Five to Nine-Year-Olds

Boy sailing his first model airplane

Responsibility Training

             It is amazing how quickly our children grow. The years just fly by with wild abandon. Somewhere between the age of five and six, our children begin their formal schooling. The children have been learning up to this point. They have learned to talk, walk, dress and feed themselves. None of these accomplishments are insignificant. However, around the age of five, we begin their skill and knowledge training.

             There are many options open to parents in this country for how to accomplish this training. Most people automatically assume they will send their children to public schools. This is generally the cheapest and most convenient option. However, it is not without disadvantages. The population of the schools is made of the community at large. The vast majority of the students and teachers in the schools will not hold the same ethical values that you are trying to instill in your child. It means you need to spend a lot of time countering the false notions taught in the schools. Unfortunately, many parents neglect this duty for one reason or another. They assume that they made it through the schools safely, so their children will also. However, public schools are changing over the years. They are not similar to the schools you attended. If you don't want to put the extra effort in to making sure your child has proper ethical training, you should not consider public school as an option.

             Private schools are another option. Most of these schools are sponsored by various denominations. They can be costly and hard to get into. Generally, the students attending private schools have higher ethical standards. The teachers try to enforce moral standards. However, you must realize that most denominations are not accurate in their biblical teaching. Your child may be confused when you tell them that God says one thing and their teachers say something else. As with the public schools, you must plan on spending time countering the errors your child may learn in school.

             The third option is home schooling. This makes the greatest demands on the parents. It is near impossible for a family to home school unless one parent stays at home to teach the children. The cost is less than private schools, but more than public schools. Since you are the teacher and your own children are the fellow students you can avoid many of the ethical problems of public schools, and avoid the inaccurate Bible teaching.

             No matter which option you chose, you will find that your children will begin to develop attachments to people outside of your family. They will deal with school teachers, Bible class teachers, and neighborhood children without you being there. Some parents have difficulties realizing that their children are doing things without their observing what is being done. This must happen. Our goal is to raise godly children to live in this world. They won't always be by our side; we won't always be with them. You will notice that children of this age tend to develop friendships with other children of the same sex. This is normal. The interests of boys and girls differ and children rather associate with people of like interests.

             Sibling rivalry is common at this age, especially between children of the opposite sex. Parents will need to take steps to keep the warfare down to friendly skirmishes.

             Children of this age period grow steadily. It is not as fast as it has been since birth, nor will it be as fast as in adolescence. Generally, they gain two inches per year.

             With their developing independence, they quickly develop their own ideas about what they would like to do. Often these ideas conflict with their parents' desires. Children of this age will sometimes moan and groan about the chores they must do. Not that the chores are taking them away from anything important, but it is not what they wanted to do at the moment. Again, parents must take actions to keep the complaints to a minimum.

             It is important that children learn responsibility for their own actions. A parent cannot watch over their children every minute of the day -- nor should a parent want to be watching for the rest of their lives. We are supposed to be training for an independent life. As Christians, each of us is accountable to God for our own actions (Romans 14:12). As parents, you need to teach your child to be accountable for his own actions. A child of this age should be able to take a fairly complex set of instructions and carry them out independently. God holds us responsible for our actions, whether God is standing over us or not (Luke 12:42-46). Children need to learn to be responsible for doing their duties, but it won't come immediately or naturally. There are too many distractions and desirable things in this world that a child must learn to ignore.

             To give our children an opportunity to learn responsibility, we must give them the opportunity to fly or to fall. In Luke 19:12-16, notice that the servants who carried out their responsibilities were rewarded beyond their expectation for their good work. Money is a key part of our society and our children need to learn how to handle it responsibly. Give them an allowance after they have learned how to do simple math problems. Allow the child to decide what to spend his money on. You can advise, but the choice must be theirs. Begin to restrict your spending for the child to necessities. If a child sees a new truck that he just has to have or wants a candy bar, tell him he may have it if he has enough money to pay for it out of his own allowance. At first they will buy everything they can, keeping the money on hand to an absolute minimum. If they run out of money, sympathize with them, but DO NOT HELP THEM OUT! Very quickly they will learn that if they want something more than a cheap toy that breaks in a week, they will have to save their allowance.

             Set the allowance level low, so they are forced to save to get most items they are interested in purchasing. Do not give them an advance on their next allowance. They need to learn to live within their means. Sometimes, when we are out shopping, one of my children will see something he wishes to purchase, but he had left his money at home. Here, I will buy the item for him, but he must pay me back when we get home. Frequently, the child discovers he didn't have quite as much money as he thought he had. Now, you have two choices, either put up the item until he can get enough money to finish paying you back, or my favorite option is to charge them a 10% fee for the shortfall that comes out of their next allowance.

             Allowances can be used in other ways as well. When a child pours a brand-new bottle of shampoo down the drain or takes a carton of ice cream to the utility room, but forgets to put it in the freezer, charge them for your extra costs.

