Help! My 9 Year Old Lies

Dear Dr. Meg,

I have a 9-year-old daughter who is lying about schoolwork.  She is very sweet and kind to her friends and is a good student.  She does not like to do “seatwork” and rushes through then lies about doing her best.  She is creative by natures so I understand these types of task bore her, but we cannot tolerate lying.  We have had MANY conversations about this being a sin and that the consequence is more work in the end.   There seems to be a disconnect between her actions and the consequence that results.  I feel like I am constantly disciplining her. Help!

Signed,
One Tired Momma

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Dear OTM,

You are struggling with an issue that many parents encounter. I want you to remember something; simply because you are repeating yourself does not mean that what you are doing isn’t working. You have one stubborn little girl on your hands.

Lying is a tricky issue to handle with kids (I think they know this too.) We can become afraid to discipline for it because we fear that if we do, then we will encourage kids to lie even more. But, we cannot allow lying to be accepted because every good relationship is based on honesty and good parents must establish rules about lying.

Here’s what I encourage you to do.

You have talked enough about the fact that lying is not acceptable. Your daughter knows the score. Now you simply have to reprimand her when you catch her lying. That means that you will treat lying like any other misbehavior. When she lies, something happens that will make lying not worth her while. It is important when disciplining her that you make the consequence bad enough that she doesn’t want to have to endure it. This does not mean that the consequence is cruel, painful or mean, but it does mean that she must be motivated to want to avoid it because it is not pleasurable.

Your job is to find your daughter’s Achilles heel. Does she like playing on her iPad, going to friends’ homes or going to gymnastics? Once you figure out what will really bother her if you take it away, then you have found your consequence. Lying is a serious issue; so don’t be too light on her. If she lies to you, then she must know that something very fun will be taken away for several days. Period.

I know that you feel that you are always fighting with her now. You may be fighting because she really doesn’t mind the consequences you implement when she lies. Therefore, she keeps on lying and endures the reprimand. I would up the ante. She needs motivated to avoid the consequences and this will only happen if you make them tougher.

Hang in there. I know that you feel like a mean mother but remember, mean mothers don’t care enough to work hard for their kids. You will win this and you will get to a point where your days won’t always be filled with fights. Get tougher and the fights will stop sooner. And remember, she is worth every bit of the effort that you are putting into her!

Sincerely,
Dr. Meg

When A 13-Year-Old Shows No Emotion

Dear Dr. Meg,

My daughter is 13 years old but does not show any emotion. She will not acknowledge when she does something wrong. How can I help her?

Signed,
Distressed Parent

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Dear Distressed Parent,

When you say that your daughter does not show emotion, I am assuming that she is more than simply withdrawn from you. Most teen girls go through a period where they are uncomfortable with themselves, feeling that everyone sees the tiniest pimple on their face. Thus, they withdraw from affection and act quite snarly. These behaviors stem from low self-confidence and in time, most girls get over it. During this stage, teen girls know when they are doing something wrong, but they are too embarrassed to admit it. In time, they outgrow this.

If your daughter however, appears to show little affection, animation, enthusiasm or sorrow, then she has pushed her feelings deep inside of her for some reason. She may feel that it is not “safe” for her to express joy, anger or sadness and she may be suffering from depression. If this is the case, it is helpful for you to do some detective work. Ask yourself, how do I react when my daughter is mad, sad or upset about something? Do you allow her to show her feelings or does she feel dismissed or afraid if she expresses her feelings? Many children won’t show their feelings to their parents because they feel stupid or insignificant. So, it is important for every parent to show their kids that they can express their feelings but they must always do so in a respectful way. If you believe that your daughter may be depressed, take her to your doctor soon.

I tell kids that when they shove their feelings inward, that over time those feelings form an emotional “abscess” if you will, that needs to be punctured. This can happen if a good counselor asks them the right questions in an effort to draw those deep feelings out of them. Many 13-year-old girls do not want to admit that they are wrong, so they will hide their guilt or remorse.  The best thing that you as a parent can do is continue to firmly and clearly outline what is acceptable behavior for your daughter and then tell her that when she steps out of line, there will be clear consequences, regardless of how she is feeling. Do not be mean or condemning but simply tell her what the boundaries of good and bad behavior are and she will eventually learn to admit when she is wrong. To admit wrongdoing, takes maturity.

It is extremely rare to have a 13-year-old who feels no emotion. This can happen if a child has suffered extreme trauma during the early childhood years, like some children in bad orphanages do. In this case, children learn to feel comfortable with only a few feelings, with anger being one of them. These children have a very hard time feeling sorrow or regret because they never were able to form healthy attachments as young children. If this describes your daughter, then the best thing that you can do for her is to get her help from a good adolescent psychiatrist.

