Safety at Home

Tough Love

Sometimes children have been so spoiled, neglected, or abused either verbally or physically, that they don't respond to normal methods of discipline. Other times they are simply very strong-willed and determined. Dr. James Dobsen, author, lecturer, and radio show host, has published an outstanding book called "The Strong-Willed Child," that tells numerous ways for adults to deal with stubbornness without being abusive. His bottom line is that kids thrive on discipline when it is properly used-- discipline, not abuse (no hitting or yelling). When kids are given limits and boundaries and expected to stay within them, they know you care.

Tough love is when your toughness matches the stubbornness of the child in question. It requires consistency and follow-through. For example, when children are given loving instructions and they fail to follow them, it's time to take away TV, Nintendo, or computer privileges until compliance has been reached. Always make sure they complete the task before they return to play.

With older kids who aren't following rules about curfews, use of the car, or proper public behavior it may be necessary to confiscate the car keys for a day or two, or revoke other privileges which mean a lot to them. They need to learn that cars, computers, video games, movies, etc. are privileges, not rights, and they need to be earned through responsible behavior.

In extreme cases where they might be violations of the law, instead of paying bail and taking Jr. home, ask the judge in private if he can arrange for your child to have a supervised visit to the jail and talk to prisoners so Jr. can see what he is missing. Or ask the judge to let Jr. perform community service instead of jail-time so that he suffers actual consequences for his actions instead of just being excused for a first offense, as if first offenses are not a big concern.

If your child is attending parties where alcohol is served and not being responsible about driving, show him/her you care. Revoke driving privileges. Teach your child that drinking and driving don't mix. Teach him by example, not just words.

Internet Safety

Keep computers in an area where you and the family spend the majority of your time, such as the family room or living room. NEVER keep computers in the bedroom where you cannot easily see what your child is viewing.

Always monitor your children's computer time so you know what web sites they are accessing. If they use AOL's "Instant Message" service make sure they are talking only with their friends or a known pen pal. If you see an ID you don't recognize ask them who it is.

Teach them that some sites are kid-friendly and others are not, and to avoid non-friendly sites. Teach them that there are strangers on the internet who want their address and phone and will act friendly to obtain it, but may use the information against the child. Auction site users will email your child and persuade them to bid higher in order to be the highest bidder. Many of these users have little regard for the safety, privacy, or financial status of children. Besides the millions of legitimate users there are thousands of financial and sexual predators on the internet who search for unattended and uninformed children.

If your child inadvertently gives out his/her web address, phone, or home address to a stranger over the internet, immediately remove his/her ID from the internet and require a one to two-week time off period to help them remember how important it is to keep personal info confidential. Then establish a new user ID with a different name.

Report any suspicious emails or Instant Messages to your server immediately, by phone or email, and to your local police.

No Yelling At Home

Yelling in the home is okay if, a) a train has crashed into your living room, b) your children have turned into werewolves, or c) scary aliens have landed on your roof.

Let's face it. There is never going to be absolute quiet for long periods of time in a home with happy children (although some children are more calm and quiet than others). If you are one of those people who requires absolute quiet and you have children, then it's time to have earplugs surgically implanted in your ears. A certain amount of tolerance is necessary, and a certain amount of facing reality, but when you get to the point that you are becoming irritable don't yell, try one of the following:

Baby-Proof House

Outlet covers on all the outlets will prevent your child from putting things such as keys or spoons in the outlets and being electrocuted.

Keeping electrical cords and drapery cords wound up and bound when not in use will prevent crawling and rolling babies from becoming entangled or strangled by them.

A baby lock on the front door will prevent your child from escaping into the street or neighborhood unsupervised.

In desert and mountain areas checking the yard before playtime for snakes or scorpions will prevent your child from a dangerous bite.

Checking the back yard and garage for black widows and brown recluses (funnel spiders in Australia) will prevent their entry into the house. Poisonous spider bites can be lethal for babies.

Keeping breakable objects up high will prevent baby from tipping them over.

Keeping non-edible plants such as pothos and dumb cane out of baby's reach will prevent vomiting and illness.

Stoves and ovens with the knobs on top and out of babies' and toddlers' reach can prevent fire and burns.

Cabinet locks on kitchen cupboards and pantry can prevent baby from pulling heavy objects down on himself/herself and from getting into harmful cleaners or chemicals. Keep one or two cabinets or drawers unlocked and full of light, unbreakable objects, such as plastic or tupperware, dish towels, or pan lids to satisfy baby's curiosity.

Securing bookshelves, entertainment centers, and other tall furniture to the wall can prevent them from falling on your child during an earthquake.

Child-proof doorknobs can prevent a toddler from entering a room that isn't child-proof.

Making a habit of always looking behind your car before backing up will protect little children who are shorter than the car from being run over.

Hardware items mentioned above are available at Home Depot, OSH, Ace Hardware, and other hardware stores, or at K-Mart, Target, Walmart, or other general merchandise stores. The cost is tiny compared to the cost of a child's life.

Listen to your gut instincts or to that "still, small, voice." If something doesn't feel right then it probably isn't. Keep your child always in sight except when sleeping. Check napping babies frequently.

How to Deal with Sibling Rivalry

1. Allow for Expression of Feelings

Insisting on good feelings between the children leads to bad feelings.

Allowing for bad feelings leads to good feelings.

Why? Because children are naturally high in emotional intelligence. It is the nature of intelligence to refuse to be compelled. When you require your children to deny their feelings or insist on only good feelings they will rebel.

2. Don't Compare the Children

DON'T bring up good things about child A to child B.

DON'T bring up bad things about child A to child B.

Make compliments directly to the child affected: "I'm so proud of you for getting that award," or "You must be very proud of yourself to have gotten 95% on your test."

Describe what you see and feel: "I love to see your awards," or "I'm so happy to see this test," or "It makes me feel really good to hear Mrs. Smith say how quiet you were in class yesterday," etc.

Describe what needs to be done (don't command, order, or compel--why? see above): "I need you to pick up those clothes and put them in this basket," or "I need you to focus on your homework," or "I really need it quiet in here," etc.

3. Don't treat them equally—treat them uniquely:

Treat each child according to his/her needs. Help them discover their unique talents and strengths and help them develop those abilities.

It's okay to give identical items in certain circumstances, like when they both like or need the same thing.

Instead of giving equal amounts give according to individual need (bigger kids should get more food, older kids need different school supplies, etc.)

Instead of showing equal love show the child he or she is loved uniquely ("You're special to me because you're so good at art," or "I love the way you laugh," or "You're the only person I know who can do somersaults that well," or "You and Ryan are very different and I love that about you. You're you, and he's Ryan, and you're both special."

It's okay to FEEL favoritism, but don't SHOW it. It's natural for a parent to be drawn to a certain child, but don't single out that child for special treatment, lavish praise on that child and not another, or give privileges to that child and not another. Don't exclude, ignore, pass over, or fail to acknowledge the less-favored child. Also, you can transfer the special affection you feel for one child to another child by allowing those special feelings to surface, then picture the less-favored child and remember his/her accomplishments, uniqueness, and how much he needs you. You're the only Mom/Dad he/she has.

Instead of giving equal time, give time according to need.

Don't force them into "roles." If one is always quiet and shy, don't acknowledge it in front of them or the child will acquire that label, or if one is always clumsy ignore it so you don't reinforce that tendency.

Never give attention to the aggressor, ALWAYS to the victim. Give consequences to the aggressor after you have given the victim your attention.

DOES ALL THIS SEEM REALLY TOUGH TO DO? Good! You're right! -- Because being a parent is the most challenging and difficult thing you will ever do, but it is also the most rewarding!