How to Discipline Children- A Guest Post By Dr. Richard Hoffman
A recent survey showed that 88% of American parents are too permissive, 12% are too abusive, and 80% have no idea how to monitor their children’s Facebook, Twitter, and E-mail accounts, and 50% don’t know how to check phone sent text messages. In fact 60% of all parents report that their children do not permit them to check their cell phone’s call history or text message incoming and sent messages.
Is your teen engaging in elicit text messages with a DailySkew co-founder?
How did society come to this?
Unfortunately the answer to that question is beyond the scope of this article. However let me lay down some main points about the current state of the problems with disciplining your child in America in 2011:
- First, it is not debatable that a Facebook account, personal e-mail, and a cell phone are loaded guns in the hands of a kid. The sad news is that almost every parent that I speak to in my private practice, hospital, and university deny this fact at the onset of our conversation. They trust their kids. They believe that their kids know better. They believe their kids will tell them everything. The way I combat these naive beliefs is by asking them, “Did you tell your mother or father the first time you kissed someone?” “Did you tell your parents about the porno mag your friend let you borrow?” ”How about masturbation?” “What about oral sex?” Got my point?
- Parents get tricked by well-behaved and intelligent kids. It’s not like their children are purposely devious, but kids don’t like to get into trouble and will keep secrets and hide embarrassing situations. DID YOU FORGET WHEN YOU WERE A KID? Getting a sexy text massage from an older child, teen, or old pervert is something that will be kept under the rug. Parents still have this crazy notion that being friendly with their offspring will grant them full access in their social lives. Not so.
- Generally speaking (of course) Baby Boomers and Generation X‘ers think discipline will result in them being hated by their kids and being labeled as abusive by family and friends. They feel guilt, and have issues enforcing punishment or even beginning punishment. They believe in ultimate liberal freedom and don’t want to be like their parents.
- Gifted and exceptional students demand and expect to be given free passes, and feel that they are above punishment or discipline. If you are blessed with a child that tries hard in school and is committed to studying, and has fantastic grades and academic achievements, it seems petty for you to make a big issue about having access to their personal e-mail or cellphone. Perhaps you fear that the child will rebel if you…do your job.
Do I really need to give you stats about the very real danger of Facebook stalkers, pedophiles, and older students sending flirtatious text messages to your child? Do I need to say the word CRAIGSLIST? Do I need to tell you that underage sex, teen pregnancy out of wedlock, and drug use in schools are at record levels? Are you that stubborn and choose to keep your head in the sand about the sick world we live in with social networking and peer pressure? Kids are KIDS- they are not mentally mature enough to handle a loaded gun. They need your help, even if it will kill their social lives for a while.
Many of my clients have families with children in grade school, middle school, and high school. Many private school and semi-private schools combine all three, or two of the three levels merged on one campus, so we have situations where a 10 year old goes to the same school as a 14-year old, or a 12-year old goes to the same school of a 17-year old. That’s a recipe for disaster in 2011, when the freedom of carnal knowledge is one click away.
Here’s a true story from a client of mine before I list advice for parents.
Karen is an 11-year old straight-A student on the road to super-stardom: truly a very gifted young girl. She created a Facebook account, put all of her pictures on there, and joined a FB group with her classmates and students from other grades in her school. A teenage boy from high school wrote on her wall, sent private e-mails, got her phone number from Facebook, sent her hundreds of text messages (which she responded to and flirted back) over the course of a few months. They met in school and chatted. They became “boyfriend and girlfriend”. Karen “broke up” with him via text (which coincided with what her family thought was her first period, but it turned out it was merely a little blood on her panties).
So what did Karen’s parents do?
Well, Karen’s dad is an IT guy who is stationed in China, so he wasn’t there, and he was not told of the situation.
Karen’s mom was furious and lectured her daughter to not have a boyfriend, and to stick to her studies and not communicate with the teenager anymore.
Karen’s mom was wrong. This is what I would have done:
- Disable her Facebook access for 30 days on our home computer- either by blocking it from the browsers with software or by monitoring computer time after school, including password protecting the PC bootup if I wasn’t home. Explain to her that after the 30 days, I will require her password and will be monitoring all of her e-mails, wall, and friends. All of her photos will be taken down, and personal information will be purged. If there is another incident, or if she haggles with me, her FB account will be cancelled permanently.
- Completely cancel her cell phone. It’s over now. No more loaded gun. She abused it. No more text messages. Done.
- No more surprises: I am computer savvy; I can check cookies and gaps in time from the computer in the family room. If push comes to shove, I will install tracking software from Windows Live, and tell her that I will know everywhere she’s been.
- If, and only if, Karen begins to understand the reasons why I did all this would I consider reinstating some privileges down the road. However, if she throws a fit and continues to fights me on “everyone having FB and a cellphone” my ban would stand.
Dr. Richard Hoffman’s General Parenting Guidelines
- As your kids mature and want more independence and responsibility, teaching them to deal with the consequences of their behavior is effective.
- If homework isn’t done before bedtime, do not help the child. If homework is incomplete, your child will go to school and suffer the resulting bad grade. Life lesson learned. Kids see what behaving improperly can mean and will try to avoid that again. Yet if your child does not seem to be learning, you must then take action and set up some of your own rules to help modify the behavior.
- Set up rules regarding homework, socializing with friends, curfews, and (later on) dating and discuss them. Taking away privileges (they have no RIGHTS as long as you pay their bills, including college- don’t fall for “I’m 18 now”) is the best plan of action as long as you explain the reasons.
- Don’t try to control such old school 1950′s decisions like school clothes, hair styles, or the condition of their room. If they get older and want a tattoo, tell them that it is to be under the clothes due to job interviews and professions- period. Refusing them to be creative or make their own image leads to an instant revolt. Allowing them to make decisions about their appearance or minor things will give them their share of independence and mutual trust. Instead of getting all over your kid about not cleaning the room, how about helping them study or asking them about their day?
- Focus on the positives. Give more privileges if your kids are obeying your rules.
- Commit to whatever rules and punishments you agreed upon. Not enforcing them will kill your authority.
- Be realistic and understanding about the pressures of friends, but serve as a good role model for your kids, so they will listen and respect your opinion of them, as opposed to relying solely on “the cool kids from school”.
- If you child likes video games, trading cards, visiting friends, computer time, TV, or other leisure activities, make sure you use that as “currency” with rewards and punishments.
- Be consistent. Your rules had better make sense, because every kid is their own defense lawyer, and can see through rules that conflict or aren’t fair. Don’t be dumb. And only dish out what you could take.
- Team up with your child online, and monitor them. Make sure you have all the passwords and logins, and have full access to all of their online activity. Make it fun and open and they won’t force you to be a COP.
As you can see, YOU HAVE A FULL TIME JOB being a parent and role model, in addition to your other jobs in life.
I hope raised some good points for you to consider.