Sunday, November 24, 2019

Prevarications, Pranks and Privileges

My 5 year old child seems to be developing a habit for lying.  Last night, he stayed with a friend and her two kids while I attended a meeting.  On our way home, he told me this..."Zachary did something really, really bad tonight.  His Mom told him to get the toys picked up and now!  But, he just kept on playing and she brought the belt in and whipped his tail....he still didn't pick up the toys and she made him go to bed to sleep".   I said, "really?"  He further added a couple of details....  Following this supposed incident....I asked if he was sure that really happened...he again said yes!  I then told him that I noticed When I returned he and Zachary were playing and picking up toys when I, if his Mom sent Zachary to bed to sleep, how was he still up when I got there?  Of course, he had no answer.....I then told him that when we got home and I was not driving, I would either call or text Miss Amanda to find out what happened because she didn't mention any of that to me when I picked him up.  The, the "Oh no Grandma, don't call her or text her, I was just pranking you!".  I used that opportunity to given him examples of a "prank" verses telling a lie.....

This isn't the first time he has given me detailed situations which were entirely made up occurred.  His mother, my daughter was an avid liar and still is today.  I really want and need to try to nip this bad habit in the bud.  We have had many past conversations about telling the truth with positive reinforcement for the truth and no significant negative consequences when he is truthful even if it's something he knew better than to do....

Suggestions to curb this habit now?


"What a tangled web of tales we weave, when first we practice to deceive!"  What an imagination youngsters possess, and the raging rush a preschooler feels when he first starts learning to tell a lie is tantalizing.  As their moral sense develops, we hope our children will outgrow the deceptive tendencies that all children possess at some point during their growing-up years. Because of the ubiquity of Imagination Prevarication all children, I believe things will work out fine--as long as you nip it in the bud NOW. Dishonesty, deception and lying are very serious matters deserving of very serious consequences. In addition, lying DOES work in the short term, so it can be addicting.  Suggestions:
     1. Let your grandson know that until further notice, pranking is equivalent to lying.
     2. When you think he is lying--he is. Even if later you discover he really hadn't been lying in a particular instance, his past behavior has given rise to your assumption of his lying. Be sure and let your son know that his habitual past behavior will definitely influence your present viewpoint.
    3. Since lying can develop into a serious habit, serious consequences are needed.  The next time  he tells one of his "stories", take away several of his prized possessions and privileges--ones that will make him feel some emotional pain when he cannot avail himself of them. He can earn one possession/privilege back for every week or ten days he goes without lying.  And each time he lies , he loses another possession/privilege. In 2-3 months, hopefully this budding habit will be a thing of the past.
4.  Avoid talking about his lying if at all possible. Don't get into long discussions about it. The less it is discussed, the less the attention he will get for his "stories."
5.  I have allowed for my children's imaginative storytelling, as long as he is not intentionally trying to mislead
  Let me know how it all works out.

Mike Smart, CLPC


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Making an Imprint

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Our two girls (6-year old and 4-year old) share one room. Today my wife told them to clean the table before dinner (where they made a mess while playing) and the girls just ignored her request. My wife then told them that she would do it herself and cleaned the table. After the dinner we canceled going for a walk and sent the girls to their room and explained the reason for doing so. It was around 7 pm. We told them to stay in their beds quietly. The beds are located approximately 4 feet from each other. First the older girl was more obedient and stayed in her bed, while the younger kept getting off the bed. We checked on them from time to time and when we saw 4-year old girl out of the bed or in the bed but with toys, we corrected her (returned her back in the bed or took away the toys). Whenever the younger girl was out of bed, the older girl would tell us on her or would secretly try to play with her.
Around 9 pm I told the girls to sleep, but few minutes later I found out that the older girl got in the bed to the younger girl and they were playing together. I pinched both of them, separated them, tucked them in and wished them good night.
Around 10 pm they were not sleeping yet and my wife came in to check on them. They prayed together and my wife sang a song, which helped them to fall asleep.

So we have 2 questions.
Question 1: What should we do when one of them or both of them do not stick to the punishment plan like described above?
Question 2: How to deal with the older girl telling on her sister? (On the one hand we are informed that the younger girl breaks the rules, but on the other hand we don’t like this telling on stuff).

Thank you in advance!

You need to tell  your children know that from now on there will be
 1. No tattling, unless there are some extreme safety concerns. AND  2. If mom or dad ever has to do a chore that was assigned to you and we  have to do it, the hammer comes down with a very serious, memorable and persuasive consequence.