             During earlier ages, I told you to only punish willful disobedience or negligence on their part. When a child reaches the middle childhood years, this needs to be expanded. Ignorance on the child's part should no longer be an excuse for not doing something. You may choose to soften the punishment, but a child should be held responsible for learning the rules. See Luke 12:47-48. As adults, we are held responsible for following the laws of our land, whether we learned them or not.

             If a child is to learn responsibility, the child must be able to make choices on their own. So give the child an opportunity to choose as frequently as you can. The trick on the parent's part is to make sure that all the choices are things the parent can live with. If the child has fallen into a rut of only eating cereal every morning and you want them to eat something else for variety, offer them a choice of pancakes or eggs and toast. When the child says, "I want cereal!", respond with "that wasn't one of the choices." The child feels a little bit better because it was his choice and you accomplish your goal. As a tip, if there is one choice that you can live with, but you would rather they not pick it, put it first in the list. Most children reject the first choice unless it is something they badly want.

             Giving choices is good training for adulthood. While reading through the Scriptures, notice how many choices God gives us in our lives. He even allows us to make the wrong choice at times so that we can learn from our mistakes. Whenever a choice is made, make sure the child stays with the decision. Nothing is more frustrating than a child who constantly changes his mind. When we are at a restaurant, I let the children make their choice for meals, but once the order is place I tell them they cannot change their minds. This has caused a few tears on occasion, but they have learned to be more thoughtful about their selection. If a child makes a bad choice, do not give in and rescue them from their decision. Let them see for themselves that it was a poor choice so they can make better ones in the future.

             Encourage personal responsibility for their actions. In Proverbs 9:12, we are told that we will bear the results of our own actions. God punishes us for our own sins (Jeremiah 31:30). It is normal for people to want to blame someone else for their problems. Look at what Adam and Eve did when God confronted them with their sin in Genesis 3:12-13. Children have a natural tendency to blame each other when asked. "Who left the milk out?" "Johnnie had it out last." "I did not! Sue got a drink after me!" Sometimes the children decide it is best not to say anything at all. This can make it difficult as a parent to decide who to punish. In the cases where you can't figure out who the culprit is, admit it to the children and then announce that in this situation everyone will share the punishment. Peer pressure between the children will make sure it doesn't happen frequently. If, after announcing the punishment, someone is suddenly volunteered, then it is likely that everyone knew who the culprit was, but would not say. Thank the children for their honesty, but tell them it was too late this time and administer the punishment.

             Sometimes children swing the other way and become tattlers and self-appointed judges. As a parent, you need to teach your children that the parents of the other children decide what is allowable or not. This is the way God treats us (see Romans 14:4). However, make sure that the safety of others is their personal responsibility. If they see another child doing something dangerous, then it is not tattling to get a parent to help. Make it clear to the child that he is not allowed to enforce the rules. Eventually, when they get older and we place them in charge, they will be given some limited authority. But for now, they must live with being the follower, not the leader. Children (and adults too for that matter) have a tough time learning the subtle difference between these two points. However, it is important for them to learn this lesson.

             Too often, parents take on too much of the responsibility for their children's actions. If a child doesn't come home for dinner on time, don't go searching for them to make them come to dinner, nor keep a plate warm for them. When they come in after the table has been cleared, tell them they missed out, but there is always breakfast in the morning. If a child forgets to do his homework, though you reminded him to do it before going out to play, then he gets the grade that he earned. Give the children reminders, but do not nag them into doing anything (Proverbs 21:9). As a child gets older, make them responsible for their own bedtime and wake up time. Get them an alarm clock, show them how to set it, and tell them they are on their own. Come morning, when they are exhausted from only getting two hours of sleep last night, they will live with the consequences of their own action.

             Learning to be responsible for their own actions give the children the benefit of independent thinking. They will be better able to resist temptation and peer pressure if they know how to decide and weigh the consequences of their actions (I Peter 4:4-5). They will also have a fairer appreciation of their own worth (Galatians 6:3-5). Too often though, we parents do things that prevent our children from learning responsibility. Some parents take a child's responsibility on their own shoulders. For example, when your child comes home with a bad report card, do you say "We have to study harder" or "You need to buckle down"? The former statement implies you hold some responsibility for the bad grade. The later places the responsibility on the student who earned the grade. Some parents try to rescue their children from all harm. When the child fools around and misses their ride to school or some activity, do we drop everything and drive them ourselves? Do you chase after a child's bus when they forgot their homework or lunch? Rescuing a child occasionally is not harmful, but do it too often and it becomes a habit. A child doesn't need to be responsible if they can count on Mom and Dad to fix any problems they may cause. If a child forgets their lunch on a field trip, no harm will come from going without a meal and they will be less likely to walk off without their lunch the next time.

