Susan C. Stone's Practical Parenting Blog dotcom

Now that school has started, your children will be learning all kinds of things – how to read, do math, learn history and science. However, there are very important lessons that can only be taught at home. One of them is manners.

If you would like to give your child a very significant and lasting gift, consider giving them the information and practices they need to be considered mannerly. Now, I really don’t mean which fork to use (though later in life this may be important!  Who knows if they’ll be invited to dine with the Queen?). Instead, the manners that matter are behaviors designed to take care of the feelings of others and to grease the wheels of sociability. Teaching good manners used to be a routine part of raising a child. However, beginning in the 60’s with the rejection of formality and respect for authority, traditional manners were one of the casualties. Social  expectations were relaxed and democratized. It became a mark of coolness to address everyone by their first name, regardless of status. Instead of greetings, it was much more hip to smile and mutter “peace”. Speaking one’s mind was considered preferable to discretion and caution. People were even “PRIMAL SCREAMING” (look this one up if you missed the craze.).

If you are  raising children now, you are part of the first generation to be brought up on these more informal practices. For example, you are most likely accustomed to children addressing teachers and other parents by their first names – it’s  just your norm. I use this particular example because it goes to the heart of manners – which is respect for other people and their feelings. Now, using a first name instead of Mr. or Mrs. does not necessarily imply disrespect, but it became the top of the slippery slope of treating each other more casually. This casualness has crept into many of our social interactions and even become rudeness. You might be noticing that more and more people don’t RSVP to invitations, whether it’s for a 3- year- old’s birthday party or for a wedding.  When was the last time you wrote or received a thank you note for a present? When have someone called you to thank you for having them to dinner? When was the last time someone ahead of you allowed a door to close in your face instead of holding it? How many formal or religious events have you attended and seen people dressed as if they’ve just stopped in from a jog? And…DOES ALL THIS REALLY MATTER?

YES –  actually, manners now make more of an impact on someone’s impression of your child than ever before. When everyone was mannerly, it was taken for granted. Now when a child engages in considerate behavior,  people notice and the child is  seen as special! This specialness can translate into being more sought after for playdates, being viewed as a more active participant in the classroom, making the cut for a play or a team, enlisting extra consideration for special accommodations at school, making a good impression at an interview, etc., etc. It not only reflects well on your child, but on you as well as a good parent! You have the opportunity to take an unformed human being who is only aware of his/her needs and turn them out, 18 years later, as a civilized member of society who has the heart to relate to others and the skills to enlist  these others in pleasant, cooperative and even loving relationships.

If not the difference between a fish fork and a soup spoon, what should you be focusing your efforts on? With young children, making eye contact and saying “please”, “thank you” and “no, thank you” is a good start. Teaching children to respect authority by having them follow your rules and boundaries will serve them well in all sorts of settings.  Teach them how to be social – how to start a conversation with a peer, how to stay on topic in that conversation, how to take turns speaking and not to interrupt the conversations others are having.

Teach them how to greet someone new by shaking hands and saying “nice to meet you”. Let them know that some adults prefer to be called Mr. and Mrs. and that the adult is the one to give them permission to use their first name. Teach them telephone manners. Teach them to share, compromise, be inclusive and take turns. Teach them how good winners and good losers act. Use their own experiences to help them realize that making rude remarks or stating negative observations about others is hurtful and unacceptable. As children get older, holding the door for others, letting their elders pass through first and standing up to greet an adult guest are sure to make a big impression.

Show them that you respond to all invitations in a timely way and don’t retract your acceptances because a “better offer” comes along. As casual as we’ve become in our dress, having them dress appropriately for special occasions is another way to convey respect for others. Make sure they know how to thank someone for having them over for a party or playdate and don’t say it for them! Practice with them what to say when opening a present so that they take care of the feelings of the giver even if they hate the present or already have 27 of the same toy! Have them write thank you notes even if they can only sign their name. Let them experience the excitement of giving, as well as receiving, holiday or birthday gifts with others, especially within the family.

This may seem like a long list or an incomplete one. (I refer you to “Miss Manner’s Guide to Rearing Perfect Children” by Judith Martin for more suggestions.) Feel free to add your own personal and cultural practices and, remember, your behavior is their most potent guide. Even though you have 18 years to get the job done,  it’s not too early to start giving your child the tools to be special!

Susan C. Stone is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Los Angeles for 33 years.She speaks widely to the parents and teachers of children of all ages. Ms. Stone appears regularly on both radio and television as a parenting expert and is the author of THE INDULGENCE TRAP – When too much is not Enough!

