For more than five years, I've been answering your questions in the twice-monthly Parenting Chat. But what if your question can't wait for that Chat day to come around?READ MORE
The following came in a Boston.com reader Q&A this week with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz:
Question: Hi Barbara, Any advice for dealing with a 6-year-old boy who has become comfortable lying to us? He vehemently denies that he is lying, but we know that he is.
Barbara Meltz: Dear Gullible, basically, kids this age lie for different reasons and, because they are not cognitively fully developed, I'm not sure it's even fair to consider them lies in the adult sense of the word. But, for example, a child this age might like to avoid punishment, to get a material reward or to keep a promise.
By 9 or 10, kids like to avoid an overly intrusive parent. And sometimes kids of all ages lie just to see if they can get away with it. But what's most likely for a 6-year-old is that the lie is more what kids think of as "tricking," kind of a game they play with themselves: Haha, I tricked you! It's just that they leave that part off.
The problem of course is that lying can ultimately cause a lot of damage and an erosion of trust. It never helps to tell your child, "I know you are lying, and in fact, getting them to admit to a lie isn't nearly as important as establishing a fundamental value of honesty and trufulness. At this age, he's old enough to know that lying is unfair, and to label it cheating. So be sure to establish the high value you place, in your family, on telling the truth.
The next time you think he is lying, instead of accusing him of l ying, try this: "I'm not sure if you are telling the truth. Before you say anything else, I want you to think some more about this." Or this: "I don't think you are telling the truth. I'm not happy to have a rule broken, but I'm even less happy if someone lies about it."
Obviously the goal is not to trap or trick him but to help him understand that lying is not good, and that you are someone who is understandable and approachable. Reward telling the truth, don't punish lying.
Agree with Barbara? Have some truth-telling of your own to contribute? Let us know in our Comments section.
The following came from a Boston.com readers Q&A yesterday with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz
Question: Since we're approaching Valentine's Day, how do you handle your young child's first broken heart? More of getting over your first crush (middle school age). Thanks so much.
Barbara Meltz: Suse, I'm impressed that you recognize it for what it is, only a crush but a broken heart nonetheless. Feelings of affection are just as real for a child in the throes of a first crush as they are for someone much older, so it's best to be respectful of the feelings (although you want to be careful that, at this age, you don't encourage inappropriate expressions of the feelings).
Probably the most helpful way now that the crush has reached the heart-broken stage is to talk about how how nice it is to care for another person and to say that sometimes that person doesn't like you as much as you like them, that "It's a sad fact of life, but it is a fact of life."
Save the comments about when she "really falls in love" and all that stuff. She won't be able to hear them and even if she did, it will come across as mom/dad not understanding. Better to stay with the moment, offer empathy, inicluding comments that show that you respect her feelings and know they are real. That will help her move on more than you realize.
Do you agree with Barbara? Remember your own first broken heart? Have your say in our comments section.
The following question came in a Boston.com readers' question-and-answer chat with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz:
Question: I could use some advice on how to handle the death and funeral of my grandmother, both emotionally and logistically. My child knew her great-grammie well enough, but we did not see her on a regular basis.
My inclination is to have my (1 week shy of 3 yrs old) daughter not attend the service, but be at the post-burial party. I think I can explain well enough that gr-grammie's body was too old to work anymore so she went to heaven... but what do I say after that? Maybe that is enough?
Barbara Meltz: PSMom, That sounds like a good decision, but I would be careful to be as concrete as possible, especially in regard to heaven ... I'd stay with, "Her body stopped working and she died."
It may prompt questions such as, "Will you die?" That's really an egocentric question that is code for: Yikes! If you die, who will take care of me?! Will I die?"
So a good answer is not only honest but also gets to that unspoken qustion: "Everyone dies someday. Dad and I take very good care of ourselves, (we exercise, eat healthy food, etc, whatever applies) so that we are here to take care of you."
Parents get into trouble with this topic mostly because we read too much into it; keep it simple, truthful and age appropriate.
Agree with Barbara's advice? Have a few thoughts of your own? Let us know in our comments section.READ MORE
The following question came in a Boston.com readers' Q&A on Monday with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz
Question: My sister (my nephew's other aunt) can be very mean to our nephew. He lives with her and our parents. I have heard her say things to him like he is "full of ___." I know that I need to have a talk with her and remind her that he is only a 10-year-old CHILD, but any advice on how to phrase this? I am really worried that she is going to affect his self esteem, etc. There are really no other kids in the family, and I think people forget that he is just a CHILD, but it is really out of line. Thanks so much!!!
Barbara Meltz: Concerned aunt, Whoa! That's more than an issue of self-esteem; in my book, that's abusive. One suggestion is to remind her of the Golden Rule. If she doesn't want to hear those words coming out of his mouth (spoken to her, no less), she has to stop using them with him.
Of course, it's possible that if she's using this language, she doesn't have problems hearing it, either, so that might not work. At the heart of this is a hard question: How much does she care about this boy? If you think she does, then you can appeal to her sense of what's good for him.
It may be that she simply doesn't know. Would she be open to reading a book about parenting? Or attending a workshop? For you to lecture her probably just comes across as you being self-righteous. What's needed here is to find a way for her to gain some solid information; hopefully, she cares enough to do that.
Do you agree with Barbara here? Have some advice of your own? Let us know in our comments section, and check out these previous Child Caring posts:
The following question came Monday during a readers' Q&A with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz on Boston.com:
Question: We’re having homework problems with our 13-year-old son. He is very bright, and gets terrific grades on exams, but continually gets poor grades on his report card because he does not turn in homework.
Even assignments as simple as getting a test signed. During 6th and 7th grade we checked his teachers’ web sites for assignments and made sure that they were done. In 8th grade, the teachers expect that he should be writing down hw assignments in his agenda (they provide one every year), but unfortunately he refuses to do so.
Consequently we are unaware of what homework is due and it is frequently not done. For the most part, I agree with his teachers, he should be taking care of this himself, but the reality is that he is likely to fail unless I can personally ensure that it gets completed.
Neither positive nor negative consequences have any effect. Other than that, he is a wonderful boy. Are we enabling by checking homework? Should we allow him to fail?
Barbara Meltz: Susan, In general, I believe homework is the job of the child, but I also believe it is the job of the parent to set standards. It sounds like somewhere along the line, you may have been overly involved and that turned him off. It also sounds like you already have allowed him to fail and he doesn't care.
Is it possible his not caring reflects on an overly-intrusive parent/child relationship? One way or the other, you need to figure out why he doesn't care. Have you asked him that question? What about these questions: Is the work too easy? Too hard? Is it possible there's a learning issue that you don't know about, or a problem with his ability to organize himself? Maybe executive function issues? (I don'[t mean to pathologize, but....)
What grades would he like to see on his report card? What comments would he like to get from teachers? What kind of help would he like from you? What kind of help doesn't he want from you? Ideally, you need to find a way to help him re-set his standards.
That may mean getting help from teachers, or from an educational consultant. Ultimately, parents need to be a homework coach, not a homwork cop, and thaht's especially true at this age. But it sounds like you've got some issues to sort out before you can get to that point.
Agree with Barbara here? Have some advice of your own? Let us know in our comments section -- and check out these previous Child Caring posts:READ MORE
about the authors
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Boston Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids ranging in age from toddler to teen. In addition to writing for Child Caring, she also writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.
Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes; Understanding How Your Children See the World." A former Globe staff writer, she wrote the weekly "Child Caring" column for 19 years. That column earned her many awards, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.
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