Kids Acting Out? Put ‘Em to Sleep

Most parents don’t need a scientist to tell us that if our kids (and we) don’t get enough sleep, life can sometimes get ugly. But if having a little research to back us up can be reassuring, a new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics will help.

The study found that kids who slept less than 7 hours per night were more sleepy the next day (doh!), did worse on tests in school, and had more behavior problems. A different study also found a connection between lack of sleep and obesity, which makes getting enough sleep as important to children’s wellbeing as eating right and exercising.

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22 Discipline Ideas that Really Work

My three-year-old is a real handful at times. My wife and I have struggled to find the right approach to disciplining our spirited toddler. There are so many different parenting approaches out there, and as his mom and dad, we want the best for our child. We just don’t know which discipline approach to take. Do you have any suggestions?

At one time or another, all parents struggle with discipline-establishing and enforcing limits, and getting their kids to speak to them respectfully and do what they’re supposed to do. But remember: discipline isn’t only about correction. It’s also about teaching kids to control themselves and care about others so they can grow up to be productive members of society. Here are some approaches you can use to help your kids to do just that:
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Different Discipline Styles

My wife and I discipline our children in very different ways. Oftentimes it leads to us arguing in front of the kids. What can we do to prevent this? As parents, how can we get on the same page with how to deal things that come up with our kids, good and bad? And how do we work this out so it’s not causing tension in our relationship?

When parents have different disciplining styles, there’s bound to be dissention and arguing. Tension’s a given anytime two or more people work on the same project but each take a different approach.
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Lying, Cheating, and Stealing

In recent weeks, my six-year-old has suddenly become completely untrustworthy, lying, cheating, and stealing whenever she gets a chance. Yesterday we came home from the grocery store and I found that she had stolen some candy! I’m getting worried, not to mention the fact that I’m feeling like a bad parent. What can I do to nip this in the bud?

The first thing to do is relax. Child development experts agree that before age three, kids have no clear understanding that these behaviors are wrong. Between three and six, children develop an understanding that lying, cheating, and stealing are wrong and they begin some innocent exploration of limits, lying about little things, like whether they’ve washed their hands or gone to the bathroom.
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Kids Won’t Do Chores

Q: My kids never help around the house unless I berate them into doing so. I know this is my fault as much as theirs, and it’s not a particularly effective parenting technique, but I want to turn it around. How can I get my kids to carry their weight without me having to hound them into doing their chores?

A: Parents have been complaining that their kids don’t pull their weight around the house for as long as there have been kids. I heard it from my parents who heard it from theirs, and so on all the way back to some Cro-Magnon relative of mine who complained that his children spent all their time drawing on the cave walls and refused to clean up their mastodon bones. And, as in previous generations, today’s parents find themselves saying things like, “Kids these days..” or “When I was a kid.”

Recent research, however, seems to indicate that kids these days actually are qualitatively different than their parents and do fewer chores than we did. But why? Is it that we’re pampering our children because we felt overworked ourselves and don’t want to subject them to the same horrors we experienced? Have children somehow developed an exaggerated sense of self worth and entitlement? Or is it that by the time the kids get home from swimming and soccer and karate and piano lessons, eat, and do their homework, there’s no time or energy left for chores?

Doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that we as parents require our kids to hold up their end of the household responsibilities. It’s good for the household and it’s essential for their own developing sense of responsibility and self-confidence.

Here are a few tips to get the process started.

  1. Start as soon as possible. As with any family habit, starting them young is the easiest way to establish and maintain the practice of helping around the house.
  2. Make your expectations reasonable-then insist that they be met. A short list of daily chores and a separate list of once-a-week jobs is reasonable. Make sure the tasks are age-appropriate and otherwise manageable, then make sure they get done before any privileges are enjoyed. Early and careful monitoring is crucial.
  3. Praise a job well done. Let them know when the expectations have been met-and when they haven’t.
  4. Make your own “chores” visible. Sure, the kids see us doing laundry, washing dishes, mowing the lawn, etc. But do they understand that those are your chores? It’s easy for our everyday household work to become invisible to our kids. So write your chores down and put them on the fridge right next to theirs. A cursory comparison will quickly silence most complaints and make it clear that everyone really is contributing.
  5. Put systems in place. Designate a specific chore time-the half hour before dinner. Post lists and regularly verify that results are up to snuff..
  6. Don’t tie allowances to chores. Everyone in the family has to pull his or her weight. Paying children for doing basic chores can make them feel entitled to compensation for anything they’re asked to do.
  7. Create rewards and consequences. That said, there are many perfectly appropriate reward systems-a pizza on Saturday night if the week’s chores were done well, a family movie night, or something similar. It’s even more important to have consequences if expectations are not met in a given week or chores will quickly fall into the category of “things I do if Mom and Dad nag me enough.” Creating natural consequences, such as a loss of privileges, prepares the child for the natural consequences and responsibilities of adult life.

So start as soon as possible, be consistent, and make it a priority. By learning to give back to the family, your kids will learn countless skills for the long run.

The Trouble with Other People’s Kids

Dear Mr. Dad: Is it ever appropriate to discipline other people’s children? My 7-year-old daughter often invites one of her classmates to our home. I don’t mind, but this girl is a terror and does things (like jumping on furniture) that my child is not allowed to. I spoke to her mom about it but she just laughed and said, “Allie is a very lively girl.” How can I handle this situation without depriving my daughter of her friend’s company?

A: There’s a difference between disciplining children while their parents are present, and a situation like yours, when a child is dropped off at your house and left in your care.

Generally speaking, if a parent is present, it is up to him or her to ensure that their children are not misbehaving—and to discipline them if and when necessary. There are, of course, some exceptions. Say another child is acting aggressively at a playground and pushing yours off the swings or slide. In an ideal world, the offending kid’s parent would immediately react and remove the child from the playground. But what if the parent is ignoring the child’s behavior? At that point,, you certainly have the right (and, in my view, the responsibility) to step in and do what you need to do (without hurting the other child, of course), to protect your daughter from harm.

The same would apply if a child was doing something to harm another kid—not yours—at the park or anywhere else. When someone is in danger of harming themselves or anyone else, as a responsible adult, you must step in. Think how bad you’d feel if something tragic were to happen that you know you could have prevented.

It’s a pity that Allie’s mom laughs off her daughter’s behavior, missing the opportunity to teach her child some basic lessons in courtesy and respect. I’m betting that little Allie has very lenient (if any) rules at home, and hasn’t learned how to behave in other people’s homes. At seven, though, she should certainly know what’s acceptable behavior and what isn’t.

It goes without saying that in your home, Allie should follow your rules. (It’d be the same with adult visitors: If you have a non-smoking household, you have every right to demand that your guests either respect your rules or leave.)

The next time Allie (or another child) comes for a play date, be very clear about what the rules are. Of course, you don’t want to be overly strict (after all, she’s there to have fun), but the children’s safety and your comfort should be your priority. It’s absolutely reasonable to expect that visitors—whether they’re kids, adults, or pets—not jump on your furniture, yell, make a mess (without cleaning up afterwards), or turn on the TV without asking first.

If Allie keeps breaking the rules, you have every right to discipline her by telling her that this kind of behavior is not acceptable in your home, and she has to stop. Be calm but firm. But never shout at someone else’s child. You might also want to include your daughter in the warning if she’s involved in the activity too.

If you ‘re consistent in reminding Allie what the rules are, chances are she’ll start to follow them, even if they’re different from what she’s allowed to do in her own home. Of course, if she continues to misbehave—especially if she’s endangering or harming your child, or damaging your belonging—it might just be time for your daughter to find some other, better-behaved playmates.