As a parent, I know one of the worst things is unwanted parenting advice. As such, it’s generally a topic of conversation I avoid like the plague — even in my blog when it’s directed at nobody in particular.
But this has been bugging me, so just this once I will offer my opinion on something: You shouldn’t lie to your kids. By all means be selective with what you explain to them, simplify concepts, tell them you’ll explain something later/when they’re older, but don’t lie. They’re smart, they’ll figure it out one day.
And especially, don’t lie when disciplining them. Whatever you do, don’t threaten them with something you’re not prepared to follow-through on. If you do, they’ll soon know exactly how to play you, to get what they want, and how to behave the way they want with impunity.
Every so often, I’ll see someone breaking this rule. Example: last week on a train, a mum was telling her young son not to run around the carriage. The kid obviously wanted to know why. She could have just said she wanted to keep an eye on him, or whatever, but she made up some lame excuse which patently wasn’t true. (I wish I could remember precisely what it was now). The kid obviously picked up that, and queried it. I didn’t hear it all, but an argument ensued, at some point she got fed-up with the backchat and threatened to smack him.
Smacking, of course, is severely out of fashion in many western countries. I don’t know how many people do it nowadays, but I’ve never done it. Apart from the fact that I consider it to be heading down the slippery slope of violence towards your children, I simply don’t think it works. Time-out has always been my preferred option, at least at home. Positive re-inforcement (aka bribes) and their withdrawal is also a good one.
Would this mother smack her kid publically on a train, probably leading to yet more noise?
No. She didn’t do it. The kid carried on playing up. I bet he does that all the time. Of course I’m not saying she should have smacked him; I’m saying she never should have threatened it in the first place.
A guy I used to work with said a couple he knew always had problems with their kids for the same reason. But when he went to babysit, the kids knew he wouldn’t take any crap. They knew that “No TV” meant “No TV” for the rest of the evening, rather than just the next five minutes until the parents’ will was broken. And so they behaved well for him.
I’ve tried never to tell my kids something I wouldn’t hold them to. A ban from the computer will be enforced. Time-out for X minutes (X = age in years + 1) is timed properly, generally using the microwave countdown timer.
And as they grow older, they know what’s expected of them, and it’s becoming steadily rarer that they even need telling off.
That’s my opinion. Your mileage my vary.