Life is never perfect and easy, otherwise, why would anyone call it life!
But, it does not mean you cannot manage it and be satisfied with all the amazing things you have in life.
Life is never perfect and easy, otherwise, why would anyone call it life!
But, it does not mean you cannot manage it and be satisfied with all the amazing things you have in life.
In the past week I’ve been contacted by several parents. They’ve asked a number of questions, all along the same lines*:
I discovered yesterday that my 5 year-old daughter has been sexually touched (quite horribly) by an older boy at her school. We have talked about being safe so many times. I thought we had it covered. And yet this has occurred. Turns out the older boys have been exposed to porn and said they wanted to do what they saw in the video. I’m devastated.
And this one:
I need to know how to handle this. You have visited our school and talked with students and parents about technology, sexting, and pornography. My 13 year-old daughter has had all the talks. She knows that NO MATTER WHAT, she should NOT get involved. Well guess what? It’s happened. She did it. A boy has been pressuring her for weeks, in person and on Instagram and Snapchat, and she finally succumbed. We know the boy and his family and I contacted them. My daughter is not the first girl he has done he has done this to. What do I do?
The past week is not particularly different to other weeks when these kinds of emails land on my Facebook page or in my inbox. Other emails included one from a mother whose 8 year-old son was shown pornographic content in the school playground, and another from a parent whose 9 year-old child was approached via Instagram for explicit images.
While very different, each situation contains a number of important similarities:
First, these children are young. It is common for primary school-aged children to be involved in these circumstances.
Second, in almost all cases, it is a girl who is being harassed or harmed in a sexual way by a boy.
Third, social media is implicated consistently.
Fourth, young people are being harmed by what they are seeing or what they are doing, with pornography acting as a potential influence in too many cases.
There are three things I want to highlight for every parent to teach their children about: social media, body safety, and pornography.
(It’s worth noting that the central – perhaps the only – reason that children have to be 13 is because of US laws that prohibit the collection of personal information on children under that age. It has nothing to do with the emotional and psychological readiness of the children to maturely navigate the online/social world.)
While it is true that many children use these sites every day without harm, there are significant risks associated with these platforms. Adult grooming is one, but so too is the exposure to explicit content, and the harassment from peers that occurs all-too-often.
Additionally, recent research from the UK indicates that using these platforms is associated with reduced wellbeing and increased risk of depression, stress, and anxiety. And Australian studies with adolescents show that as time on screens (gaming and social media) increase, so too does psychological ill-health.
If your children want to be on screens, ensure they are old enough for the accounts that they want – and note that being 13 doesn’t mean they’re old enough. They should be able to maturely utilise the platforms and not become a servant to them (and we all know some adults who still can’t do that). Talk with them about the risks. Invite them to share how they’ll respond to dangerous situations. Keep screens in public spaces. And know what they’re doing, who they’re “friending” and connecting with, and what they’re viewing.
Many parents tell me that they’ve installed software to keep their kids safe online and to monitor what they’re doing. This may offer some modest protection while your child is using devices protected by the software. However, this seems to be the equivalent of fencing our swimming pool. It provides a level of safety that is important.
But we can’t fence the ocean.
Once our children are out of our home or using another person’s device, our protections are unhelpful. We need more than software to protect our kids. We need to talk with them and teach them how to use social media safely, how to respond to inappropriate requests, and what to say to someone who is pressuring them to do something they know is wrong.
Our children, no matter how well protected we keep them, will come into contact with others who have not necessarily received the same level of protection we have provided. Some of those children may have been exposed to pornographic content online, or have experienced inappropriate sexual touching. It is vital that our children know how to be body safe, and know how to resist the pressure that others may place upon them.
Teach young children (from the age of 2) that no one should ever look at or touch – or ask to look at or touch – any part of their body that is covered by their swimwear or underpants. A parent might wash these private parts for a child in the bath, or a doctor might need to view these parts with permission, but that is the only time these body parts should be looked at or touched. Our children need to know the difference between “good” touching and “bad” touching. And it is up to us to have the conversations with them about it. (Some useful resources are here.)
