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Ask Dr. Mary: A Preschooler's Lies

Plus, violent behavior and school uniforms

Several times a week, I catch my preschooler in a lie. Some of them are pretty innocuous, but others are blatant falsehoods. How can I put a stop to this habit?

Young children are learning the difference between fact and fiction. Sometimes, too, they think if they wish hard enough or talk about something as if it were real, it will come true. Through time and experience, they gradually distinguish between what they hope will happen, what can't happen, and what actually is happening.
Use teachable moments to help your child learn to distinguish between truth and fiction. For example, you might say, "We'll be leaving in five minutes. Let's clean up the pretend restaurant before we go to a real McDonald's for lunch."

I provide daycare for my 10-month-old niece, my 3-1/2-year-old nephew and my 5-1/2-year-old daughter. My nephew is violent with his sister, and he hurts my daughter on a regular basis. I've tried talking and giving him time outs, but I don't believe in spanking. What else can I do?

This problem needs immediate and decisive action. Take these steps concurrently:

  1. Discuss the issue with the child's mother. Ask her which child-management techniques are effective with your nephew.
  2. Establish and enforce a limited number of developmentally appropriate rules. Your nephew must learn that behavior has consequences. Removal of a privilege is often an effective consequence.
  3. Chart his behavior. Record the times of his outbursts and what triggers them. Children misbehave more often when they are tired or hungry. Adjust the snack schedule or naptime to reflect his needs.
  4. Vary each day's activities. Make playthings available on a rotating basis. Balance quiet and active play options. Provide indoor and outdoor activities every day, even if your outdoor activity is only a brisk walk.
  5. Limit television and video and computer game systems. Screen activities are passive, so they don't match the active approach to life which is so characteristic of a preschooler.
  6. Consider including an activity with additional children each day. You might take the children to a library for story time or to the YMCA for swimming lessons. Going elsewhere offers a refreshing change of pace.
  7. Make it easy for your nephew to be compliant. If you put out paint-with-water pages, set out two cups of water and two brushes so he isn't forced to share with your daughter.

The principal at my daughter's school is pushing uniforms, saying they decrease violence. Is this true?

I contacted the Long Beach Unified School District in California, which was the first public school system in the country to require elementary and middle school students to wear uniforms. Statistics show that even though the student population increased, all types of school crime (including assault, sexual offenses, robbery, extortion, chemical substance issues, weapons problems, vandalism and problems with dangerous devices) decreased dramatically since the 1994-95 school year, when uniforms were first required.
Teachers also report higher morale and better attendance and test scores. Of course, not all improvements can be attributed to the mandatory dress code. But in 1998, principals in ten states reported similar successes in schools that adopted a uniform policy.

Mary Manz Simon is the mother of three children and an adviser to Christian Parenting Today. She is the author of three values-teaching books released in conjunction with The Prince of Egypt.

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