to me …”
After you have described the negative behavior and given a consequence, follow up with teaching. Tell him what you want him to do differently next time. Say something like, “Next time you have homework just tell me the truth. If you need help with it or if you need breaks, talk to me about it.”
Give him a good reason why it is important for him to tell the truth. This might sound obvious, but children aren’t programmed with reasons. Sometimes you have to explain even the simplest things to them.
If you consistently and patiently try to teach him and give him consequences without seeing any improvement, it might be time to talk to his pediatrician. There could be a medical reason for his misbehavior. Some kids who have ADHD, for example, are bright but tend to be class clowns. They also struggle with impulse control, which explains why some ADHD kids steal and lie. This does not mean that your son has ADHD, but it is a possibility. If not, your pediatrician can offer you further suggestions to rectify your son’s behavior.