Teach older children that it is not ok to use digital media for looking at, or showing, those private parts. And then invite them to discuss why that might be the case. Help them to understand that sharing images might lead to long-term consequences, and that others might also see what has been shared.
Body safety means we teach our children how to keep their body safe. It is up to parents to ensure these conversations happen consistently.
Liz Walker, founder of “Porn Harms Kids” explains that exposure of children to pornography has reached critical levels. A major study from Sydney Uni indicated that 45% of adult males were first exposed to pornographic content between ages 11 and 13. In a 2010 survey of English 14-16 year-olds, nearly one-third claimed that their first exposure to pornography was at 10 years or younger. A 2015 survey in the UK showed that 1 in 5 twelve to thirteen year-olds believed that watching porn is “normal behaviour”.
Unwanted exposure to pornography among minors is increasing, with the number of 10-12 year-olds accidentally seeing porn rising from 9% to 19% between 2000 and 2005, and from 28% to 35% for 13-15 year-olds. In another study of 16-17 year-olds, a large number of both males (84%) and females (60%) had experienced unwanted exposure to pornography while online.
Now… take a look at the dates. The data are old. We’re back at 2005 before iPhones and 3G wireless Internet. Or we’re back at 2010 Why? We can’t ethically ask young children about their pornography exposure. We have to wait until they’re older and ask them to retrospectively recall when they saw what they saw.
Our best guess is that kids are, on average, seeing pornography at around age 9 or 10 today because of wireless, portable tech. And there is consensus that about 99% of boys and around 70% of girls have been exposed to pornography by the age of 15. Parents are consistently describing incidents like those above where pornography has impacted their children’s lives – always with negative consequences.
Research is highlighting that children’s exposure to pornography increases the risk that they may act on what they’ve seen. Too often, this occurs with another vulnerable young person. NSW Police report that child-on-child sexual assault is at an all-time high, with the proliferation of pornography via screens being the most often-blamed reason.
What do we do?
As the first generation of parents to deal with these challenges, we are facing some tricky times. No matter how well we parent our children, they will be affected and influenced by others who may not have had the same level of parental involvement. Sometimes they will be harmed by those children.
Parents can best protect their children by:
Don’t let young children near social media. Minimise screen time. Ensure they are taught about body safety.
At some point, cocooning children will not be enough. This is when we must pre-arm them. The most effective pre-arming occurs when our children trust us and our relationships with them are close and loving.
We want to be having daily involvement and connection with them about the little things so that when the big things arise we have the relationship foundation in place to guide them.
The best pre-arming conversations are not lectures. We ask questions and listen to how our children feel about the issues we are discussing, and invite their ideas for how they would respond in tricky situations.
Our children need us to be parents. They need us to lead. This might mean things can be uncomfortable from time to time. But they need to know what our limits are and why. We should only allow social media with appropriate protections and at the right age.
Parenting may never have been more challenging. It may also never have been more important.
The post Body & Cyber Safety: How to Pre-arm and Protect Your Children appeared first on Dr Justin Coulson's Happy Families.
Dear Dr Justin,
My daughter started high school and already there are parties and outings organised where no parents are allowed. She’s only 12 and I think too young to go unsupervised. Am I being unfair?
The teen years are a glorious time for our kids. It is a time of freedom; our kids are doing things for themselves and by themselves, figuring themselves out, and experiencing life like never before. And, of course, it’s a time when parties, outings and other social events are on the rise.
For many parents, our teen’s time of excitement is our time of fear! We want to know our children are safe, and making healthy, wise decisions.
Unfortunately, the answer is… it depends. At 12 perhaps going to the local pool in the afternoon with a group of friends might feel okay, but going to a party on a Saturday night may not. Perhaps meeting up in the city for a movie with some girlfriends might also be okay, but going with just one boy might not be something you feel so good about.
It is up to each family to find the ‘right’ amount of independence for their child. However, it’s vital that our teens participate in determining where that line is, with us.