With Easter and Passover around the corner, it seems like a good time to talk about the importance of tradition to children and to family life.  If you ask an adult – or yourself – what positive memories you have from childhood, the answer will often be about things that the family did together on a regular basis – RITUALS and TRADITIONS. These might be ways of celebrating birthdays, vacations, the specific rituals followed on a holiday, Sunday dinners and much more. There are several reasons people remember traditions and rituals as such an important and memorable part of their childhood:

1. Children find security and comfort in repetition. It gives them something to count on in otherwise unpredictable world ( that’s why we’ve all read Good Night Moon hundreds and hundreds of times!). Your traditions give children touchstones that the family returns to despite the continuing changes in your child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive world. Recreating a family activity over and over gives life a rhythm and markers on which children can rely. This creates a sense of stability.

2. A very basic need of children  – and, indeed, even adults – is a sense of belonging. Doing things as a family, that are unique to your family, builds this sense in children. Children need the sense of security that no matter what issues they have to confront in the world, they have a family to which to turn.

3. Rituals and traditions are an important  way of passing culture and values to the next generation. When parents do this, they often experience the richness of repeating their family’s history. Realistically, there are parents who would rather forget how their parents did things! In this case, establishing new traditions with your own children is a way to break a best-forgotten chain and write your own family history.

4. Family traditions and rituals are important in helping  children with the task of building an identity. They  help create for your child a sense of who they are and who their  family is. They become able to say, “We are a family that…”.  They also experience the roles and responsibilities of family members and are given their own role in that mosaic. This inclusion helps to establish their identity and a sense of purpose or usefulness in the family.

5. Traditions also bind children to you and to the family. Even during the adolescent years when their task is to establish their independence and claim in individual identity, children crave the traditions they have grown up with. The same teen who doesn’t want to be seen in public with you will all of a sudden demand that “traditional” foods you prepare for holidays or expect that grandpa will tell his story about celebrating the holiday when he was a child. It ‘s been demonstrated that teens who are connected to their families are less likely to engage in dangerous behaviors.

6. Don’t think that you have to create elaborate celebrations, birthday parties, outings or vacations in order to have traditions. This misses the point entirely! The activity you select to make a tradition isn’t important – choose what  you value and like:

  •  It can be a family dinner every Friday or Sunday night.
  •  You can choose to ride bikes together every weekend.
  • It can be going to the mountains every summer or planting a garden in the spring.
  • Have a game or movie night with popcorn or pizza
  • Have a traditional way that you celebrate the particular achievements of anyone in the family
  • Donate your time or items to needy families every Thanksgiving
  • Have family dinners as often as possible where you take turns sharing something from your day and receive attention and support from the family
  • Establish a special family tradition for saying good night or goodbye which your children can help to devise

Clearly, I could go on and on! What’s important is that through RITUAL and TRADITION you and your children will reap the benefits of stability, security and closeness to the family.

What your child should be ready for at any age is a concern that worries and confuses parents of children of all ages.

  • When should my child be walking?
  • When should my child be using a bottle, binky diapers
  • When should my child start preschool, kindergarten?
  • When should my child go on a sleepover?
  • When should my child go to the movies alone with a friend?
  • When should my child have a cell phone?
  • When should my child learn to drive?

As you can see, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of turning points parents need to consider, and most parents don’t really know what to expect or decide. They operate from hopes, fears, and a lack of knowledge about development. Some parents worry too much about such issues and some not enough. Can I give you definite ages and expectations for readiness? NO!  Much depends on who your child is and what you are comfortable with. However, I can give you ways to think about these issues.

In the early years and, again, as adolescence begins, children are developing quickly in all ways. There are norms that are predictable and sequential, and the best reading you can do to inform yourself about these are the books by Ilg and Ames -“Your One Year Old”, “Your Two Year Old”, etc. They describe, in every area of development – social, emotional, cognitive and behavioral – what is “normal”. However, the books only provide a broad outline. You have to remember that your kids  haven’t read the books and may be a  bit ahead or behind in any area of development. Also know that the areas develop independently of each other. So, a child may be cognitively advanced while being socially underdeveloped. This unevenness is confusing for parents who are always trying to assess whether their child is “normal”.