             If spanking and other forms of discipline are done well in the earlier years, then the frequency of disciplining your children should decrease as they get older. You will never totally avoid disciplining, even into the teenage years. While spanking will become less favored over other choices of discipline, it should never be ruled out because "The kids are too old." I firmly believe the punishment should fit the offense and there are several offenses where spanking is the most natural form of punishment. Many things that our children do wrongly carry a natural consequence. These consequences can be used as a punishment. However, some things do not. When there are no natural consequences, then spanking should be used to deter further misbehavior. For example, spanking can be used to punish complaining, defiance, rudeness, or tantrums. God holds us accountable for every idle word that we may speak (Matthew 12:36). Children need to be taught not to be careless with their tongues.

             When the rod needs to be administered, you need to make the punishment just severe enough that they will not want a repeat. As the child gets older, the switch will need to be a bit bigger and the number of swats may need to be increased. When spanking, give slow, measured licks to the bottom. The spacing of the swats makes them more effective. If the swats do not seem to be effective, rather than hitting harder, consider spanking with the pants down.

             As a child gets older, you can use the loss of things and privileges that a child considers important as a form of punishment. However, you need to be careful to make sure the child knows the potential loss before the infraction, not afterwards. If you announce the loss of a privilege after the problem occurs, then the punishment comes across as arbitrarily chosen. Think about our Lord. The punishment awaiting all wrong doers is clearly spelled out far in advance. For example, you can tell a child "If your grades don't improve next quarter, TV time will be limited to one hour per day."

             Making the consequences of a wrongful action be its own punishment can be entertaining for the parent. I have seen some real cleaver punishments over the years. One parent was having problems with a son and daughter fighting with each other. As punishment, she declared that they would have to do everything together for a whole weekend (except private matters, such as the use of the restrooms -- even then, one would have to wait at the door while the other was occupied). It did not totally solve the problem, but their own animosity for each other served as a strong deterrent when they got a concentrated dose of living with each other.

             As we stated before, make sure your expectations of the child's behavior is within the child's capability. Nothing is more frustrating than to be given a goal that you can't possibly hope to achieve. If your child is flunking math, don't tell him he must make an "A" the next quarter. Start easy and work them up to the goal. Tell him that next quarter he must make at least a "C-", once that goal is reach then raise the target a little bit higher.

             For a child to learn responsibility, he must be given responsibilities. People living in a house are expected to contribute to the operation of the household. There are many chores available for any child. Even a five-year-old can set the dinner table, if someone will set the plates and silverware in a place where he can reach. Each child can take their own dishes from the table at the end of a meal and help clear the table when everyone is done. Older children can be taught how to load a dishwasher and to put the clean dishes away in their proper places.

             Children can help with the laundry. Young children can put their own clothes into their drawers. Every child should learn to put their dirty clothes into the clothes' hamper and not to scatter them on the floor of their room. Make it a rule that if clothes are not in the hamper, they don't get washed. For some kids this can provide some motivation, though I know several boys who won't care. Older children can be taught to fold their own clothes. Later, they can learn to sort clothes, load a washer, and transfer wet clothes to the dryer.

             Don't overlook yard work. Most children can rake leaves and grass clippings. If you are into gardening, give an area to each child that is all their own. They can plant and weed their own garden. As they watch their work sprout and develop, they learn the excitement of accomplishing something on their own. Older children can help with shoveling snow, spreading fertilizer, and using a lawnmower with supervision.

             If a child is old enough to get out toys for himself, then he is old enough to put them away when he is done with them. Make it a rule that toys left out at the end of the day are lost for a time. If they can't keep track of their own toys, they have too many toys. Return a collected toy as a reward. It will be like a brand new present again. Children can also dust the furniture within their reach. Older children can sweep, mop, and run a vacuum cleaner. Inspect their work before they are done. If it doesn't meet your standards, show them what is wrong and have them repeat the chore.

             Caring for pets is another way to learn responsibility for someone else. Make the child responsible for feeding and watering their pets. To ensure proper care, make the child's own meal dependent on their animal being feed. If a child refuses to care for their pet, they should lose the right to retain the animal. Don't assume the responsibility for the child. Older children should learn how to wash and groom their pets.

             Remember, our goal is to get our children prepared for living on their own one day. Chores are not ways to get slave labor out of our children. They are opportunities to teach our children how to live on their own one day.

Something to Remember

The child who has everything done for him, everything given to him, and nothing required of him is a deprived child.

Larry Christenson

 

That's a Home

A home is more than just a house, it's more than roof and walls;
It's more than just a place to rest whenever darkness falls.
A home, you'll find, is more than all the boards, the paint, the glass . . .
It's where you'll find some happiness and blessings come to pass.

A home is more than just a house that's built of brick and stone;
It's more than structure beautiful that man may call his own.
Indeed a home is more than laths where plaster has been spread;
It's where your plans are laid and where the Bible's always read.