Having control in their lives is important for our teens. Research shows that autonomy is one of the most important contributors to success and happiness. It is a predictor for almost all the positive outcomes that we want for our kids – better wellbeing, lower stress, better health, increased longevity, greater career success and even lower use of drugs and alcohol. Kids with parents who encourage autonomy do better at school, have better friends, and are generally happier.
So, the best thing we can do for our teens is to give them some decision making power in their own lives. This doesn’t mean becoming permissive or disengaged. Instead, we should involve our teens in establishing the family rules, and negotiate individual circumstances with them as necessary.
If this seems like a lot of work, you’re right, it is! But it is also do-able by utilising the three Es of Effective Discipline – explain, explore and empower.
First, explore the issue with your child. If she feels strongly that she is ready for something, listen as she explains her reasons. Try to understand her feelings. This is the time for empathy and perspective.
Second, explain the risks and consequences of the choices, such as unsupervised parties, to your teen. Discuss some of the things you feel she is ready for, such as going alone to a café with a friend, and some of the things she is not. Let her tell you how she feels as well. The more clearly you explain, and the more input you receive, the more chance that you will get understanding and cooperation from your teen.
Third, empower her by working together to find solutions. What should the family rules be when it comes to parties? What about outings? If there is a party she can’t attend, can she organise another outing that is acceptable? Brainstorm solutions that don’t put her at risk, feel age-appropriate and work within the rules your family has set.
When it comes to teens’ parties, there are some very important considerations you might discuss. For example, parties where no parent is present are, in my mind, a no-go. If, during a party, there is underage drinking, or illegal drug use, or sexual activities, or if one of the kids is hurt, the parent could be at risk for legal action. And if a minor teen gives another minor alcohol, they are breaking the law. Remember, too, that sex is more likely when there’s alcohol.
These risks are serious. Various states even have laws about parties.
If there’s a law, it becomes a non-negotiable rule. Otherwise, it is up to us to use our most powerful parenting tool – communication – to navigate our teen’s growing need for social independence. But by explaining, exploring and empowering we can work together to establish appropriate guidelines for social outings and help our teens make well-informed, age-appropriate choices, to ensure they have a great future.
Check out Dr Justin Coulson’s popular webinar: What Your Teenage Daughter Wants To Tell You But Can’t. Available in the Happy Families Online Shop
Fall is officially here! We went to the pumpkin patch last weekend and now it’s time for some fall crafting. These pumpkin crafts and activities are great for kids of all ages. Don’t forget to have some healthy pumpkin snacks while you’re enjoying these fall crafts!
#1 – Shiny Happy Pumpkins by Sweet Silly Sara
These are an easy fun pumpkin craft idea for younger kids.
#3 – Book Page Pumpkins by Creations by Kara
#5 – Styrofoam Cup Pumpkins by Mom Endeavors
This is another great idea for younger kids!
#6 – Color Mixing Pumpkins by Messy Little Monster
#8 – Button Pumpkins by Sugar Bee Crafts
#9 – Pony Bead Pumpkins by Cutesy Crafts
#10 – Paper Plate Pumpkins by The Best Ideas for Kids
These are a simple, quick idea. You won’t need any special supplies.
#11 – Folded Paper Pumpkins by Pint Sized Treasures
#12 – Craft Stick Pumpkins by You Brew Tea
#13 – Pumpkin Face Printable Activity
We created this activity a few years ago, and it is requested every Halloween!
#14 – Mason Jar Lid Pumpkins by Crafts by Amanda
These are fun for older kids or adults!
When it comes to holidays, I’m normally a do it yourself kind of guy.
I’m big on exploration, activity, and getting off the beaten track. I want to go my own way. For me it’s all about discovery; trying new things. I want transformative.
At my wife’s insistence we decided to try something new for our most recent family holiday.
“We really just need a break”, Kylie had insisted. “A real break. Where we do nothing.”
Nevertheless, after some more back-and-forth, our negotiation ended with a compromise. We were going to a resort where there was nothing to do but lay by the pool.