To add to parental confusion, children develop or mature at very different rates. While development is predictable, it is also unique to each child. They can’t be taught or pushed or, in the case of puberty, held back!   Many of the answers to  your questions about readiness are determined by “nature’s timetable”. When a child is going to walk, talk, enter puberty, etc. is pre-programmed by birth, and there can be as much as a two year difference in readiness – even between children in the same family  There really are “late bloomers!   Now, while  the environment you create may help children shift from their natural pace and inclinations, you are not a bad parent if the shift is slight or not at all.  Therefore, it’s useless to compare your children to each other or to children outside the family. Doing so can only harm the self-esteem of the child unfavorably compared.

If you do try to hurry a child who is developmentally unready for a new step, you run the risk of sending them the message that they are failures and, thus, damage their self-esteem, giving them a sense of inferiority. This can happen to the most well-intentioned parent when you unintentionally – or deliberately –  manifest frustration or disappointment with one of your children regarding their progress. You may not express this directly but may do so through your facial expression, tone of voice, or body language. Respecting developmental difference will prevent you from unwittingly doing this. It’s also important to remember that rate of development is not a predictor of ultimate success!

Some children who are pushed too hard when they aren’t ready for a task get frustrated and can “act out”. Then they are at risk of being perceived as behavior problems or as having attentional issues which add extra layers to their feelings of inadequacy. This can, in turn,  can become a permanent part of their identity. Other children react to overly high expectations by developing debilitating stress which is manifested physically, emotionally or behaviorally. The main consideration is that you be aware of who each of your children is and do your best to recognize and respect his/her readiness to take on new challenges.

On the other hand, if you allow a child to lag too far behind his/her peers in age-appropriate behavior, if you set your expectations too low, there is also a danger to their self-esteem. Children are usually observant of what their peers are doing – whether that’s giving up diapers, going to sleepovers, or joining sports teams – and can feel bad about themselves for lagging behind even as they are reluctant to take the next step or to overcome  their fears. In these instances, it’s up to you to make a  parental decision to become more insistent that you child move onto the next step in development. This may involve taking away diapers, cheer-leading firmly that your child learn to swim, or discussing with them why they are unwilling to learn to drive. Sometimes this will require some assistance from an outside resource such as a parenting coach or therapist.

On the third hand, there are times when children believe they’re ready for a new challenge BUT  YOU DON’T!  As children edge towards adolescence, they may start to lobby for greater autonomy. It is within your rights, and also your responsibility, to decide if your child has the skills and maturity to move on. Just because other parents allow certain freedoms, such as going out alone with a friend, doesn’t mean that your child is sufficiently mature to handle this situation. Just because a child turns sixteen doesn’t mean you feel they are responsible or developed enough to get behind the wheel of a car. You are still responsible for their health and safety and your assessment has to prevail. However, if your child is going off to college and you still aren’t comfortable with them going out without you, you may have to look at who has the problem!

Finally, a word about significant delays. Respecting readiness does not mean turning a blind eye or deaf ear to your own observations as well as the feedback you get from your child’s school about your child’s progress.  Such input can allow you to pick  up on an area that needs special attention. Then proactive parents can provide appropriate intervention which can make all the difference in children reaching their full potential.

Susan C. Stone is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Los Angeles for 33 years.She speaks widely to the parents and teachers of children of all ages. Ms. Stone appears regularly on both radio and television as a parenting expert and is the author of THE INDULGENCE TRAP – When too much is not Enough!

The relationship siblings have is an important one – it can impact on people’s lives and identities as much as  their relationships with their parents do. This  can be a positive impact and enhance one’s life or it can be negative and the source of continuing problems in other relationships – even into adulthood! Because of this, it’s important for parents to help make their children’s relationships as good as possible. By your behavior you  have the ability to stoke the fire of the rivalry or to lessen it.The one thing you can’t do is eliminate it! But that’s not necessarily bad news. Children learn a lot from their relationships with their siblings – how to win, how to lose, how to negotiate, compromise and share, how to be angry with someone and still love them.  Your job as a parent is to make sure that the sibling interaction isn’t harmful – either psychologically, physically or emotionally.

One important step towards minimizing sibling rivalry and keeping it from being harmful  is to NOT COMPARE your children – either out loud to them or even in your mind. No two children are alike – they have different strengths and weaknesses. Good parents respect this and teach their children to respect it. This should lead to having unique expectations and measures of success for each child. Comparisons are also often used to try to motivate desirable behavior by pointing out to a child how their sibling is doing a better job (at being mannerly, cleaning up their room, doing their homework, etc.). Now honestly, did it ever spur you on to greater heights when your parents said, “Why can’t you keep your room neat  the way your sister does?”?!  All it did was make you angry – at your parent and at your sister!  The rule of thumb is to speak to each of your children as if they were ONLY children. No comparisons allowed. However, even if you do follow this advice, you’ll find your children comparing themselves – “I’m smarter than you are”. This is an opportunity to have a discussion about respecting individual differences and your expectations for personal bests and best efforts.

