Jenny doesn't see herself as a grown up. When dealing with her kids, she easily regresses to being one of them. She says things like, "Aw, come on..." and "I don't care." Children deeply resent a parent who is afraid to parent. Being an adult is a scary thing. It means taking responsibility for our lives and our actions. Jenny may have grown up with parents who did everything for her or she may have grown up feeling discounted rather than supported and secure. She has little self-confidence and looks outside herself for reassurance. Jenny is not in touch with her own inner authority. She's not able to look her kids straight in the eye and say, "Turn off the computer and come to the table.
Dear WholeMom, My twelve-year-old daughter has been hanging out with a group of kids lately who I am not crazy about. The girls dress in very slutty clothes and they go to movies that are not appropriate for kids their age. When I question my daughter about where she is going she gets defensive and says, "Everyone does it. They come from good families so if their parents let them go, it must be okay." It's true they come from good families but our values are somewhat more strict. What should I do? Old-Fashioned Mom (Am I?) in New York Dear "Old-Fashioned," There is nothing old-fashioned about a parent setting guidelines for her child's behavior, whether it be dress, entertainment or anything else.
I am so glad I found this web site. I am in a terrible situation. My husband is a "loud," yelling person. He thinks that this kind of discipline works. It just makes things worse in our home. We have two children. Our son is 12 and our daughter is 11. The yelling has been going on for years and now our children yell, especially our son. There is so much anger in the home. I am looking into family therapy for my children and myself. My spouse will not go. I have spoken to my husband numerous times before about this problem. He will stop the yelling for a few weeks and then it comes back. What should I do? A Thanks for your important question. It appears to me that you are on the right track.
Dear WholeMom: I am struggling with my nine year old son. For the past two years he has become increasingly rude and even yells at me. He doesn't seem to realize that he is yelling or being rude. Anything I say to him gets a negative response with an inappropriate tone. I am finding it very hard to come up with positive things about him. He was an only child for seven years and now has a two year old sister. He said to me once, "Why do you only like us when we are babies?" It is hard because my two year old is so good and my nine year old seems to thrive on negative attention. I am trying to be more positive, but he pushes all my buttons. He enjoys teaching his sister things I don't want her to do or say (for example: She says "Mommy's a jerk").
Dear WholeMom, My daughter is four. She will turn five in August. Lately she has become very short tempered. Our next door neighbor is already five. When she visits our home, my child loses control over not getting her way and automatically starts hitting, pushing and kicking. She also screams and loses control all around. Yet, in just a matter of moments she is calmed down and expects everything to be forgiven. I have approached the situation every way possible, talking to her about other people's feelings, about showing respect for other people's bodies, explaining that it is not acceptable behavior in anyone's eyes, telling her that people won't want to be her friend.
The idea of "time out" (as described in Time Out: What is it and how can you make it work for you?) goes against everything I believe in as a mother and as a therapist. In fact, the concept of "time out" exasperates me. It sounds more like a program designed for laboratory mice than one that is healthy for children and parents. Why am I so offended by Time Out? Because it denies context. The program described in that article doesn't mention that children behave in a context-that of the family-- and that they absorb its atmosphere. A child doesn't behave in a vacuum. He is a reflection of his environment, and especially of his parents.
Everybody seems to be doing time out. Wherever I look I see articles about the pros and cons of the method and descriptions from parents of how it did or didn't work for them. But these descriptions are usually missing the next step: time in. I first saw the term "time in" used in The Discipline Book, by Dr. William Sears. He cautions parents that while time out is an appropriate method of disciplining children, no parent should forget what is equally important to their young child -- time in. What Is Time In? Time in is what should come before and after a time out. It's the time you spend encouraging your child's "good" behavior instead of just working on changing his "bad" behavior.
Q: Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I was reading your article, Making the Punishment Fit the Crime and it makes absolute sense. I have a situation however that I need help with, maybe you would have a suggestion? I have a five-year- rambunctious boy. He is very active, although he is not hyperactive or ADD. We refer to him as Dennis the Menace, because of the trouble he is constantly getting into. He does things that I would never imagine. How he thinks up this stuff really bothers me. Last night was the ultimate. I was talking to my mother on the phone in the Living Room and had been on the phone for about five or so minutes when I heard the smoke alarm going off. I immediately ran to his room and found him standing on the stairs screaming with a tea towel up in flames on the carpet.
Q: Dear Dr. Sylvia, My brother is raising his four-and-a-half year old son on his own. The boy sees his mother and sister every other weekend. My brother loves his son and is struggling with patience to deal with a child of this age. My parents do what they can to help. My nephew is in Head Start every day, and then, stays with my parents until his dad gets home from work. My brother's job is very frustrating, and many times when he gets home, he is not in the best frame of mind. It is hard for him to be "mom" and dad, but he tries really hard. My nephew is fine with my parents, but when his dad picks him up, he misbehaves. He loves his dad and is excited to see him.
Q Dear WholeFamily Counselor, I would like to hear about the pros and cons of hitting children as a form of discipline, and when it becomes abuse. I only hit my four-year-old son in two situations: Either he just hit or attacked me physically (he's pretty strong), and I respond instinctively, or he is in the midst of a dangerous, violent act, and I prevent it by being physical. My brother-in-law voiced some concern to my wife (his sister) over this weekend, and I wanted to check with an expert about the theory of hitting, and get some feedback about my particular case. Thanks. A I'm glad you wrote in with this question, since this is an area of concern for many parents.
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