To be clear, that’s not how I roll. But I had to concede that Kylie was right. There are times when you really need a break. Family life can leave you feeling flogged, and we were exhausted by it. Frantic paced deadlines and commitments, kids creating chaos… there’s something special about taking some time away from it all to replenish, rejuvenate, and to literally re-create our lives.
Plus, the idea of not having to plan or cook a meal for a week while spending quality time on amazing family activities sounded like it was worth trying. Logistics-free meant I wouldn’t have to look at google maps. I figured it was worth a try.
Our best efforts to pack and prep the night before we left meant we were up late. Rousing six daughters from slumber and herding them to the car at 4:00am was challenging. The youngest were compliant. Our eldest ones truly believed that the plane would wait because they needed another 30 minutes of sleep. My lost wallet didn’t help in reducing the stress.
By the time we arrived at Brisbane International Airport, it felt as though the holiday might be about to begin. Meals were eaten, apps were downloaded, devices were charged, and all was well – until our names were called over the airport speakers. The flight was closing. We’d missed our cue. A short sprint with six kids chasing me, and my wife nowhere to be seen (she subsequently caught up), and we were welcomed aboard our flight – just in the nick of time. All was well with the world.
Rather than the suffocating summer humidity, a pleasant tropical warmth enveloped us as we cast aside the extra layers that had been necessary for warmth on a cold Brisbane morning. ClubMed transferred us to the Nusa Dua resort and our week as #ClubMedinsiders began.
Straight away I knew this was not going to be my usual kind of break. And straight away I was excited.
At the resort, five of our six kids were ushered off to kids club by staff (known as G.O.’s) who had become their instant best friends. (Our 6th is nearly 20, and her best efforts to sneak in for all the fun with the kids were unsuccessful.) For the next 5 days our daughters met new friends from all over the world, played sports, swung on the insanely high trapeze – even the 5 year-old! – and swam, snorkelled, crafted, and more. They literally begged to leave before us each morning so they could get to Kids Club, and they wanted to stay longer each night. They wanted to stay at Club Med forever.
We watched our children and others stimulated to try new things. It was transformative for them. Swinging on the trapeze, improving social skills interacting with kids from other cultures; the kids club brought them alive, and taught them new skills. They tried things they’ve never done before and played with kids from different nationalities and cultures.
We love adventures together. But they loved the independence, so we embraced the downtime. The adults only “zen pool” became a retreat each day, away from the noise and activity of the resort’s main pool.
Club Med has just launched a range of family activities which meant that we weren’t separated from the children all day. Games on the grass, a family cooking class, slip ‘n slide, and a colour party meant we got to play together each day. We had the chance to genuinely enjoy a holiday together, with some downtime for us as well.
I never knew Club Med was all-inclusive! Activities and meals are included, and while Kylie and I don’t drink, those who like a drop now and then might be pleased to know that most drinks are also part of your package. This was something I appreciated. A break where family can be together or the kids can have fun while the parents get some down time; a getaway where you don’t have to keep dipping your hand into your pocket to pay exorbitant prices for food or activities because it’s all included*; a chance to really recover (or get off the resort and speed things up if you feel the need)… and all in one of the most picturesque places you can imagine. Morning sunrise over the ocean at Nusa Dua is something special.
But after a week here, I’m sold. By providing quality time away from the stresses of daily life, in a kind, multicultural, relaxed environment, offering a wide range of activities, Club Med gave our family an inspiring break. My kids are calling it our best ever holiday. One thing is certain: we’re heading home with amazing memories, a refreshed mindset, and plans to book in for another break with Club Med soon!
*SPONSORED POST: Dr Justin Coulson and his family travelled to Club Med Bali as #ClubMedInsiders
Dear Dr Justin
I have been reading a lot about how yelling isn’t good for my kids, but I can’t seem to get them to listen if I don’t raise my voice! Any suggestions on how I can stop yelling?
Almost everybody yells sometimes. Some of us are better at keeping our voices down than others, but we are all yellers or reformed yellers… or both.
Social media memes celebrate and mock yelling:
‘My kids call it “yelling” when I raise my voice. I call it motivational speaking for the selective listener.’