A home is where there's living, it's where your dreams come true;
It's where the door is open wide for friends to enter through.
Oh, yes, it's where there's fellowship, where hopes will never cease,
A home is more than just a house . . . it's where your soul's at peace.

Fred Toothaker


Age Appropriate Tasks

Below are some suggested tasks that would be appropriate to begin introducing you child to doing. Every child will not be able all these tasks at this age. Some judgment is required on your part as to when your child is mature enough to handle these particular chores.

  • Bathe self
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Clean and straighten closet and chest drawers
  • Polish shoes
  • Fold laundry
  • Hang out clothing to dry
  • Separate dirty clothing into appropriate piles for washing
  • Dust
  • Set the table
  • Bring the food to the table
  • Clean spots off walls
  • Feed pets
  • Clean mirrors
  • Clean TV screen
  • Clean bathtub, shower, and sink
  • Know the differences between cleansers and when they should be used.
  • Empty dishwasher and put away dry dishes
  • Clean combs and brushes
  • Mop floors
  • Use a vacuum cleaner
  • Clean up after pets
  • Take phone messages
  • Use a broom and dust pan
  • Water plants
  • Weed the garden
  • Put away groceries
  • Make simple meals (sandwiches, beverages, cook canned soup, boil an egg)
  • Oil a bicycle
  • Check out books at the library
  • Clean the interior of a car

Your Questions

We have a strong-willed eight-year-old son that occasionally wets his pants (once every two to three months when he's too busy playing and the like). Recently, after a wetting episode, I decided to discipline him by diapering him. My wife felt it was not appropriate, and that I should just increase the severity of the spanking given to him. I thought perhaps, a different method would make more of an impact. Was I out of line?

ANSWER


I want to ask, please, if it's good to take down the pants of a seven-year-old child for a spanking.

ANSWER


I have an 8 year old with behavioral issues. Several times he has said he wants to drown himself. What do I do?

ANSWER

Assuming that the statements are not hyperbole, such as indicating embarrassment by saying "I wish I were dead," then you have a problem on your hand that cannot be ignored. It is not typical for a child to express suicidal thoughts. Something is majorly wrong and you need to seek help immediately.

You stated that your child has behavioral problems, but without details it is impossible to recommend a course of action. What I'm most concerned about is the possibility that he has been placed on an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor), such as Paxil, Zoloft, or Prozac. These products are anti-depressants and are sometimes given in an attempt to stabilize moods. Except for Prozac, they are NOT approved by the FDA for use with children under 18. One of the reasons for the lack of approval is use of these products has been linked to increased suicidal thoughts in children -- doubling the rate from 2% to 4%.

Too often, I have been finding parents willing to use drugs to compensate for poor child rearing practices. There are children with psychological problems that might require drugs, but the vast majority of cases can be handled with proper parenting techniques. You might have to work harder at it than your neighbor down the street, but it can be done and it generally has better long-term results because the child learns to manage himself without a reliance on drugs.


How do I stop my 8 year old from wetting his bed?

ANSWER

In most cases you will not be able to stop the problem; you will only be able to minimize the number of events. For reasons still not fully understood, some children -- mostly boys -- holding urine overnight. Speculations range from difficulty in waking up when the bladder is full, too small of capacity in the bladder to hold a night's worth of urine, to a lack of control over the sphincter muscle that keeps the bladder from emptying while sleeping. Often a child grows out of the need for diapers but then suddenly begins to wet the bed at a later age, such as five. What is known is that just about every child grows out of the problem during adolescence. It could be that the bladder grows larger and is able to hold more, the sphincter muscle might grow and is able to resist more pressure, or it might be that males have a secondary shut-off value related to their sexual organs that kicks into play when they begin to mature. What ever the cause, the problem is physical and steps are needed to live with the problem until he matures enough.

Steps you can take are:

  • Put a plastic cover over the mattress. While it won't stop the problem, it will simplify cleanup. There are also pads that can be purchased that will absorb urine if there is an incident. Since it won't always be in the right position, you will still have cleanup to do, but perhaps not as much.
  • Minimize liquids a few hours before bedtime to decrease the amount of urine produced overnight. Especially avoid sodas and sports drinks that contain salts or caffeine. These act as diuretics, causing the body to shed water it normally stores, thus increasing the amount of urine produced.
  • Sometimes anxiety triggers episodes of bet wetting. The child has trouble falling asleep, and then when they finally do, they sleep so heavily they fail to wake up when they need to use the toilet. Helping them calm down about changes or giving them stability in their lives brings back normalcy.
  • You can purchase an alarm system that goes off when dampness is detected. Most bed wetters are very heavy sleepers, so when the alarm goes off, mom or dad will have to wake him up and take him to the bathroom. After a while, though, the child learns to wake up on his own.
  • For frequent bed wetters, there is a nose spray that your doctor can prescribe that will limit the amount of urine that his body produces overnight. It is sometimes handy to have if he won't be sleeping in his own bed and you want to sure of a dry night. Its effectiveness wears off over time, so it can't be used continually.

