A reader recently wrote me to ask for advice about a common parenting problem:
My 6-year-old lies to me on a daily basis. He hides food in his room and lies about it, among other things. How can I get him to tell the truth?
I consider a child’s misbehavior to be a flashing neon sign announcing that something else is going on that needs to be addressed. In other words, the lying and deceptive behavior is a symptom of something else.
Childhood is full of frustrating moments. Nature has designed life in such a way as to guarantee that children will have their wishes denied many times a day. Kids are small, physically disadvantaged, in need of support that isn’t always available, and desirous of all sorts of things that their caretakers determine aren’t good for them.
As loving parents, we hate it when our children cry, and we’ll jump through hoops to keep their tears at bay. We buy them the toys they can’t live without, force their big sisters to play Barbies with them, or let them stay up late even though we know they’ll be tired the next day.
But when we intervene every time our children become frustrated — believing we’re doing so out of love and care — we prevent them from learning the lesson of adaptation.
Sometimes I almost regret introducing my 14-year-old daughter to the delights of massage therapy, since she’s now as avid as I am to enjoy the relief and recalibration that come with a good professional treatment, which rarely comes cheap. Yet as a dancer, runner and dedicated student, she benefits as much as I do from the health advantages of bodywork, or even an occasional pedicure treat for her tired feet.
Lately, I’ve found myself thinking that a mother-daughter spa getaway might be refreshing for both us, and a fun way to connect outside our usual daily routine of overly packed schedules.
Traditionally, spa vacations have been romantic retreats for couples or escapes for harried women who juggle too much. Today, however, as kids’ lives get ever busier and stress becomes an issue that even preteens are dealing with, a family spa experience in a restful setting can accomplish two purposes: vacation time together while nurturing wellness for all ages.
It usually takes me seven minutes to get to my daughter’s preschool. Today, it took 27.
That’s because, for the first time in 18 months, I strapped my 11-month-old son into the double stroller and walked there.
I like to walk. Our family of four has one car, and in the two years that we’ve owned it, we’ve only put 14,000 miles on the odometer.
I’m not alone. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, nearly 80 percent of respondents look for homes in pedestrian-friendly areas and 59 percent would choose a smaller home if it meant less driving.
Still, I find that once I’ve gotten into the habit of driving someplace — my daughter’s preschool, the Trader Joe’s on the other side of the highway, the garden store — I tend to keep on driving there, deeming it too far to reach on foot. The funny thing is, once I decide to test walking to a destination once, I realize not only how doable it is but also how satisfying running that errand becomes.
So now I’m on a quest of sorts: to debunk the myth that certain places in my everyday life are too far to reach on foot.
The first title I imagined for the parenting book I would someday write was Please Don’t Let the Light in Your Child’s Eyes Grow Dim. I had run into a 12-year-old girl whom I’d known at the age of four, when she was one of the brightest, most vibrant kids I had ever met. When I saw her at 12, I hardly recognized her. She was slumped into herself, subdued, and her light was … dim.
As I began writing, I was determined to articulate what I had come to understand about how to help children manifest their gifts and head into adulthood with joy and passion.