Another way parents worsen sibling relationships is by, consciously or unconsciously, casting children in fixed roles. For example,  the oldest child is treated as the caretaker, the youngest has less expected from them, a good listener becomes a  confidante for the parent. Similarly,  parents also stamp children  with labels – “This is my athlete.” ” This is my scholar.” “This is my wild one”. These assigned labels and role – even positive ones – put limits on who a child might have the potential to become. Instead, try to think about who you would like the child to become and praise behaviors which manifest those possibilities. Also, be alert to negative roles that children may choose for themselves – the clown, the  helpless one, the dictator – as a way to be unique within the family. In such cases, encourage them to get attention and rewards for more desirable roles and behaviors.

Having said all this, let’s talk about the secret that many parents carry around and about which they feel guilty – favorites. Is it terrible or unnatural to have a favorite child? NO! Sometimes your personality or needs just mesh better with one child than another.  You’re human and can’t deny these responses. However, what you can control is the expression of favoritism which feeds sibling rivalry more than any other parental behavior. Now I know you don’t say things like “Susie is my favorite”. Favoritism is expressed subtly – smiling more at one child, being more lenient, using more terms of endearment, etc.  The cure for showing favoritism is  to be aware of it and to look for the specialness to appreciate in your less favored child.

While you may not show favoritism, a common manifestation of sibling rivalry is children vying to occupy the top spot, or at least tie for it.  When children try to make everything equal, this is what you’re witnessing.. Does this sound familiar? “Johnny has 12 grapes on his plate and I only have 11!”  Most parents rush to equalize the situation with the goal of not showing favoritism, often driving themselves crazy in the diplomacy of it all.  I’ll let you off the hook! It’s not your job to make everything equal – time, love, items. It’s your job to meet the unique needs of each child and to let them know that is your goal. DO NOT  engage in arguments about giving or loving equally. And when asked the immortal question   – “Who do you love the most?” – answer by listing the special things you love about that particular child.

Despite your following all this advice, your children are going to bug each other –  about territory, property, because they are jealous of a sibling’s birthday, because they had a disagreement at school with a friend, even because it’s fun!.  A sibling is a convenient place to dump negative feelings about many things. While this is inevitable, you need to set limits on how this is expressed. What is disallowed is emotional, psychological or physical harm. You can prevent some of this by not modeling name-calling, cruel remarks or physical reactions of your own in handling your anger. Other preventive measures which lessen negative sibling interaction:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Allow children to express their anger towards their siblings to you without judging or discounting it. Getting  it off their chest lets  them feel better about the sibling.

2.Don’t reward tattling by acting on it.

3.Make sure to give children adequate time and space of their own.

4.Spend time alone with each of your child so they feel they “have” you for a time.

5.Set  rules for sharing and encourage a sharing attitude between everyone in the family.

6.Teach conflict resolution skills.

7.Foresee trouble and act to avoid it – for example, ban high conflict games, arrange seating to lessen opportunities for conflict at meals, etc.

8.Hold family meetings in which the whole family addresses a grievance of each child and seeks a solution together.

9.Utilize “team” reward charts with which children can earn special activities if the team gets along for a period of time.

10.Plan fun family activities that promote goodwill among siblings.

11. Teach family loyalty as a value.

Finally, when the arguing and bickering start, give children a chance to solve it themselves, which they often will. If they try to drag you into it, NEVER choose a winner and a loser (since  you don’t now the full story and will never know “who started it”). If the incident escalates into a damaging emotional, psychological or physical interaction, separate your children for a cool down period., then let them try to be together again ( which they usually want). If this doesn’t work, it may be a day they need to spend doing separate activities.

All of these measures will reduce sibling rivalry. However, be prepared for your children not to be compatible. Your goal should be mutual respect  and some peace. The good news is that as siblings become older, they generally have a better relationship if the bad feelings haven’t been cemented  while they were growing up.

Susan C. Stone is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in Los Angeles for 33 years.She speaks widely to the parents and teachers of children of all ages. Ms. Stone appears regularly on both radio and television as a parenting expert and is the author of THE INDULGENCE TRAP – When too much is not Enough!