‘Don’t yell at your kids! Lean in real close and whisper, it’s much scarier.’
Let’s face it though; yelling feels terrible. Most parents also admit it rarely works. And research shows it’s bad for our kids.
When parents use yelling as a way to discipline, studies show increased behavioural problems, anxiety, stress and depression. Yelled-at kids also have lower self-esteem, and a higher risk of developing psychological problems in the future.
Without getting too technical, it’s important to mention that these studies are correlational. So it could be that yelling leads to these issues. Or it may be that kids with behavioural problems, anxiety, stress, and so on make their parents yell! (Or perhaps there’s something else that causes both yelling and behavioural problems… such as alcohol and drugs, low education levels, or poverty.)
But what research shows quite clearly is that yelling doesn’t work. Researchers have found that yelling seldom alleviates a problem. In fact, as soon as you begin to raise your voice your child’s brain is catapulted into the fight-or-flight response. They freeze up, fight back or run away. It’s almost impossible for them to actually listen to us.
So, how can we stop yelling? How can we become reformed yellers?
As parents, we sometimes yell because we’re getting pulled in a million different directions and then something happens and it’s just the final straw. Or we’ve already asked our child to stop pinching his sister 14 times! Or we just lose our cool.
This is when we need to remember that this is about US. Yelling doesn’t happen out of the blue – it is usually triggered by something (asking multiple times, prepping dinner or rushing out in the morning). If we can learn to recognise our triggers, we can stop them from launching us into anger and yelling.
When I’m starting to get upset there’s a mantra that I use: ‘I’m going to be calm and kind.’ When I repeat this to myself, it reminds me of the kind of parent I want to be and helps me to better regulate my own emotions. Find a mantra that works for you and repeat it when you find your emotions rocketing from 0 to 100.
When your child is pushing all your buttons, take a deep breath and look them in the eyes. Ask yourself, what are they going through? Why aren’t they listening? What is happening inside this little human (that you love!) and how can you help them?
Just turning your focus onto helping your child can help you to calm down and stop yelling.
And here’s a bonus tip: unless there is a genuine physical impairment, your kids are not deaf. Speak softly. They’ll listen harder. A gentle tone and a soft voice are nicer to listen to.
Life can get difficult. If you find that you’ve slipped up and yelled, forgive yourself, hug your little one and start again. And remember that that good parents aren’t perfect – good parents are just trying their best.
For related products, visit the Happy Families Shop.
My childhood friend Joel was fearless.
When he was about six, Joel’s parents installed a balcony on the back of their pole home. For some reason, the builder couldn’t install the safety railing straight away. The fall from the balcony to the ground was at least 6 metres.
Joel would ride his bike full tilt along the balcony, then execute a perfect skid. His mission? Get as close to the edge as possible. He never did go over, though his bike did at least once!
Some kids are thrill-seekers. While their friends stay away from heights, roads, stovetops, and other dangers, the Joels of the world get a buzz out of risky business. Maybe you have that two-year-old that tries to ‘fly’ off the back of the couch, the three-year-old who cleverly picks the childproof lock on the cupboard of poisonous cleaning supplies or the four-year-old who lets himself out the front door to take the dog for a walk.
These kids are independent, spirited, goal-oriented and resourceful – but parenting a fearless child can be a daunting and stressful task.
Between the ages of about one and five, your child develops new abilities and starts to crave independence. This is healthy. Independence contributes to feelings of wellbeing, a sense of identity and helps promote self-esteem.
In some ways our young children are similar to teenagers. In both stages our kids are in the process of ‘individuation’ – they are learning about difference, separation and self-assertion, and they have an absolutely unshakeable belief in their own invincibility. But unlike a teen, your young child can’t foresee the consequences of his actions. (Some of us would recognise that even teens struggle with this skill at times too.)
So, there are dangers inherent in having a risk-taking child. A fearless, intense, highly motivated child can be difficult to keep safe. Our job as parents is to find a way to keep our fearless kids safe while still allowing them to explore the world.