Finally, teach your child what to do when accidents do occur: how to change the soiled bedding, how to soak the linens so it won't stain, how to run the washing machine. Again, it won't fix the problem, but it will help reduce your workload and help your child take some control over an embarrassment in his life. Keep in mind that scolding and punishments will not eliminate the problem. It will only make the child feel bad about something he can't control.


What do you do with a whining 5 year old who doesn't like to take a bath?

ANSWER

Children learn to do things which let them do the things they want to do. The simple answer is that you're the parent and he is the child. Don't let the whining change or delay what needs to be done.

Often a child doesn't want to take a bath because it interrupts what he is currently doing. "Hmm, watch Bugs Bunny or take a bath, ... TV / bath ... Oh, mom do I haaaave to take a bath? I don't like baths! ..." Meanwhile, he is continuing to do other things.

Get into a routine, such as play time ends at 7:00, toys need to be picked up by 7:15, bath is next, brush teeth, read a story, and then off to bed. There might be some complaining at first, but if this is always they way things are, they will learn to expect each step. It helps also to make each step fun in and of itself. Don't make bath time only a time to scrub. Given him some time to play in the water so there is something to look forward to in taking a bath.

If your child greets every command to do the next step with a complaint or a groan, put together a ticketing system. Start out with say five "whinny" tickets per day. One ticket is removed each time the child responds to instruction with a complaint. When five tickets are gone, the child spends the remainder of the day in his room (that has no TV, radio, games, etc.). He comes out for bathroom breaks and meals, but then returns to his room. The next day, he starts out with a fresh five tickets. Let him also know that if no tickets are used, he can have a special treat that day. Once the habit is set, reduce the number of tickets or increase the time period from five a day to five a week.

Kids learn very quickly that whining costs and obedience pays.


I love your web site!

Please advise: I have a 5 year old son who has two older sisters. They have all been watching the Disney Channel's Halloween specials.

I just found out how scary they are, at least to a 5 year old! To top things off, we just moved from 800 sq ft to a 3,000 sq ft home. Needless to say, he has many new rooms to get used to including his own! He used to share one with both his sisters for the last year. Before that he always shared one with his younger sister.  

Problem: He is so afraid of ghosts that he pees his pants and won't go anywhere alone. He is even having night wakes, and runs into our bed at night! Help! I tried reasoning and telling him God was watching over him. I explained about his guardian angel and that the stuff on TV is made up.

ANSWER

It is not at all unusual for a child to go through a period of being afraid, especially when faced with something new. I recall being terrified of Star Trek, of all things, when I was young. Watching the reruns later in life I became a fan and wondered what ever was I thinking?

You need to slow the transition down so that he has time to adjust at his own rate. For example, when you are working in the kitchen, have him bring some toys with him that he can play with in the next room where he can see you, if he wants. As he gets comfortable with the fact that you won't disappear on him, he will start exploring on his own the nearby rooms. Don't force it or call attention to it, but you will see his circle gradually widen. It is almost like he has a rope that goes so far. He'll get nervous at the end and then come back to make sure that the other end (you) is still firmly attached. But as he realizes that nothing happens, he will move a bit farther each day.

Do you recall the scene from the movie "The Sound of Music"? A thunderstorm strikes and all the children run to the governess' room. She pulls them out of fear by redirecting their thoughts to nice things. When your son wakes up at night, ask him what is wrong and if you determine it is a needless fear, then calmly tell him that the best thing to do in such situations is to think about what went well that day. Ask him what was his favorite event that happen the day before and talk about why it was so much fun. I did this for my eldest son when he was small. It didn't take more than ten minutes before he say, "I'm okay now," and he fell back to sleep. Within a week he wasn't calling out any more. Why? Because he learned to replace the fear with a mental inventory of nice things. He learned to conquer his fear. This is what you need to give your son: tools to use to conquer needless fears.

Fears spiral out of control when we dwell on them and focus attention on them. They diminish when we think about things outside of ourselves and on non-fearful things. Sometimes we reinforce the fears by acknowledging them. It doesn't help to "prove" there are no ghosts in the closet by looking in the closet. The fact that you looked gives credence to the idea that there might be ghosts there. Sure there are none now, but there might be some later. Even to say that "God is protecting you" at a time of great fear is to hint that there must be something from which I need protection. Instead be honest, laugh and say, "There are no such things as ghosts! Whatever gave you that idea?" If something is particularly bothering them, such as a sound or a shadowy view. Explain to them that in a quiet house, small sounds are more noticeable and dim light makes things look different. Tell them or even show them what they are actually hearing or seeing so they can understand that their perception is off. Then always finish off on pleasant topics before they fall back to sleep.