As the holidays approach, most parents are scrambling to buy an abundance of the latest and hottest  gift items their children have requested or would enjoy. As parents we get almost as much pleasure – or more –  watching the delight our children experience as they open up their packages!

This is all great fun, but it misses some wonderful opportunities to parent well and to make the holidays meaningful and joyous for your children in other ways. It’s important to recognize that what children treasure is time with you and the family in a festive mode. As well, some of the greatest excitement children experience around the holidays is the anticipation of  GIVING and not just RECEIVING! Yet the majority of families don’t focus on these important elements. Here are some ways to get your children involved in the holidays that will both excite and delight them:

1. To truly capture the spirit of the season,  family time and traditions are a must.  Begin traditions of special activities for the whole family that take place around the holidays. Anything you do together each year will count. It can be baking, decorating, playing special games, traveling or visiting with relatives and friends. In the end, special time with you engaging in holidays rituals is what children crave most of all and what they’ll remember as adults.

2.  Be judicious in how many presents you buy for your own children and how extravagant they are. Don’t try to compete with other parents and remember that your children will receive presents from grandparents and friends as well.

3. Consider presents that avoid the materialism that often goes with the holidays. For example, give children coupon books for  “a trip to the yogurt store”, “an activity alone with you”, “an extra bedtime story”, “making cupcakes”, etc. These are a real hit!

4.  Very importantly, use this season to teach the values of reciprocity and generosity by including your children in gift-giving. And this does not mean spending your money on gifts so they can pass them on to others! One way is to have your children clean out the toys they’ve outgrown and donate the ones in good shape to needy children. Older children can spend a bit of their allowance to buy a new toy to donate to Toys for Tots. If there’s any way they can visit a shelter and deliver toys directly to other children, they’ll learn valuable perspectives about the blessings they have and the blessings they can bestow.

If you really want to see holiday excitement, have your children – no matter how young – make something to give as gifts to their  family members.  It can be a small pot which they paint and decorate and put a plant in, a bag of cookies you bake together, colorful felt covers that they glue on the front of inexpensive telephone books, a frame they decorate with  macaroni and you spray with gold paint, etc. Believe it or not, your children will be more excited to give out these presents than they are to receive their own. Watch the joy they experience in not just receiving but in giving !

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU ALL from Susan C. Stone!

Turkey, pumpkin pie, STUFFING (personal favorite) , family, football…all the trappings of a great Thanksgiving. But, are they? While Thanksgiving may be the least commercialized of our national holidays, the essential meaning can get lost amidst a sumptuous meal and an exciting 4th quarter. How many of us actually give thanks on this day – or any other day, for that matter? What happened to gratitude and what are we teaching our kids about it?

Now you may say you’re teaching your children to say “thank you” for favors and presents.  But, are you teaching them – and do you realize – the more subtle and bigger concept of gratitude ? This is the recognition and appreciation of all  that you have. Too often we and our children take this  for granted.  Children are understandably blase about their life style because it”s the only reality they know. But gratitude is important because it’s  inextricably linked to happiness.  If you’re not appreciative and grateful and, therefore, not teaching your kids to be so, you are not promoting happiness in them in the deepest sense. Without this perspective,  all they experience is a kind of “happiness” in the most shallow and momentary way. (“Oh boy, a new toy!”)

So, how do you both feel and teach gratitude when you live, as we do,  in a solution-oriented society which is focused on what is wrong and needs to be changed?

Begin with yourself – experiencing gratitude has to be an active mental discipline. Pick a time each day when you focus on the most basic blessings in your life – health, family, living quarters, food, faith, etc. You can add to that list according to your priorities – it might be friends, a job you love ( or these days, any job!), the ability to go to a ballgame or movie, to enjoy a starry night and so on. If you find yourself having trouble with this, try beginning your day by watching the news – you’ll quickly see how much you take for granted.

Then, how do you pass this key to happiness on to your children? First, you can model gratitude by articulating out loud those positive things you’ve identified in your own life. Simple statements such as “Boy, I reallly feel healthy today!” or “I feel so fortunate to have a wonderful child like you!” or “Would  you like eggs or cereal for breakfast – we ar so fortunate to have plenty of food and choices about what to eat”. This may elicit some questions from  your child such as “Why? Do other people not havve so much food?”.  This is a great teaching opportunity to let them know that, indeed, many people don’t have eoungh to eat and that their own situation is a reason for them to be grateful.