There are benefits to having a fearless child. You might change your language from ‘stubborn’ to ‘persistent’, or ‘reckless’ to ‘goal-oriented’. Perhaps your child is ‘optimistic’! This reframe emphasises your child’s strengths. Our children internalise our language about them. And so do we. Choose positive words to describe your child’s spirited ways.
Sometimes things are just not going to be safe, and you’ll need to find an innovative solution. I know one family whose two-year-old was intent on climbing the cable railing on their deck. They installed pieces of Perspex to stop him. Another mother learned to keep her car keys hung from a nail high up on the wall.
Remember however, that kids have been navigating risks for millennia. They don’t need to be bubble-wrapped.
Encourage them to take risks in ways you can feel good about. Bike slides beside a rail-free balcony may be a bit much, and we want to minimise true danger, but giving kids freedom to explore and take risks is good for them. Evidence shows they become wiser when we allow them to engage in risky play.
Joel survived. So did the kid who let himself out the front door to walk the dog and the child who learned to fly from the back of the couch. They all survived.
Of course we need to keep our fearless kids safe, but what a shame it would be if in doing so we also kept all the adventure from their lives (and ours)! Embrace their intense spirits, their clever problem solving and their focused goal-setting… just be sure to keep the car keys out of reach.
For related products, check out the Happy Families online shop
Dear Dr Justin,
My husband and I have some family friends. Their daughter is friends with our daughter. I recently heard their daughter telling my daughter about her ‘private’ Instagram account. My daughter has told me that her friend is sharing sexual images, and images with alcohol and cigarettes on that account. Her parents (my friends) would be mortified. Do I tell them?
Telling your friends their daughter is making unwise, unhealthy, unsafe decisions – and probably lying to them – is awkward. It’s almost certain that they’ll feel hurt. And telling them what you have discovered will probably cause conflict in their home too if they confront their daughter.
What should you say? Or is it better to stay quiet and let them find out in their own time?
My primary advice is this:
If you have information that makes you worried for the teen’s safety in ANY way, contact the parents immediately. Things like suicide, self-injury, bullying or eating disorders are too serious to even debate the issue. Tell them. Now. Their daughter’s safety matters more than judgment, embarrassment, or reputations. In fact, it matters even more than your relationship with them.
Perhaps the real challenge is knowing whether something is unsafe or unhealthy. As an example, in spite of the dangers, alcohol is still the most widely consumed drug for Aussie teens. Does drinking put a 14 year-old at risk when so many teens are doing it? After all, everyone else is doing it.
There are countless nude (or suggestive) images sent around the Internet every hour. Does posting these kinds of images put a teenager at risk when so many others are doing it?
Just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe, healthy, or positive.
So tell the parents! If they don’t see it as a big deal, at least you’ve told them. It’s up to them to decide what to do next.
You’ve indicated you’re worried about some of her decisions. But let’s just say she wasn’t actually doing anything unsafe or unhealthy. She was just ‘posing’ with the alcohol, for example, and the biggest issue is that she’s lying to her parents about having the secret account.
Here are some additional factors to consider:
Sometimes telling people about this kind of thing can make it worse rather than better. And issues around sex and morality are especially tricky. Things such as modesty (wearing little/no clothing), alcohol or tobacco use will be different for different families. You mightn’t think a teen should post a photo of herself nursing a beer, but her parents might not think it’s a big deal. Use your best judgement in these situations.
The reality is that a huge amount of teens have fake accounts. In my own recent research with close to 400 Aussie teens, a significant percentage admitted they have extra accounts which they hide from their parents. Again, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s safe. Teens hide things because they know they’re wrong – or at least against the parent’s wishes. I still maintain that a quiet word with the parents is probably in order in most circumstances.
For more information on parenting teens, visit the Happy Families Online Shop
The post How to tell your friend what their teen is doing on Instagram appeared first on Dr Justin Coulson's Happy Families.
