What to Do About Lying

Source: Dr. Phelan’s Blog (ParentMagic)

What to Do About Lying
A primary rule for parents when dealing with lying is don’t badger or corner children! Imagine you give a child the third degree about whether or not he has homework. He denies it six times and finally, after your seventh question, he admits that he has some. What has happened? By this time, of course, you are furious. More important, however, you also have given your child six times to practice lying! You may think to yourself, “Sooner or later he’ll realize he can’t fool me and he’ll give up.” Wrong. Many children will continue to take the easy way out: they will simply attempt to become better liars.

Either You Know the Truth or You Don’t
Look at it this way: you either know the truth or you don’t. If you don’t know what is going on, ask once and don’t badger. It’s a good idea here not to ask “impulsively”. Many kids simply respond back impulsively. They lie, but their real desire is just to end the conversation, get rid of you, and stay out of trouble.

If you are going to ask, you might say something like, “I want you to tell me the story of what happened, but not right now. Think about it a while and we’ll talk in fifteen minutes.” If he tells you the story and you find out later that the child lied, punish him for whatever the offense was as well as for the lie. No lectures or tantrums. Deal with the problem and try to fix things—as much as you can— so that lying does not seem necessary to the child.

If you do know what has happened, tell him what you know and deal with it. If he has done something wrong that you know about, simply punish him reasonably for that and end the conversation with, “I’m sure you’ll do better next time.”

Keep Your Perspective
Some parents still prefer to ask a child what happened—even when they already know what it was. This is OK if you do it right. You should say something like, “I got a call from the school today about an incident at lunch. I’m going to ask you to tell me the story, but not right now. I want you to think about it for a while, and then when you’re ready you can tell me, but remember I already pretty much know what happened.”

Lying is not good, but it certainly isn’t the end of the world either. It happens from time to time. It doesn’t mean that your kids don’t love you or that they are bound to grow up to become professional criminals. Over the years, however, frequent emotional overreactions on your part —combined with badgering and cornering— can produce an Accomplished Liar.

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Avoid The Talk‐Persuade‐Argue‐Yell‐Hit Syndrome

Source: ParentMagic Newsletter, Jan 2010

Many adults enter parenthood with visions of “picture perfect” children. They imagine a warm and loving home, as well as respectful and polite kids, all eagerly doing whatever is asked with only an occasional explanation from Mom or Dad.

As a veteran parent, you know this is not reality. But many parents have the idea that kids are just smaller versions of adults: reasonable and unselfish. This is the “Little Adult Assumption.” Moms and Dads who embrace this myth often prefer the “modern method” of discipline—talking and reasoning. Unfortunately, many times words and reasons alone prove unsuccessful. Sometimes they have no impact at all, and then parent and child fall into the trap known as the Talk‐Persuade‐Argue‐Yell‐Hit Syndrome.

This tragic sequence results from the very best of parental intentions. Your child is doing something you don’t like. You tell her to stop. She continues her misbehavior, so you try persuading her to see things your way. When persuasion fails, you start arguing. When arguing is not successful, you yell. Yelling fails, so—feeling there is nothing left to do— some parents turn to hitting. The two biggest parenting mistakes—too much talking and too much emotion—trigger the Talk‐Persuade‐Argue‐Yell‐Hit Syndrome.

Read More »

Do Kids Really Want Limits?

Source: ParentMagic Newsletter, Dec 2009

This idea that children really want limits isn’t completely true. It is true, of course, that in the long run youngsters are more comfortable in a house where parents have clear, reasonable rules and enforce them consistently and fairly. Under these circumstances the kids are better off whether or not they realize the connection between their parents’ behavior and their own well being. In such a home, in addition to feeling cozy, warm and comfortable, children are also developing the critical skill of frustration tolerance.

Frustration tolerance is the ability to put up with discomfort or pain now in order to achieve some more important future objective. It’s a beautiful evening and I would like to trash this math homework, but I’d also like to get at least a B in the course. I’d like to slug my brother, but I don’t want to upset my mother and be grounded. I’d like another piece of lemon meringue pie, but I don’t want to get fat. Successful adults learned high frustration tolerance (HFT) when they were kids.