Second, ask your child what they’re grateful for. This is a great bedtime question, when they are more vulnerable and likely to open up. Be prepared however, they may still answer “My new action figure!”. At that point you can ask them if they’d rather have that than a nice mom and dad. If they still prefer GI Joe to you, tell them that you think they’ll change their mind some day (and hope that’s so!).Third, there are the inevitable, and very important, food and toy drives around the holidays. Make sure you and your child participate in donating. Some older children even like to donate a bit of their allowance to provide Thanksgiving dinner to those without. As children are 8 and older, it becomes important that they see to whom they are actually giving their donations so they become aware of others’ reality.

Last, establish a family tradition of each person saying what they are grateful for. You can do this on Thanksgiving – that’s a natural. However, remember that, unlike mittens or swimsuits, gratitude is not a seasonal item!   Ideally, it should be a way of thinking all year round. You can repeat the ritual of saying what each person is grateful for over Sunday morning pancakes, Friday night dinners, bedtime or any time you think your child will be receptive. It’s the repetition of the focus on gratitude that eventually makes it a part of your child’s thinking and creates real  happiness.

HAVE A GRATEFUL AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

It’s that bewitching time of year again – Halloween. It’s become one of our most celebrated national events with a huge commercial buildup and awaited with great anticipation by kids of all ages. It’s crazy, it’s fun, it’s harmless – or is it? It can be all of the good  things as long as you prepare your children for it.

YOUNG CHILDREN: They are excited to pick out their costumes and to GET CANDY! However, there are a few things parents need to be aware of. First, while children may have a particular costume in mind, it’s important that you deem it age-appropriate. Children are exposed to such a variety of characters through the media or through older siblings that they may want to make an inappropriate decision in their costume choice. It’s your responsibility to steer them away from characters that are too scary or too mature. For example, it’s not a good idea to have a young child wear a Freddie Krueger mask. It will scare their friends and send the wrong message about the fun of Halloween. Likewise, you would want to steer a young girl away from dressing like Lady Gaga in some of her more outrageous and MTV-appropriate attire. You may want to ask yourself how your child even has knowledge of such characters. Perhaps your screening of media input needs to be tightened a bit. You also need to be aware if your child is frightened by masks or clown attire – a common phobia. You may have to explain to them that these  are only costumes, pick a Halloween activity that is controlled and benign or, if they are truly traumatized, set up a Halloween event with a few friends that takes place at home.

As to the candy, make sure you inspect it before it’s eaten. All candies should be wrapped in their original wrappers. Then there’s the question of quantity! Your child will likely end up with a cache of candy that’s way too much for them to eat without getting a serious sugar high and a few cavities to go with that.  Some parents decide to  take away some of the candy and dole it out over a period of time. Others ask their children to pick an acceptable number of pieces and then donate the rest to children who may not have experienced Trick or Treating.

Which brings me to the subject of the actual activity of Trick or Treating. There are two issues to consider with young children. If you decide to go door to door, you need to explain to young children that you are aware of which houses and strangers are safe to approach for treats. You don’t want to go against your year round teaching against approaching just any strangers. Secondly, some areas are known for their rowdy Trick or Treating behavior by older kids. One way to avoid this is to go early and be gone by the time the older kids arrive. Another option is to take advantage of the planned events found in most communities either at a mall, park or other publicly sponsored event.

OLDER CHILDREN: By the time  your child is in middle school, they may (definitely) not want you to go to each house with them. While understandable, you need to set some parameters to keep them safe. Perhaps you’ll be in a car nearby or set a very limited area for them to Trick or Treat – say, a few blocks close to your house, a gated community or a public event. They need to have a definite starting and stopping time and need to remain in a group. They need to be reminded that if someone invites them into their house for a treat, they are NOT allowed to enter. Middle schoolers and older kids also need to be reminded of your values – that they respect the property of others. The purpose of Halloween needs to remain  having silly fun but not destructive “fun” – no shaving cream, toilet papering, or egg- throwing.

It’s also a good idea to go over the candy with your older kids before they dig into it. You need to use your judgment about how much they should indulge. The idea of a donation is equally valid for older Trick or Treaters.

All this having been said, have a  HAPPY (and safe) HALLOWEEN!!!

Susan C. Stone is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice. She speaks widely – on television, radio, and in Parent Education Seminars – on topics of interest to parents and teachers of children of all ages. She is also the author of the book THE INDULGENCE TRAP.  Visit her on her website at http://www.susancstonemft.com or contact her at scsmft@aol.com.

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