I know firsthand that raising healthy and happy children is no easy feat. That’s why I’m always thrilled to receive questions from parents about how to navigate the ups and downs of parenthood. Lately, I’ve noticed that many of you are curious about the elusive concept of “discipline.” So, I figured I’d take a moment to share some of my thoughts and insights on this topic. Let’s dive in!
Q: I’m concerned about the safety of my child. With all the alarming news stories about child molestation, should I talk to my 5-year-old daughter about sex? How do I approach such a sensitive topic with a young child?
A: As a parent, it’s natural to feel concerned about the safety of your child. With all the alarming news stories about child molestation, it’s understandable to wonder if you should talk to your 5-year-old daughter about sex. But how do you approach such a sensitive topic with a young child? It’s a tricky question, but one that deserves careful consideration. After all, arming your child with knowledge and awareness could be the key to keeping them safe from harm. So, let’s explore some tips and strategies for having this important conversation with your little one.
Working with sexually abused children has taught me how little they know about their own bodies. They struggle to find the words to describe their experiences, making it easier for child molesters to target them. Even if schools teach sexual abuse prevention, it’s never too early to start teaching your child about their body. Not only does it empower them, but it also helps us understand their experiences and get them the help they need. If you’re uncomfortable with technical terms, find a language you’re both comfortable with and start a dialogue.
Enter the Red Flag Green Flag® People program, a personal safety program designed for early elementary-aged children. This 30-page workbook teaches children about different types of touches, how to recognize potentially harmful situations (especially sexual abuse), assertive responses, and who their “helpers” are. By learning about appropriate and inappropriate types of touches, children can identify “green flag” and “red flag” touches.
Child sexual and physical abuse is a difficult topic for parents to discuss with their children. The Red Flag Green Flag® People program provides age-appropriate information to children in a non-threatening manner. Children learn that green flag touches make them feel good, happy, and loved, while red flag touches make them feel scared, mixed up, or unhappy.
The workbook presents hypothetical scenarios in which children must identify whether the situation is a red flag or a green flag. These scenarios cover a range of topics, from stranger danger to internet safety. Children are taught a three-step method to use in the event of a red flag situation or touch. By teaching children about their bodies and personal safety, we can empower them to protect themselves and seek help when needed.
1) Say No
- If someone tries to give you a Red Flag touch, say “NO” in a loud, strong voice.
2) Get Away
- If someone tries to give you a Red Flag touch, get away. Run someplace safe where there are other people.
3) Tell a Helper
- If someone tries to give you a Red Flag touch, tell someone you trust right away.
The conclusion of the workbook (pages 29 and 30) provides a brief review of the information covered and even includes a list of helpers for your child to bring home and ask you to help fill in the gaps.
It’s important to teach your child that their private parts are just that- private. Explain that their body is their own and that no one has permission to touch it without their consent. Educate them on the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touches. We often teach our children to obey adults and accept adult authority unconditionally, especially little girls. But it’s crucial to give your child permission to say “no” and not obey grownups when they want to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable, frightened, nervous, or “funny”.
Remember, sex education is a personal decision that only you and your family can make. However, it’s important to keep in mind that kids are curious and will fill in gaps in their knowledge base- with either correct or incorrect information. The key is to arm your child with knowledge and encourage an open and continuous conversation.
It’s also important to note that the misconception that only strangers molest children, what law enforcement officials call “stranger danger”, is just that- a misconception. The reality is that most victims of child molestation are victimized at the hands of family members or friends. Therefore, it’s imperative that parents arm their children with the knowledge to get help. There are many age-appropriate resources available for use in educating our children about body safety and sex without overwhelming their naive sensibilities. So let’s start the conversation and keep our children safe!
Q: I need your help. My little eight-year-old tycoon is running the show in our household and I’m at my wit’s end. How can I get him to listen to me and follow my lead? I know he’s just a kid, but his stubbornness is driving me crazy. Any tips or tricks to help me regain control and restore some peace in our home?”
A: Is your eight-year-old son running the show at home? It’s time to take back control! Children thrive on structure and routine, and when they don’t get it, they try to make sense of their surroundings in their own way. But fear not, there are simple steps you can take to establish boundaries and encourage positive behavior.
Start by setting limits and offering limited choices that you can live with. This gives your child a sense of control while still maintaining your authority. Then, introduce natural and logical consequences instead of traditional rewards and punishments. This approach holds your child accountable for their actions and allows them to learn from the natural or social order of events.
For example, if your child refuses to eat dinner, they go hungry. If they refuse to wear gloves, their hands get cold. These are simple examples of natural consequences that allow your child to learn from reality. Logical consequences, on the other hand, are related to the misbehavior and help your child understand the cause and effect of their actions.
So, if your child repeatedly leaves their bike outside in the rain despite your requests to garage it, don’t replace it when it gets ruined. And if they oversleep and rush for the bus every morning, don’t prepare a big breakfast and drive them to school. Instead, offer a simple breakfast and let them face the logical consequence of missing the bus.
Remember, the key to making consequences effective is to make sure your child sees them as related to their misbehavior. By establishing structure and consequences, you can take back control and help your child thrive.
Catch your son making good choices and reward him.
Reinforce positive behaviors.
And most importantly, do what you say and say what you do.
When you set limits with your son, follow-through with them. If you don’t your actions communicate to your child that your words are meaningless. Follow-through. Every time.
For example, if you set a limit prior to a shopping trip that if your son throws a temper tantrum you’ll go home- do it. I know you might not have time to get to the store later, but believe me if you don’t start now his misbehaviors will only increase. I’m not recommending that you treat your child like an adult, or that you don’t nurture and encourage him. But if you are consistent and logical in your discipline not only will you regain control of your home, but your child will be happier and empowered.