Answer to Question 1:   First off, I really didn't see any punishment given. Sending them to their room with toys available and with beds only four feet apart  sounds like a perfect setup for some mischievous banana time in the monkey cage. It is quite difficult for a four and six year old to deny the temptation to disobey with that setup.  They would probably rather have this punishment than clean up their initial mess.  The punishment needs to be truly felt emotionally by each girl. My recommendation is to separate them into different rooms; rooms where toys and fun distractions are not readily available. 

 Answer to question 2:  Don't allow tattling. So what if one of them happens to break a minor rule and you don't "catch them" or you don't know about it? Just relax and enjoy your break from the little ones. However, if  they know that YOU know a  rule was broken, THEN you will have to deal with it. Also do you really need to check on them off and on, and re-separate them into their own beds and re-tuck them in?  Just enjoy some husband-wife alone time. Just let them play together till they fall asleep. Does it really matter if they are in the same bed? Or if one ends up sleeping the night on the floor?

Final notes:  Based on the information given, I believe you need to change your philosophy about consequences. You need to etch a permanent imprint of the consequence on the mind of the disobeyers , with the goal in mind  that they won't disobey again. They WILL clean up after themselves--or they know they cannot go on tomorrow's playdate;  or they will not be able to go to their friend's birthday party; or TV or video games or any screens whatsoever will be off limits for the next 10 days; or maybe paint the fence out back, etc., etc..... I have a feeling the punishments that you have been implementing have  amounted to know more than a slap on the wrist. Remember-- It's okay if they cry. Crying at this age probably means you have administered the appropriate discipline. "Discipline is painful for the moment, but will eventually produce a harvest of righteousness and peace, in the long run."

Mike Smart, CLPC
"Parenting Outsmarted"

When to Intervene in School Issues

Image by Ernesto Eslava Pixabay

My almost 10-year-old son came home in hysterical tears yesterday. His side of the story is that at school he saw someone’s school ID on the floor, picked it up, and asked, “Whose ID is this?” and then the teacher put him in time out and took away his recess for the next day. He kept saying he thought he was doing something good but then got punished. This kid has had a total of two behavior marks his entire school career and on the same day came home with a thank you note from the vice principal thanking him for coaching other kids in math.  Something didn’t seem right so I emailed his homeroom teacher asking if there was more to the story.  But… should I have interfered?  Should this have been a lesson in “sometimes life isn’t fair”? 

Hi Elizabeth!  I appreciate your situation, especially since I have been involved as a school professional for over thirty years. To answer your first question: No, you should have not interfered. In addition, I usually recommend an employment of a 72-hour Waiting Principle. Wait 72 hours. After that time, is this issue still a "thing?" It's been over three days since this episode. Is your son still in an emotional frenzy over the situation, or has he moved on? Simply waiting can be the best method.Things do have a way of working out if given time.  Understand that to some degree, all children live for the  short-term, possess weak emotional self-control, and in general, are "drama factories."   On the other hand, if this kind of episode becomes a pattern, I see no problem with a parent scheduling a sit-down session with a teacher. But the parent needs to go in to that session with the school teacher with the mindset that a 40-year old teacher with a Master's Degree and two children at home, will have a side of the story much more accurate and believable than any ten-year old's.  And in the grand scheme of things, this is just one of many molehills in your son's life. It is important not to make a mountain out of it. This is a great opportunity to train your son on how to emotionally handle all the vicissitudes of life.  Maybe suggest to your son that since he is growing up,  that he-by himself- ask the teacher for some clarification.  We want our children to grow up to be completely emancipated and fully independent from us, don't we? Our running interference for our children during their time with us, may delay or even stunt their growth in that regard.

Mike Smart, CLPC


Thursday, October 3, 2019

The Enemy of my Enemy is my Sibling

Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay
We have five children, and multiple questions, but I'll just focus on one here.  My oldest son and daughter (ages 10 and 7) fight regularly.  My son is a teaser, and my daughter is a screecher.  So it's a lovely combination.  At times my son has gotten physical with her, hitting her.  Then there are the times he touches her (like lightly hitting the back of her head) and she isn't really hurt, but her reaction is just as noisy.  Then today, (and this wasn't the first time) she turned around and punched one of her sisters, age 4, rather hard in the stomach.  That poor girl just takes it, though, and if I had not seen it with my own eyes, I might not have heard about it.  She was sent to her room for the rest of the day, and it was an effective consequence.  

