Lies: I Really Want to Believe You, But….

Dear Mr. Dad, I have a real problem with my ten-year-old daughter: Just about everything she says is a lie. If she tells me she’s texting a girl friend from school, it’s probably a boy. If I ask whether she’s cleaned her room, she’ll look me straight in the eye and tell me Yes, even though I know (and she knows I know) that she didn’t lift a finger. If I were to ask her if grass is green, she’d probably tell me it isn’t. Why is she doing this and how can we get her to stop?

A: Telling lies is a part of human nature, and it starts very early in life. A study on lying done at Toronto University in Canada found that about 20% of two-year-olds lie, but by age four, 90% were doing it. And the lying doesn’t stop when we grow up. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that 60% of adults can’t make it through a simple 10-minute conversation without telling at least one lie (in fact, people in the study told an average of three lies in that 10-minute period).

Lying is a learned behavior. When we’re very young, we look at the adults in our lives as all-powerful and all-knowing. Trying out a lie—and getting away with it—shows us that people can’t read our minds. As we get older, we discover that lying can sometimes get us out of trouble and may even help us avoid getting punished. The more successful the lies, the more often they’ll be told.

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Keep on Scrapping—Just Do It Right

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have been fighting a lot for the past few months. I know arguments are a pretty normal part of a relationship, but I’m concerned that our battles are starting to affect our two kids, ages 4 and 6. Both of them have been behaving differently lately—acting out, having trouble sleeping, and even squabbling between themselves much more than we used to. I can’t help but think that our arguments are rubbing off on them somehow. How can we stop our fighting and how do we reverse the damage I’m sure we’ve already done?
A: You’re absolutely right about two things: First, fighting with your spouse is perfectly normal. Frankly, I’d be pretty suspicious of any relationship that didn’t have its ups and downs. Not letting the sparks fly once in a while is a good indicator that one or both partners are feeling apathetic and would be better off apart. Second, children are extremely sensitive to the emotions of the adults around them, and the fight s they’re witnessing are almost certainly affecting your kids—probably more than you know. There’s a right way—and lots of wrong ways—to fight. Here’s what you need to know.

Talking about Death + Teen Drivers

Joseph Primo, author of What Do We Tell the Children?
Topic:
Talking to kids about death and dying.
Issues: Learning to help kids deal with the “how” and “why” of death and loss; the importance of honest communication; giving kids coping skills they’ll be able to use throughout their lives.

Tim Hollister, author of Not So Fast.
Topic:
Parenting your teen through the dangers of driving
Issues: How brain development affects driving; what driver’s ed doesn’t produce safe drivers; how and why to prepare a “flight plan” for each drive before handing over the keys; how an when to say no.

Guys and Dolls—Playmates or Enemies?

Dear Mr. Dad, I have an eight-year-old son who loves sports and video games and does lots of other “boy” things. But he also likes to play with dolls—really girly ones. Does that mean he’s gay? Is there a way to tell this early on? And if he is gay, what should we do?

A: Have you ever noticed that there’s something of a boy-girl double standard? When a girl climbs trees, refuses to wear dresses, plays with trucks, and tears the heads off her Barbies like my oldest daughter did, no one worries about whether she’s gay. In fact, being a Tom-boy is seen as kind of cool. But when boys buck traditional gender roles, people start to panic.

So let’s get this out of the way right up front: your son is too young to have discovered his sexual orientation. Could be that he just likes dolls and is giving his imagination a workout. The fact that he plays with dolls doesn’t mean that he’s gay (neither would singing show tunes or having tea parties) any more than wresting or showing an interest in hunting or monster trucks would mean that he’s straight. There are plenty of heterosexual men who played with dolls when they were kids, and plenty of guys with daughters (myself included) who’ve discovered that playing with dolls can be a lot of fun. It’s even more fun when the daughters join in.
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Are Men Becoming the New Women?

Dear Mr. Dad: A few days ago, I was talking to my 11-year old son about needing to take responsibility for his behavior, and I told him to “Man up.” I started thinking about that phrase and wondered about all the gender stereotyping we do without even realizing it. Are expressions like Man up harmless parts of the language?

A: You’re right. We do use a lot of sex stereotypes in our everyday speech, most of the time without realizing it. Sometimes even the most gender-neutral phrases carry a strong stereotyped message. In most cases, the words are harmless, but other times they’re dangerous.
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Fighting in front of the Kids

My wife and I-like most couples-have our share of disagreements on how to parent. One of the things we’ve been disagreeing on lately is whether or not it’s okay to fight in front of the kids. I think it will teach our children how to compromise. My wife thinks it will scar them for life. What do you think?

Parenting approaches are the source of just about as many marital spats as money and division of labor. Ideally, you should avoid having huge fights in front of your children. Kids are scared and confused when their parents yell at each other, and researchers have found that the angrier the parents, the more distressed the children.
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