We were lucky enough to receive a very special Disney #NowMoreThanEver Playdate Kit in the mail from MomSelect. If you missed our unboxing, you can check it out on Youtube. Since we just got back from our first Disney World trip this summer, it was the perfect opportunity to share our experiences and look forward to our next magical visit. We already have a Disney cruise planned for the fall!
I received free products in order to host a #NowMoreThanEver playdate party. The opinions expressed here are my own.
My daughter is happily wearing her new JAKKS Pacific Cinderella dress to welcome to the guests to the party!
I tend to go way overboard on the food, but we kept it simple this time. We had some fruit and a delicious Michael Angelo’s lasagna from Walmart. The lasagna came frozen but heated up to perfection in the microwave in about 20 minutes!
Since this was just a playdate (and not a birthday!) we kept the decorations pretty basic. We had some hanging Elena decorations and balloons, along with themed tableware. Here are some easy Disney DIY ideas to decorate your party space!
We also pinned the crown on Elena and had a pinata featuring Elena!
If you’re headed to Disney World with your child for the very first time, make sure to check out the My First Disney Getaway Package to make the first visit even more special.
You enter the kitchen. Your child looks at you like she’s hiding something. You see cake crumbs on the counter and the tips of her fingers.
‘Did you eat the chocolate cake?’
Your child smiles up at you, chocolate stuck in her teeth, and innocently replies, ‘No.’
You know your child is lying. The evidence is everywhere! And in that moment it makes you mad. How could they lie to you? And so blatantly!
So, what do you do?
First of all, let’s recognise that lying is a normal part of growing up. Studies show that beginning at about the age of three, kids begin lying to conceal things they have done wrong. From the age of four, the majority of kids (even up to 80%) will readily lie to avoid punishment.
Let me highlight that last statement. Kids lie to avoid punishment. They’ve done something we disagree with, and they want to cover it up.
Lying, therefore, is logical and tactical… and it’s also a sign of intelligence.
But lying is also a sign that our kids are afraid of us. Let’s tackle these issues briefly.
Studies show that lying is a sign of intelligence in children. In fact, in one study kids who lied about peeking at a toy had a higher verbal I.Q. (by almost 10 points) than the kids who didn’t lie. This is because lying takes more mental acuity and cognitive development than truth-telling.
But don’t go celebrating how smart your child is because they’re lying! We still want to teach our kids to be honest. So, what should we do when our kids lie to us?
If we get this right, we can reduce the likelihood that our children will be afraid.
1. Remember, it’s normal. Catching your child in a lie can be frustrating but remembering that it’s a normal part of growing up can help us keep calm. We aren’t raising sociopaths! Just little ones whose motivation is to avoid punishment.
2. Don’t ask questions that you already know the answer to. If your son is smeared in chocolate cake, don’t say, ‘did you eat the chocolate cake?’ Of course he’ll lie! Instead say, ‘I can see you ate some chocolate cake. You must have been hungry huh?’ Then pause and ask, ‘Do you think I’m pleased or upset? Why? What should we do next time?’
3. Celebrate honesty. When your child is honest, even if they’ve done something wrong, acknowledge their truthfulness. Say, ‘I really appreciate that you’ve told me about what has gone wrong.’ Help them fix it and then talk about how to do better in the future. And don’t punish them or threaten to punish them for lying. Research shows this will cause more lying in the future. They’ll be afraid of you.
4. Extract a simple promise. Studies show that children are less likely to lie once they have promised to tell the truth. But be gentle. If they tell you the truth, and then you punish them severely, they will be less likely to tell the truth in the future, promise or not.
5. Model good behaviour. As adults we are all guilty of social ‘white’ lies. Telling a friend that you have an appointment when you simply don’t want to go to their get together, for example. Our kids are looking to us to learn how to behave. Little white lies show them it’s okay to bend the truth.
Honesty takes time and maturity to learn, especially in the face of the clearly tactical advantages of lying. As parents, nurture honesty in kids by celebrating and rewarding it. And remember, our kids are pretty smart – they’ll get it eventually. In the meantime, hide the chocolate cake!
Visit the Happy Families Shop for more parenting resources.