Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How do I get my kids to be responsible?

Ms. Dorothy
I have been having trouble lately I started school this semester and it seems my children stopped doing all homework all chores all responsibilities. Can you help?
A Student and Mom

It sounds like your children are accustomed to having someone supporting them with homework and chores.  It is possible that the work routines in your home are built around your motivation and drive.  

Perhaps they have not internalized the importance you put on these activities, and are still looking for you to remind and require them to do their work.  

You may need to create a system to replace you in the work formula.  

Having a list or schedule of what needs to be done and when might help.  You can have the children check off each task as it is completed.  Another option might be to reward tasks done, and withhold a privilege for things left un-done. 

More impactful, however, would be to ignore the dishes in the sink, the laundry in the hall, or the homework left undone, and allow your children to experience the consequences for their choices.

This is  a challenging path because it requires you to live with the messy rooms, and face the teacher reports.  

It does, however, but the responsibility for getting these things done back on the boys.   

Making up a new schedule for homework might help as well.  If they will only work when you are there to supervise them,  make the last hour before bed time a homework hour.  It isn't the ideal "directly after school"  homework time you were accostomed to inforcing, but it may make getting something done more realistic.   

Then choose something you can live with, and ignore the fact that they haven't done it.   

Be sure to explain that you can't be in a kitchen full of dirty dishes, so you will be unable to cook dinner or make lunches for school.  They will live without a meal one night, and so will you.  Feel free to tell them how hungry you are while you work on homework.  I won't take more than one night of sleeping on an empty tummy before they are sure to get those dishes done.   

Just be sure that it doesn't become about you nagging, or cajoling, or bribing or convincing them.  It should simply be a lesson in cause and effect.  Because the dishes didn't get done, you can't cook and everyone will be hungry tonight.  The more matter-of-fact, the better.  When they want to beg, or convince you, simply change the subject.  They will catch on!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Why is my child lying?

Dear Ms Dorothy 

My 6 yr old daughter has been lying to the boy next door and neither her father nor myself nor the little boy’s mother can understand why she is doing this. I had her sister 2 months ago and yet we haven't seen anything to show she is jealous. Even if that is the fact, why  should she take it out on a little boy that previously she would play fine with? Now it just seems that every time we parents turn around she is lying to one of us, and I just found out that she was lying to her father and myself  as well.  How do I stop this? 

Concerned   mother of 2

You may be thinking correctly about your daughter's jealousy. It is a very common and very normal reaction to a new baby in the family, but whether or not this is the reason for her lying, there are some things you can do to help her.

First you have to consider the reaction that she gets when she lies. What the little boy and his mother say and do when she lies can make a big difference in helping to stop this behavior.  What yourself and her father do and say when you learn about these lies is important as well.

What our children want, more than anything else, is our attention. 

Every moment we spend with them is like a prize, and when they do something wrong, we try to make sure that they understand how important it is not to repeat the mistake.  In order to do that, we get very close, look right in their eyes, talk very intently, maybe even touch them. 

To a young child, even the fact that we are disappointed, or frustrated, or angry with them cannot outweigh the fact that we are having a highly emotionally charged interaction with them.  

It is a very big prize.

In the weeks leading up to your baby's birth your daughter probably saw your focus begin to turn inward, and when the big day came, it wasn't over as she may have expected. She may have known a baby was coming, but the change in the way the family runs is something children don't know how to anticipate.  

You are still attending to the needs of the infant, and balancing that with her needs, but she is probably looking for the intensity of connection that she sees the baby get.  

She may not appear to be jealous, and is certainly not aware if this is what is making her tell lies, but it may be the root cause.

Most likely it has nothing to do with the little boy, except that he may be helping her to get the attention. It may be worthwhile to talk about it with the boy's family.  

Sometimes ignoring the lying for a while, and creating some close moments that are focused on her, or even on teaching her to help care for her baby sister, can help. 

You might try scheduling some predictable time that is just for the two of you, or just for her and her father.  Giving her some close attention for no reason at all might prevent her from seeking it in negative ways.  

Chances are this behavior will fade if it stops getting a lot of notice.