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Disciplinarians should be on same page
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Q: I am a full-time nanny living with a single dad and his four young sons. The dad has given me free reign to deal with the kids and discipline them as I see fit when they are with me. I am much more strict and traditional than he is and although he doesn’t mind how I handle things, he’s not always willing to do the same things himself (or he’s not as consistent). Is it OK to have certain rules and consequences in place that are only used consistently by me? Or should I only use discipline that he is willing to use as well? I should add that the boys are much better behaved with me than with him.
A: From toddlerhood, children can and will adapt accordingly to two different discipline styles, sets of expectations. and so on. The mere fact that you and this father aren’t on the same page, while not an optimal situation, is not going to cause the children any “confusion.” Children are not confused by situations of this sort. Rather, they figure them out quickly and usually learn how to play the field to their own advantage.
What’s important is that you and your employer come to agreement as to which of you is going to handle discipline when you are both present (Sounds to me as if you are not only more suited, but more willing). Once that’s been established, then communicate that agreement to the children, as in “This is the way we’re going to do things when we are together.” Perhaps, over time, he will come to see the wisdom of stepping fully up to the daddy plate.
Q: My 6-year-old has recently started lying. His favorite sentence is “I didn’t do anything.” Even when I catch him in a lie he denies being at fault. I calmly and consistently punish him for it by depriving him of toys or fun, but that’s not working. He is neither an only child nor is he deprived of attention. What now?
A: Once the “lying machine” is up and running, punishment rarely works to shut it down. The fuel for lying is questions parents ask like “Did you break the window?” when they already know full well that, yes, the child did it.
Questions of this sort set up a cat-and-mouse game that puts the child squarely in control. Even though the cat usually catches the mouse, the thrill of the chase keeps the game going on and on and on like a broken record.
The old adage “Ask them no questions, and they will tell you no lies” means that when parents know or are reasonably certain they know what has happened, they should make statements, as in, “You broke the window.” Period. If the child still denies, pay no attention to the denial. Simply say, “Because you broke the window, you will stay indoors for a week.” Then, ignore protests. Refuse to discuss it. Simply enforce, and repeat as often as necessary.
Will that stop the lying? I can’t guarantee anything. I do know that it takes very little time for a child to become hooked on lying and that the demon of this particular addiction has to be starved for a long, long time before it decides to leave its host and move on. In short, you have your work cut out for you.

Rosemond, a family psychologist, answers questions at his Web site:
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