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:6-9). Notice that anxiety (fear) is replaced with thanksgiving. Thoughts are directed to truth and lovely things, thus allowing God's peace to dwell in a person.

We never allowed our children to come into our bed. If they came, we took them back to their room and talked there. If they called out, we would go to them to find out what was wrong. Thus they learned to receive comfort in their own bedroom, and mom and dad retained a private area of their own.


If a child lies about something, but eventually tells the truth under pressure, should she be punished for not telling the truth in the first place, or will that just encourage her to persist in the lie the next time?  It seems to me we should be teaching them that the right thing to do is tell the truth immediately.  Any other pattern equals deception.  Right? 

ANSWER

Lying is wrong and should be punished. When a child is caught, but doesn't admit to wrong doing, the punishment is severe. When a child admits a lie, then the punishment is reduced. (See God's treatment of David in II Samuel 12:7-14 and notice the reduction in terms when David admitted he had sinned.)

Punishing a wrong doing is not "encouragement" to persist in wrong doing. That is a modern-day myth that actually has no foundation in reality. What encourages wrong doing is when a child gets away with wrong doing, either by lack of discovery or by the wrong being ignored when it is discovered (Ecclesiastes 8:11). It creates a gambler's streak where a person contemplates wrong and starts to think well may be this time I'll get away with it again.

ANSWER from a sister in Christ

We went through this awhile ago with our son and it was really hard on me.  I was unprepared for how much it hurt when he would look me straight in the eye and lie to me.  I talked to him about what a big deal it was and we got out the Bible, but it didn't stop.  I was unsure of how to discipline him, because he would get really upset and finally burst out with the truth through the tears and I was just beside myself.  What I decided to do, after much prayer and thought on the subject, was to discipline for every lie.  We usually reserve spanking for outright defiance, and I thought that lying fell in this category.  Sometimes, I was unsure that it was the right thing to do because the truth always came out when he was pressed for it.  I spanked him for every lie, no matter how small.  After I did this, I made sure that we talked about it in great detail and I explained why it had to be this way and what he could have done differently.  I tried to explain to him that although he might have to be disciplined even when he tells me the truth about something, I would be proud of him and God would be happy with him for telling the truth.  I also told him that he would feel much better about himself for doing the right thing.  This went on for awhile, until one day his little sister started crying when they were in the play room together.  I asked him what had happened and I come to expect him to lie about it.  He took a deep breathe and said, " I don't know."  I knew it was a lie, but before I could even respond to him, he hung his head and said, "That's not true. That's a lie. I was throwing toys out of the toy box and I accidentally hit her with one. I didn't do it on purpose, but I made her cry."  I was so happy.  I made him apologize to his sister and then I gave him the biggest hug and told him how proud I was that he told me the truth.  We had quite a moment and he was so proud of himself.  It was a hard one on him and me, but I think that we have passed it.  I believe that he tells me the truth now and I no longer hate to ask him a question for the fear that the answer will be a lie.  I am just hoping that this will help you a little.  It is hard to discipline, when they are already upset, but it is necessary in this situation, I think.  I just wanted you to know that you are not alone on this.  It's a hard one.  I know, because I've been there.

ANSWER from a sister in Christ

I just wanted to add a couple thoughts.  One is by way of encouragement.  It has been our experience with all six of our normal seven children (one is mentally retarded, so it's not quite the same), that children typically begin lying by age four.  It's a normal developmental thing, which is not to say that it shouldn't be punished, it should, and quite consistently, or it becomes a much more serious problem. 

I have a theory about this: When they are younger children are not aware that their parents cannot see everything they can. We see this when they are looking at a book and tell us to look at the picture, but they are holding the book so only they can see it.  At some point, they begin to understand that their parents do not see and know everything, and this is fascinating to them.  They experiment with it, like a child poking his finger through a hole in a sweater.  Quite often at this stage their lies don't even make sense; it's just silly to lie about the things they lie about.  The more they get away with it, the more they lie, and then they begin to fully realize the possibilities of deception and their lies become more specific and purposeful.  If this doesn't get dealt with every single time, it becomes habitual. 

Anyway, that's just my theory. I know quite often people are devastated when their children begin telling lies, sure that they've done something wrong to cause this.  So I just wanted to offer that as encouragement: you don't have to have done anything wrong for your children to have begun lying.  They will, nearly all of them, begin by age four, no matter what their parenting has been.  It must be dealt with, of course, it just needn't bring to mind visions of a lifetime of criminal activity and ruin for the child, which is how I felt the first time I realized I was being deceived by my child.

