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Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

I have four kids aged 2 to 11, three of them are at their prime “play date” years, and the two older ones have their own cellphones (which means they can organize their own play dates and only need to secure parental approval at the final step).  As a result, we have hordes of kids over almost every day.  In fact, we should replace our front door with a revolving door and a click counter to keep track of the foot traffic going in and out.  Occasionally either my child or one of their friends gets a nutty idea in their head and something boneheaded happens. That is just kids being kids.  My daughter once complained to me after a birthday party that her friends trashed her bedroom.  Another time, one of my kids’ friends ate nine popsicles during a sleepover.  This is an inevitability.  So what to do?

I think there is only one way to handle it: that is, hold your children responsible for the actions of their friends.

On the scale of parenting maneuvers, this particular move carries a high level of difficulty. We all know it is hard enough to get kids to clean up after themselves.  Getting them to clean up after their friends is even more difficult.  But the most difficult of all is teaching your kids to control their friends so that messes never materialize in the first place.  As hard as it might be for parents to teach this lesson, it is infinitely harder for kids to implement it.  I was a kid a mere three decades ago, and I still remember how difficult it is to say to your friends, “That is a dumb idea so let’s not do it.” (more…)

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One time my 8-year-old son won $2 from his grandpa for a tackle he made at the football field.  When he got home, he took off his football equipment and went to play.  He left the $2 on the floor.  I told him to take his money up to his room.  He said okay, kept on playing and forgot.  I reminded him 10 minutes later, and he still didn’t do it right away and forgot again.  I reminded him a third time and told him that if he had to be reminded again, he would lose the money. Ten minutes later, he lost the money.  I was angry and he cried about the money he wasn’t getting back.

The dry face of an 8 year old

The dry face of an 8 year old

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I got a lot of comments for my post a few weeks ago on disciplining children, so I wrote this installment today after my four-year-old nephew beaned my daughter in the head with a pine cone.  I was ready to laugh it off and move on.  But when confronted, my nephew lied about who threw it.  A moment later, he lied again and said that his Mommy had said it was okay to throw things.  The well-aimed pine cone I could forgive, but the lies warranted some kind of response.  I sent him to sit in the corner of the playground for an undefined length of time that turned out to be about 10 minutes.  I let him re-join us after he apologized to my daughter and explained to me why he was being punished.  He cited the pine cone but not the lying for his punishment, which is indicative of how difficult it can be to teach this important lesson in truth-telling to a little kid.

We all know that kids do stuff that results in something being spilt, broken, or getting dirty.  It is frustrating but expected, and in my book a mild scolding is all that is warranted.  But most all kids in the 3 to 5 year old range will at some time or another try out a lie or two to escape the scolding that they know is coming.  They blame someone else or make up some other little lie rather than face up to the truth.  Lying—even if it is deployed to cover up a small crime—deserves a some kind of a punishment in my book.  However in my daily life as a parent, I find myself doling out a scolding for the toy left in the rain but forget to punish the thing that is really a crime: lying about who left it there.

Another fine example: years ago my oldest son–who has always been a slow eater with a small appetite– claimed to have a tummy ache from eating half a bowl of oatmeal.  I told him that I took his word for it that he was sick and to put his bowl in the sink.  Though I couldn’t prove it, I suspected he was faking and I tried to smoke him out.  So as he hauled his aching belly to his room to recuperate, I told my two other kids that I was taking them on a surprise outing to the waterpark (this occurred in Jakarta and the waterpark was near our house and very cheap).  Before the car could leave the driveway, my sick son experienced a miraculous recovery.  He, of course, admitted to the lie.  I sent him back to his room to think it over and took the other two to the waterpark even though the trip would have been much more fun with all three kids.  I determined that the best way to get him to stop faking an illness was to make it costly to get caught.

The bottom line here is that while you may be annoyed as hell at your kid’s antics, most of it is just a kid being a kid.  But if there is to be no tolerance for lying to Mom and Dad, then it is up to you to make that clear.  This is about trust between parent and child.  And you need your kids to develop into habitual truth-tellers before they enter the teenage years and get into the type of trouble that cannot be fixed with a simple fib.

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My two older, cellphone-using children and their 7-year-old brother, who is three birthdays away from his cellphone.

My two older, cellphone-using children and their 7-year-old brother, who is three birthdays away from his cellphone.

Ten year olds don’t need cellphones so much for texting their bff’s, but rather to get a taste of responsibility.  When my oldest son and later my daughter both turned 10, they each got cellphones for their birthdays.  They were the first, or close to it, in their peer groups to get this coveted status symbol.  It has been 18 months since my oldest son turned 10 and he still only has family members and one or two friends’ phone numbers programmed into his cheap LG phone.  I pay his phone bill every month and I can see that he doesn’t use it for much of anything besides checking in with Mom and Dad.  So why get it? (more…)

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