My question is about how to let them try and resolve their own conflicts.  When my older daughter tells me that her older brother hit her, I have to take it with a grain of salt, and wade through the murky waters of trying to figure out what really happened.  Then with the 4 year old girl, I want to listen to her, but not turn her into a tattler, and get addicted to being the victim, although in truth, I think she tend to actually be.  How can I listen?  When do I need to listen?  When "punching" is really more like actually "lightly hitting" how do I draw the line?  (We have said that our son may not touch his sister at all, but that is an unrealistic statement.)  

First off--stop listening to each child's own individual versions.  Instead, use the  "Peacekeeping Room"--akin to John Rosemond's Conference Room--when it comes to dealing with sibling conflict. Put an index card on the refrigerator. Title the card with "Do not Disturb the Family Peace" and list three rules below it: 1.  Keep your conflict to yourselves. No one else should be disturbed.  2. Do not complain or tattle to Mom or Dad about each other.  3. Do not physically hurt one another(See ch. 4 of "The Well-Behaved Child" by John Rosemond). 
As much as you will be tempted to, try not to interfere at all with any sibling friction. Don't allow tattling, ignore the situation  and let them work it out, even if it seems that one person(usually the younger) is getting the short end of the stick; of course if one sibling is ALWAYS the loser in the situation, you may feel the need to jump in(periodically I have put just one of the offenders in the Peacekeeping Room)--but that should be RARE. 
However, if any of the three rules are definitely broken, ask no questions, and send the siblings to the "Peacekeeping Room"--a small room in the house, such as the laundry room , guest bedroom; a place that is small and boring--where they have to face each other and work the problem out with no distractions.   They are to set an alarm clock for 10-15 minutes,  go into the room and shut the door. When the alarm sounds, they may come out only if things have been worked out. If they haven't gotten things worked out, send them in again for another 15 minutes or more. It won't take long before they get the point.  
This is the best way for them to  learn Conflict Resolution and you are now not part of the equation at all. You carry no burden--they do. Eventually, they will not want to go in to that boring Peacekeeping Room, where there is nothing to do, and sibling rivalry will decrease significantly.

Mike Smart CLPC
"Parenting Outsmarted"

Monday, August 5, 2019

The Great Outdoors


First of all, thank for all the previous advice I've been given.  It has all been helpful.
This may be a silly question, but I was wondering what is an appropriate age to send my kids outside to play by themselves.  We have a fenced in back yard with a garden and moderate sized swingset.  It is a medium to large backyard.  My little girl is 4 and my little boy just turned 3.  I want them to be safe outside, so I wanted some advice for when is it okay for kids to be left generally unsupervised??

Thank you for your thoughts.


The fact that you asked this question regarding safety makes me believe that you will be a responsible parent when it comes to your children's well-being. That being said, I find a tendency among responsible mothers to be a bit too overprotective and fearful when it comes to our youngsters. Sometimes, we just have to relax, trust God and ask Him to watch over them.  Without knowing your neighborhood, and  knowing you do have a fenced-in backyard, my advice:  LET THEM PLAY! Unstructured outdoor play is of no small importance at this age. Compare the hours they could spend outdoors in all sorts of weather on a swingset, learning how to share and create and take care of each other-----to watching screens indoors, with all the negatives that that entails.
 Instilling in them a love of the outdoors is a wonderful thing and should begin at a young age.

Mike Smart, CLPC
"Parenting Outsmarted"

Monday, April 29, 2019

Parenting Question: Parental Reason is a Dish Best Served Cold

Image by avitalchn from Pixabay 


What do you recommend for two little ones ages 3 and 4 for not wanting to eat what I fix for meals? This has just started and we want to nip it as soon as we can. Do we make them sit until they finish their plates, send them to their room for not eating, or only serve what they like out of what I fix? Or let them get up and no snack etc until it’s ate.... I don’t have a microwave so reheating meals is very time consuming. I want them to eat the time we that something that can happen and how?