Sincerely,
Dr. Meg

A Mother Who Just Wants “One More”

Dear Dr. Meg,

My husband and I have been married for 8 years and it has gotten better and we’ve achieved more faith through Christ every year.  We’ve been blessed with 3 children, right in a row. After number 3 we decided together to have my husband get a vasectomy.  For the first few months after, everything felt ok.  As our 3rd child has grown the aching for another child for me has grown.  When I see other moms pregnant or see families with 4 children my heart aches for the entire day.  This is consuming my thoughts everyday. I have spoken with my husband often and shared my feelings. We’ve even discussed a vasectomy reversal but he does not want to do that.  He feels very confident in our decision and is very content as a father of three and does not want more children.  He hurts for me and is very much there for me but clearly does not want to change anything.  I don’t know how to go on with this hurt?

Signed,
Hurting Mother of Three
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Dear Hurting Mother of Three,

There are many mothers I have met in my practice (and I am one of those mothers) who always want one more child. So, your hurt is not unusual. There is something inside of us that yearns to carry, nurture and love more children than we have. I don’t really understand it, but I have seen this repeatedly.

My advice to you would be to do what I did myself (and what I encourage other grieving mothers to do) and that is to first, focus on what God has given you (your three children) and not on what He hasn’t given you. This will really help. Sometimes we grieve the maturity of the children that we have and subconsciously want to stop their growth because we don’t want them to leave us. This is normal; so I encourage you to face it and ask God to help you embrace their maturity, not grieve it. I can honestly say that for many mothers, life with children gets better and more fun. Yes, this can happen even during the teenage years! Many teens are fun and engaging and don’t go crazy like we expect them to.

Second, ask yourself what is it that you want from having another baby? Is it being pregnant, delivering a baby, having four instead of three children? (I can hear you say- I want all of these things!) But seriously, push yourself on this question and dig down to figure out what you feel is missing. I will bet that it has nothing to do with a fourth baby. You need to figure this out because the truth is, even if you could have another baby, if you don’t get to the root issue regarding what you feel is missing in your life, you will never stop grieving. The truth is, even if you had another baby, you will probably still want another.

If you have time, reach out to other mothers and offer your help. Spending time with other babies might actually help you, not make you feel worse. I have four kids and always wanted a fifth. I lost a baby and grieved for years to have another. What I did instead was to spend more time with the children in my practice and help other younger mothers and this really helped me.

It is important for you to know that your grief will end. You won’t always feels so badly and as I said, you are not alone. Many mothers feel an emptiness after their final child is born, whether that child is their second or tenth. Something in your life has come to an end and that’s hard to face. But you can do it because many other mothers have survived it before you. Once you grieve it and close it, then enjoy all of the wonderful things that you have ahead of you with your children. You have many wonderful days ahead of you so write me in a year and tell me about them!

Blessings,
Dr. Meg

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Men and Women Parent Differently (And That’s a Good Thing)

Men and Women Parent Differently (And That's a Good Thing)


Recently, Brooke Glassberg reached out to me regarding an essay she had written for Yahoo Parenting.  I wanted to share it with you!

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My husband, Brian, and I are on the same page about everything. Politics, music, food, we’ve ridden the same wavelength for more than a decade. Even when we were ambivalent about having a baby, I always knew he’d be an awesome dad, and the idea of him feeding a newborn a bottle or rough-housing with a little kid helped push me into the “we can do this” column.

So when our daughter was born, I was blindsided — absolutely gobsmacked — by how differently we operated. Not better or worse, just different. He was OK with her crying (it cut through me like electricity); he wasn’t phobic about the TV being on (I was pretty confident it was scrambling her brain); he continued getting dinners made and light bulbs changed without feeling he was depriving her of adequate eye-contact or tummy time; pants and bibs are optional. He does not liberally dispense Puffs. And he has no problem saying when he isn’t having any fun.

Of course, these “infractions” are minor in the grand scheme of things. What I did not understand at first, though, is how useful they are.

“Women and men parent very differently — and this is a great thing,” says Dr. Meg Meeker, author of the bestselling “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters.” “My husband and I raised four kids while sharing a medical practice and, even as pediatricians, we disagreed on how to do things. Dads approach parenting with different priorities than we mothers do. They tend to care less about dress, eating habits, and other details. Instead, dads tend to want to play with kids more and challenge them more, and this can help kids gain confidence.”