Many unsuccessful adults, however, still show significant amounts of low frustration tolerance (LFT). They can’t wait, so they run the yellow light. They purchase three new, unnecessary DVDs when their credit card is already overloaded. They watch the new show on TV instead of going to the gym to workout. LFT may be one of the fastest routes to failure as an adult.


Kids are just kids, so naturally they start out at the LFT point. At any one moment, children want what they want, and they can be angry and disappointed if they don’t get it. Kids do not welcome or enjoy adult‐imposed limits. As a result, youngsters’ frustration frequently leads to trouble with parents in the form of testing and manipulation.

But learning to tolerate—with a little parental assistance—both limits and frustration is a normal and necessary part of growing up. Over the years, most children learn and internalize three important lessons about frustration. First of all, not getting what you want is a regular occurrence in life; you will drive yourself crazy if you overreact to everything that goes wrong. Second, being frustrated is not the end of the world; the feeling always passes. And third, getting better and better at enduring as well as managing life’s disappointments PAYS BIG DIVIDENDS.

Keep that in mind next time you have to say “No” to your kids.


ParentMagic Newsletter
ParentMagic Inc
800 Roosevelt Rd
Glen Ellyn IL 60137


What does it take to raise competent, good‐natured children who can feel a healthy respect for themselves? Research has shown over and over that good parenting involves two basic components. One will not surprise you, but the other one may catch you off guard.

We are very aware today that children are born with different personalities and temperaments that are not created by their parents. Nevertheless, parents do make a big difference, and here in the United States we need to get back on track regarding what children’s self‐esteem is really all about.

What are the two parenting ingredients that make for good self‐esteem? First, good parents are warm and sensitive to a child’s needs. They understand their child’s positive as well as negative feelings. They are comforting in times of crisis and pain, as well as appreciative in times of triumph and accomplishment. They are supportive of a child’s individuality and encourage his or her growing independence.”

That’s no big news flash.


What we often overlook, though, is that good parents are also demanding. They clearly communicate high—but not unrealistic—expectations for their children’s behavior. Good behavior and achievements are appreciated and reinforced when they occur. When the kids act up, on the other hand, Mom and Dad respond with firm limits, but not with fits of temper or righteous indignation. After a child makes a mistake, the parents’ message is, ‘I’m sure you’ll do better next time.'”

Parents whose child‐rearing philosophy involves both warmth and “demandingness” tend to produce competent children. There are of course no guarantees, but their kids will have a better chance of becoming more self-reliant, self-controlled and happier. They will have a better chance of being accepted and well liked by their peers, and of having a sense of belonging.

Sometimes, though, parents have blinders on. We’re so busy, we don’t have time—or take the time—to do some of the things that will really foster self-esteem. Such as what? Such as helping our children develop social skills and academic and physical competence. Your kids’ self-esteem is ultimately going to be earned or not earned in the real world—not in a fantasy world.


The demanding part of the parenting equation implies not only that parents ask more of their kids, but also that parents ask more of themselves. We often follow the misguided belief that self-esteem and creativity are both higher when children can ‘do their own thing’ and when they are not exposed to external limits imposed by adults.

On the contrary, kids feel better about themselves and perform better, creatively and otherwise, when they learn the boundaries for reasonable behavior. The world has all kinds of limits and rules, and parents are the ones who introduce children to life’s boundaries. “How parents establish rules and set limits—or fail to set limits—has a tremendous effect on the self‐esteem of a child. Your kids may not like all the rules and regulations you must teach them, but if they don’t recognize and work within these constraints, they will get hurt badly.

However, not all self-esteem building strategies involve unpleasant or hard work. One of the best “tactics” for encouraging healthy self-respect in children is fun. We need to take time with our kids. Keep in mind that one-on-one time having fun together is one of the most potent self-esteem builders. That’s one parent with one child. Kids really like having a parent all to themselves.

What is the quickest and easiest way to learn a warm and demanding parenting approach? The program, 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, embodies what warm and demanding parenting is all about. 1-2-3 Magic’s three parenting steps, Controlling Obnoxious Behavior, Encouraging Good Behavior, and Strengthening Your Relationship With Your Child, require that parents be supportive and nurturing while at the same time they are expecting constructive behavior as well as hard work from their kids.