 My answer is a version of what John Rosemond himself recommends:  Allow your little ones to eat with you, and inform them that they cannot complain about foods they don't like; NOW is the time to start emphasizing good manners. At each meal give them a serving of everything you have fixed, regardless of whether they like it or not. The portions should be small--just a few bites per portion.  Tell them they can have as much of any food  they want once EVERYTHING is eaten that is on their plate. If they choose not to join the "Clean Plate Club", then allow them to be excused from the table after a predetermined number of minutes. Take the uneaten portion of food, cover it and save it for later. If they get hungry later, uncover their food and serve it. Remember, no other food can be eaten until they finish each item completely, even if they don't eat again until  the next day. The hungrier they become, the more likely they will eat it--even when served cold. Once they clean their plate, they may have more of anything. I will admit that on occasion with my grandchildren, I have added a spice or an ingredient to a leftover to make it more palatable--especially if it is a food that you sense  to be overly undesirable to the children.  But I would do that only on rare occasions. As a side note: If you're good at sniffing out deals, you can get good microwaves for cheap at garage or yard sales.
Mike Smart, CLPC

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Parenting Question: iScreen, uScreen, We all Scream 4 more Screens

Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay 


Notwithstanding the answer to my preview question, my 11-year-old son exhibits an addiction to computers and we restrict his exposure because of this. Currently, we have one computer in the house and his use of it is heavily monitored. However the public schools issue iPads to all of the students and he uses it each day to access textbooks, books and supplementary materials. When he has completed his work, he also browses YouTube and plays video games. I have worked with the teachers to keep the iPad at school, but since the school year began his behaviors -- temper tantrums, lack of self control, deceitfulness and all-night computer games -- began exhibiting themselves again. He has even downloaded VPNs to bypass our blocking programs and figured out how to unlock our computers. Before school began, we were free of all these behaviors. We are already working to establish and maintain our authority. The computer issue, however, is an entanglement that hinders this fight because the behaviors have worsened throughout the school year. From what we can tell, there are 3 private schools in our area that offer education without or with limited usage of computers but the price tag is high. The other option is homeschooling. I do not want to keep feeding his addiction but I don't know if keeping him home until his brain can handle technology better is going to help him, either. I do not want my son to struggle with this addiction, but I am not sure he and I can handle homeschooling. How can I help my son who truly cannot manage this addiction?


You are wise in your concern. Moreover,  I will stress that something needs to be done--NOW!
 One option:  I would march in to the school with the proper attitude, and tell the administration that "my son exhibits an addiction to screens", and detail for them your son's symptoms----those that you noted above, regarding his behavior. A public school should have accommodations/modifications for those parents who want a somewhat "screen-less" education for their child.
      There is one thing about which you may be wrong: his brain may NEVER be able to "handle technology." I have friends MY age who struggle with various technology-related addictions and health concerns; so there is little chance a child or teenager can manage it in a mature fashion.  I would also do whatever you can to avoid allowing your son any unmonitored use of any screens(TV, iPad, video games, iPhone, etc.).....With the recent explosion in technology, we don't have enough data to know the extent of harm excessive screen time causes. Some examples of said harm:
          obesity, avoidance of family members; no longer attending social functions; depressed, irritable, anxious; tantrums and
          meltdowns; lying/deceit, back problems, eye discomfort and early onset of myopia; the viewing of pornography, violence, and
          verbiage/thought not designed for 11-yr olds; pain in muscles/joints and neck; likely to suffer from attention disorder; less time
          given to exploring, creating and using their imagination; negative effects on brain development....and so on.
And trust me, no parent or child ever estimates accurately the amount of weekly screen time being used by the child. Whenever I ask a parent to stop,watch, and record her child's usage for one week , the parent is typically mortified to discover that her child is in front of a screen far more than estimated. You will need to be a MEAN MOM when it comes to this.  Do not underestimate the necessity for him to break free immediately from the chains of his addiction.
     Other options:
1.   See the administration(see above)---tell them because of his addiction, he will no longer be using the iPad at home. Ask them for other effective means for him to be educated.
2.  Change schools
3.  When he has the iPad at home, he must use it for homework only, and he must be in a high traffic area.
4.  Use an alarm clock. When it goes off, he must stop his homework and give you the iPad--whether he's done or not. Keep it until he goes off to school the next morning.
5. Is there a monitored after-school program where he could do the homework, then leave the iPad at school?
5.   Never should he be unmonitored when using screens.
6.  Go on a "Screen Fast" for a week or two--No screens whatsoever. Summers are ideal for this; there is no school and the weather is nice.
7.  No screens in his room--ever.

There are a lot of parents in your shoes who are now waking up and becoming counter-cultural when it comes to their child's use of technology. It is time to be one of those parents.  Get ready---his reactions to your pulling the plug on him will be over-the-top and intense. Stay strong. He will become the son you used to have once again. Keep me updated.

Mike Smart, CLPC, "Parenting OutSmarted"

Prevarications, Pranks and Privileges

QUESTION: My 5 year old child seems to be developing a habit for lying.  Last night, he stayed with a friend and her two kids while I a...