With sons, Meeker says, parents play distinct but key roles. “I tell parents that, for boys, life is all about mom during the first 10 years and dad during the second 10. It’s an oversimplification, but mothers bring boys a sense of comfort, stability and an emotional vocabulary. When boys hit puberty and the teen years, they need to spend time with their fathers to learn how to be good men.”

A father’s involvement matters even more to a daughter. Studies have shown that his physical affection is the best way to elevate her self-esteem, and that girls who spend more time with their dads go through puberty later than girls who don’t have a father at home. They’re also at a much lower risk for depression, anxiety, and high-risk behaviors like sex, drugs, drinking. Dads help raise women who are more likely to go on to college and grad school.

But that doesn’t make it easier when you’re in the moment, watching your husband make a parenting call that you don’t necessarily agree with. But the best thing to do is to let go.

It’s a thousand times better to have Brian helping out his way than not at all, as was the case even a generation ago, and two points of view are more instructive than one. “If a father pitches in on childcare, mothers should stay quiet about how dad dresses them, bathes them, and all the rest. Robbing a child of Dad’s quirkiness would rob him of some terrific memories and bonding. Adequate time with each parent is far more important than worrying about getting tasks done just right.”

“My advice to moms like me — worried, controlling and absolutely convinced that we know the best way to do things — is this: Let up on dads. They bring an element to child-rearing that we don’t. Just because we’re pickier about some things doesn’t mean we’re better,” says Meeker.

As soon as that sting wears off, I’m going to pour myself a glass of red and let Brian do bedtime.

Desperate Mom of Fighting Boys

Dear Dr. Meg,

I am a mother of boys. One is 3 and the other is 2. They are 15 months apart. I was an only child to a single mother with no financial support so she had to work and I had very little knowledge of child rearing. Thanks to the help of my church family I’m a little tougher with discipline. My husband tries to help but works ALOT to support us and I feel alone and frustrated. I try very hard to keep up but my mind wears out and I want to hide in my closet. I take meds for depression and anxiety and it helps some. They fight and wine constantly. My oldest is very strong willed and doesn’t do very well with change. It really sets him back.  My youngest would be pretty compliant but does everything his brother does. I’ve bought all of Dr. Dobson’s books but I barely have time to shower, much less read. I want to be a kind gentle mother and create peace in my home but I spend my time disciplining and overwhelmed. They are not content to play they want my attention constantly. The only way I get them to be quiet and still is to let them watch TV. I just want to gain control but I can’t seem to get ahead…I’m never caught up, and if I almost do something, I am knocked right back to where I started. Please help.

Signed,

Desperate Mom

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Dear Desperate Mom,

Take a big deep breath. I understand what you are going through and it’s not easy! Battling depression and anxiety are hard enough but are especially challenging when you have two little ones underfoot. Here’s what I suggest you do.

First, you MUST figure out a way to get some alone time. I would like to see you ask someone like a high school student, family member or girlfriend take your kids for 2-3 hours two afternoons per week, to give you a break. That person can either come to your house or you can take your kids to theirs. You must be brave enough to tell a family member or friend that you need help, because you do. The best thing that you can do for your kids is to help yourself be a little happier and getting a break two times per week would do that. If you don’t start taking better are of yourself, you will have nothing to offer your kids. So please, get away from them for a few hours at least twice per week. When you are alone, go for a walk, sit in your room and pray, take a bath.  Anything that will help you relax.

Second, find one hour each afternoon and tell the boys that they have to stay in their rooms for quiet time. They will not want to do it at first, but they need quiet time too. They may be irritable because they are tired and are getting too much stimulation. So, make a time in the afternoon when they have to be in their rooms either napping or playing quietly. Have them listen to music, a story tape or anything quiet.

Third, hang on. This very hard stage will pass, I promise. You are in the worst of it right now. Your boys don’t hate each other, they’re just boys. Once they get in school and spend time apart, they will settle down. If you tell your self at the beginning of each day to just get through today and not worry about tomorrow (as scripture says) then you will begin to feel God’s strength.

Fourth, don’t feel like a bad Mom. When kids fight, we moms feel like we’re doing something terribly wrong and this isn’t true. Some kids just fight a lot! So continue to follow Dr. Dobson’s advice and over time, it will work. But remember, your boys won’t change in a month or two, but over years.

You will get through this but you need to be nicer to yourself. Keep praying, ask for help from friends or get someone else to help you for a while and you will get ahead. Try to do only what you really need to get done during the day. You will have more days than you’ll want to clean your house and catch up on chores when your boys are in school, so don’t worry about all of that stuff now. And remember, you are a better mom than you feel like because you are being really hard on yourself. You will raise Godly boys and you have about 16 more years with them to practice! So relax.

Blessings,

Dr. Meg

 

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