When the kids are just too busy

Some time ago, parents sought me out and indicated they very much wanted my assistance with their daughter. But when it came time to schedule an appointment, I had to contend with step-dancing on Mondays, piano lessons on Tuesdays, pottery class on Thursdays with sleepovers on Fridays. Barely eeking out C’s, the girl informed me that she did her homework in the car on the way to her various activities. Clearly too muchness was part of her problem.

This reminds me of the proverbial kid in the candy store who wants everything. Parents wouldn’t dream of permitting him/her to have it all. “You’ll get sick!  Just pick one or two pieces.” But when it comes to helping children reach their full potential, parents often throw this sound thinking out the window.

Emotionally, children need meaningful relationships with their parents — not as cab drivers, but as moms and dads.  Family life and school need to be their top priorities.

When children bombard you with the ”I wants,” help them grow up by having them prioritize and select a couple activities (for preadolescents) – with one preferably on the weekend.  Then, after homework, plan simple family activities — cooking dinner together, family movie night, a hike in our lovely MetroParks, a trip to the public library.

Three of these examples allow for talking, but don’t jump in there and pepper your child with questions. Let him/her take the lead and practice good listening. Remember:  A relationship with you is much more important than any extracurricular activity.

“But mom, Hannah gets to take tap, ballet and art classes too.”

“Every family has their priorities and this is just right for us.”

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The forgetful child and feeling forgotten

As a child psychoanalyst, I provide consultation services to tutors who work with children who have learning troubles.  My job is to help them understand that behavior is a meaningful communication. Children can’t always tell you how they’re feeling; they let their behavior do the talking.

Recently a tutor reported that a boy showed up for class without his school supplies. So, the tutor gave him a pencil and paper only to learn that he “forgot them somewhere” by second period. This “forgetting” happened over and over again.

So, what was the boy really saying to his tutor? Was he feeling forgotten?

Sometimes children believe their parents get so busy during the day with work or, worse yet, taking care of younger siblings, that they forget all about them. Of course, as is true of all behavior problems, this is just one possibility. However, it’s worth exploring.

You can do it by saying something like this:

“You seem to be forgetting a lot lately. I wonder if you ever feel forgotten. Maybe you think I get so busy while you’re at school that I don’t think about you.”

Then see what he/she says. If this is the issue, encourage your child to elaborate as much as he/she can and then acknowledge, “What a sad thought that you’re feeling forgotten.  So, how can I help you know that I keep you in mind?”

This could be something simple like putting a note in your child’s lunch: “I just wanted you to know I will be thinking about you. Love, Mom.” Or maybe you could put a picture of you and your child in his backpack with a note that says, “When you get home tonight, I’ll be so glad to hear about your school day.” Often these little reminders can be quite helpful to children who worry about being forgotten.

Image courtesy of ImageryMajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Addressing lying in older children

Pretend your son and his friend are playing basketball in the driveway. When his friend hits at long range and proceeds to celebrate, your son gets angry and hurls the ball at him. When you intervene he insists he didn’t do what you just witnessed through the window.

Now what?

When it’s obvious a child is lying, tell him that you (or another witness) saw him do what he denies. Then you must deal with the misbehavior and the lie.

First and foremost, deal with the misbehavior.

Whenever possible, give your child the opportunity to undo what he has done; in this situation that would be to offer an apology. Then impose a reasonable punishment: “You’re showing me that you can’t play basketball safely.”

“No, I can! I promise I can.”

“We’ll try again later, but for now we’re going to stop.”

In private, talk about what occurred, including the fact that your son lied to you.

If lying is an ongoing problem, counseling is advisable. If this is more of an isolated incident, discuss the importance of being honest — that lying is wrong; others won’t like him if he lies; and they won’t trust his word.

Inquire as to whether he has ever been lied to and how it made him feel.

In this instance, as well as all others, you see how very important parental example is. Try not to lie to your child, and always keep your promises – or explain why if you can’t.

 Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net