We had this problem with our oldest because I couldn't believe she would really lie to me.  I should have caught on sooner than I did, but I was naive, so I let her get away with it much longer than I should have.  I had to learn to discipline for lying every single time, no matter what.  I did make a mistake once or twice and did not believe her when she was telling the truth, but this was a marvelous teaching tool. I pointed out that formerly I had always believed everything she said, but because she had started lying, I no longer could, and that people who had told lies could not blame anybody but themselves when they were not believed.  We had a good long talk about reputation, about trustworthiness, about being the sort of person who could always be believed.  It was hard, but by the time she was eight I could once again believe everything she said.  She is now an extremely trustworthy and reliable adult who loathes dishonesty.  Nobody ever doubts her because she is so honest.

I will add that I have witnessed ongoing dishonesty in families where the children are disciplined harshly and erratically; the sort where they are never sure whether they will be punished for something or not.  It's easier for them to lie to take the gamble that today Dad is in a bad mood and will punish for something he laughed at yesterday.  Consistency is so important, and I think parents who make the cost of telling the truth higher than the cost of lying make a grave mistake.


I think for Christians, we must be careful not to depend on things of the world to do for us what we have been given the ability by God to do.  And yet we must sometimes depend on others and other things to aid us in living our life to glorify Him.  Even Timothy was told to "take a little wine," right?  In the end, it's one of those "situation" answers, as you point out.

I am a tired mother with a very overactive 6 year old, and though I do not want to rely on drugs to calm him, I'm forced to consider it, if this is indeed a problem that might be out of his hands and ours.  It is a situation which I must deal with personally, and I know that, since no one else can really know all the details of our situation, it would be hard to answer the question for us.  We will continue praying and fasting to find the answer for our son, and I pray you will continue to be available to give good Bible answers to those who ask you.

ANSWER:

Over the years, I have dealt with several "overactive" boys. Currently my next door neighbor and a member of the church where I preach has a boy whom I laughingly refer to as the Dennis the Menace poster child. He never intentionally does anything bad, but there is never a dull moment around him. His mother states that she was a hyperactive child and this is payback time. They chose to not use drugs in his case, though I'm positive she could have gotten them with no problem. But she is a nurse and realizes that the same drugs that calms a child also dulls the mind. He is turning out to be a brilliant boy, as most overactive boys are, but first everyone around will need to survive his childhood.

One of the best advice that I can give you, whether you chose medication or not, is to get your son involved in as much activity as you can. Wear him out each day. The physical activity actually causes a calming side-effect. One time the neighbor boy was over our house, as he often is, and was literally bouncing around and talking at hyperspeed. My wife asked him if he ever ran around the block. "Sure!" How many times do you think you could go? "A dozen easily." Why, she said, I find that hard to believe. I guess you'll have to prove it to me sometime. And off he went. Come round ten he was dragging, but he made it and quietly played video games with my sons for the next few hours.

At the Tae Kwon Do place that I teach, a grandmother has a hyperactive granddaughter. She got her black belt by the age of nine. She is also involved in soccer, baseball, dance, and swimming. She is a sweet thing, but it is the sports that gives her an outlet for her energy.

Second, since he is physically active, get rid of television and video games. These things engage the mind, but they don't engage the body. An overactive boy needs to be doing things. Without the distraction of a TV, he is more likely to find outlets that involve activity.

Third, uncontrolled energy is destructive, so find things he is interested in that gives him constructive outlets for his energy. If he likes tinkering get him things to build, he might have the makings of a fine carpenter, mechanic, or engineer. If he likes plants, put him in charge of a large garden. He might be mowing all the lawns in the neighborhood when he is a teen. If he likes animals, he might be watching everyone's pets while they are on vacation and walking dogs for the elderly ladies down the street.

The one most worn out is mom because the activity seems to never end, but enjoy the days while you can and watch him grow into a fine young man. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).


My 6 (almost 7) year old daughter is constantly angry. Anytime we tell her no, or she doesn't get her way, she gets this "angry face" and stomps around and pouts, or runs to her room to have a fit. I don't give in to her when she behaves this way, so I figured she'd realize it doesn't help and stop the behavior. This isn't the case. It's getting to the point that she is almost always angry, and its upsetting to see her like this all the time. Any advice would be appreciated.

ANSWER:

Children make displays like this because they perceive a benefit. Either it makes them feel they have some control over the situation or it gains them something, such as sympathy, delays in doing what was asked, or even getting out of doing what was asked. What you need to do is make it more beneficial for her to not be angry. Thus, get three pieces of paper and put smiley faces on each one. Put them on the refrigerator and tell her that you don't like it when she acts angry all the time, so you decided that if she can manage to not pout for a whole day you will give her (name a favored treat) at the end of the day. However, if she uses up her three tickets she won't get the treat.

Each time she throws a fit, simply remove a ticket, but otherwise ignore her tantrum. Also make sure that she does what is asked whether she is angry or not. If she manages to have at least one ticket left, make a big deal of how proud you are of her and give her the treat. Do this for at least two weeks to establish a better habit. You can then lower the number of tickets to two or increase the time to earn a treat, such as seven tickets over a week's time frame.