Healthy self-esteem is based on four elements:

1. Good relationships with other people
2. Competence in work and self-management
3. Physical skills and caring for one’s body
4. Character: courage, effort, following the rules and concern for others

Guilt vs Anger Problem

Source: ParentMagic Newsletter

A very common and very upsetting problem arises in the course of many relationships, such as husband/wife or parent/child. It occurs when one person offers another person the choice of feeling angry or feeling guilty. This problem then involves an interaction between two testing tactics: Intimidation and Martyrdom.

Here’s how it goes: 13 year old Kristina walks into the room where her father is busy watching his favorite football team. With an innocent question, Kristina offers her father the choice of whether he wants to be angry or guilty:

“Dad, can you drive me to Jenny’s?”
“Kristina, that’s clear across town.”
“It will only take forty minutes.”
“You know, you pick the worst times to ask me for rides.”
“Your stupid football’s more important, huh?”
“Why the heck can’t you ever plan ahead?”
“You never do anything with me anyway.”
“OK, OK. Let’s move before the darn game is over.”
“No, hate to ruin your day. Thanks anyway—I’ll just stay home!”

When his daughter asks him for a ride, Dad can either take her, or feel resentful, or he can refuse, and feel guilty. The choice is clear; what to do isn’t.


Whatever the reason, you often wind up with two people sort of jockeying for position, trying to take the angry position and at the same time put the other person in the guilty role. When Dad says, “You pick the worst times…,” or, “OK, OK. Let’s move before the game is over,” he is saying, “I’ll be angry and you be guilty.” But Kristina isn’t about to stand for this so she comes back with, “Your stupid football is more important,” and “I’ll just stay home.” She, in other words, is now saying, “No way buster I’ll be angry, you be guilty.” If she does stay home, she may become the official winner of this match: she can be angry and Dad will feel guilty.

You’re probably thinking. “This sounds pretty stupid.” It is, but it happens a lot. Isn’t there a more rational solution than two people trying to guilt each other to death? Certainly it would be better to negotiate (or to plan ahead). Perhaps Dad could have responded by saying, “I can take you if you can hold on till halftime,” or something like that.

If you are the parent on the receiving end of a spontaneous request like the one above, or in some other situation that might involve this kind of jockeying, your best bet is to say “No”, or make a reasonable counter offer. Then—if your child is still unhappy—live with the guilt if you have to, and avoid coming back with intimidation to eradicate your discomfort.

Reality Check For Parents

Source: ParentMagic Newsletter

A basic principle of good discipline requires that parents, teachers and other caretakers have realistic expectations of what children are capable of doing. It is obviously going to be crippling to self‐esteem if the child is not ready to do all the things the parents expect. You don’t try to toilet train a twelve‐month‐old, expect a four‐year‐old to know his multiplication tables, hope that your seven‐year‐old son and his four‐year‐old sister will stop fighting for good, or punish your 3‐year‐old daughter because she can’t clean up her room.

Developmentally inappropriate expectations like these are frequent problems. Parents also need to be aware, however, of some other common, unrealistic expectations that can frequently cause trouble. Here are a few:

True or False?

Kids are naturally cooperative and unselfish.
The younger they are, the more selfish children are. The cute little peanuts are primarily out for themselves, and they don’t like it when you cross them. When they get what they want they are fun, affectionate and delightful. When they don’t get what they want, crying, screaming, whining and tantrums can be the order of the day. Don’t hold it against them—that’s just the way little kids are.

Kids are basically rational.
Kids in the beginning are more emotional and less rational. They are not little adults. Their ability to reason develops slowly, though aggressively. Often when they’re little (and often when they’re teens, too), even five rational explanations won’t get the job done in a frustrating situation.

I should only have to tell them once.
Discipline means training, and training means repetition. What they’re learning has an intellectual aspect to it, but it also involves increasing the emotional skill of tolerating frustration. Kids get the message when you’ve taught them over and over.
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