Comment from a sister in Christ:

An often used story is one of a man who was robbed. He said that he was thankful for several things: One, that he was not home when it happened. Two, that he did not have much of value to be taken. And three that he was the robbery victim, not the robber.

I'm sure it is told in a better way than that, but I do remember it. We call it the "Pollyanna attitude" around here. When my children start to complain, I will often ask them to name several things about a given situation for which they are thankful. For example, we were recently playing at a play area with some out-of-town company. My daughter was bored because it was really a toddler park. So I asked her name several things for which she was thankful. She decided she was thankful that she wasn't home doing chores, that she did enjoy playing with a cute little girl and that she liked her new outfit. Later, at lunch, she again started to grumble because chicken nuggets were not on the Mexican menu. I asked her to think of something to be thankful for. She said "You're just trying to trick me!" In a way, it is a "trick" to keep a positive attitude despite our circumstances.


I am once again in need of advice from those of you that have been at this longer than I.  I am having a problem with my 7 year old son.  He is completing his chores and his school work, but I am troubled by his attitude.  I feel like I have to push him through his day.  Everything that I ask him to do is met with an "Aww man,"  or something of that sort.  He is not happy about any chores or schoolwork that is requested of him.I need any advice I can get on this.  I am all out of ideas.  I don't want to raise a lazy child with a bad attitude.

ANSWER:

Though unintentional, we often get what we allow to exist. It doesn't mean grumbling won't exist, but like other problems, it needs to be met with an immediate consequence. Being forced to do chores is exactly what is being grumbled against. Doing those chores isn't a consequence to the grumbling -- something additional needs to be added. The ladies below have some excellent ideas.

Comment from a sister in Christ:

We’ve been through that, too.  (Actually, we go back there from time to time)

We used a boot camp approach for awhile.  Every, “aww man” resulted in an immediate, “Drop and give me ten push-ups.”  Once they stood back up, I’d repeat the command for a proper “Yes ma’am” response.  Sometimes I’d also tell them that since they clearly needed practice in giving the respectful response, we’d have to rehearse.  I’d send my son to sit back down and call him.  He’d hop up with a "yes ma’am" and start toward whatever task was set before him.  Then I’d stop him, have him sit back down, and repeat the process 5 or 10 times. 

The immediate consequences tended to stick better than a drawn-out consequence.  If I took away video games or cartoons or whatever, he wouldn’t feel the loss until much later after the offense.

Comment from a sister in Christ:

I have a rule with my kids that they are not allowed to complain.  Saying "aw, man" is complaining.  If mine complain, they get an extra job or a spanking.  We don't usually have much complaining.  I think this helps the kids get an early start at being less complaining as adults.  Not to say that I never complain myself, but it is something we are all trying keep at bay.  You are right in explaining why we need to do these jobs, but eventually it needs to be automatic that he not complain. Immediate correction every time is necessary in my opinion. 

Comment from a sister in Christ:

Along this line of thinking we do not allow our kids or others with us to say, “We’re bored.”  This is a state you put yourself into.  I am not responsible for entertaining you.  Those words spoken by a child in my earshot perks my ears and any child who hears it and sees that I’ve heard it will immediately try to rectify the situation by convincing said child he didn’t really mean to say that statement and will do all in their power to ‘cover up’ such a statement but, to no avail.  I believe those words to mean " I need a job to do." (Roughly translated.)  So that’s what I provide;  happily!  I don’t normally hear those words. 


I am having trouble with my daughter not drinking enough fluids.  She gets really constipated and we all suffer for it.
She may be in physical pain, but it messes with our bath and bed times. She was on the toilet for 45 minutes last night.
She also makes us late for church, school, etc. I hate to see her in pain, but I am starting to just not feel sorry for her.

I've tried fruity water, fun bottles, I've talked to her, let her read about it for herself, taken away privileges, sent her to bed earlier. I am really close to spanking her. Please advise.

Can I give her some herbs or pills that would make her thirsty?

First, no child should be punished for what is naturally occurring. I have a brother who used cause my mother no end of concern because he had infrequent bowel movements. In the end, the conclusion was this was just the way his body worked. So please, don't take your daughter's personal problem as a strike against you. This is something she is having trouble dealing with and you should be helping her find ways to deal with the problem.

Second, the amount of fluids a person takes in is only one factor in the possible causes of constipation. See: Constipation for more details. Other possible causes are that there is not enough fiber in the diet, an allergy to milk, not enough physical exercise, or even a disease.

So, while trying to find a cause and solution to the problem, you can help come up with schemes to make living with the problem more bearable, such as reminders to use the rest room well in advance of deadlines. Try experimenting with changes in diet to see if it helps. Increase the fiber (oatmeal for breakfast), or eliminate milk for a few weeks, or have a daily walk for the week. See if some changes will make life easier for her.