Sue Scheff: Following the Rules by Lisa Medoff


By Lisa Medoff


Nina posted some questions about her 10-year-old daughter lying about eating and drinking in the bedroom and watching TV with the door closed. Nina wants to how she can tell if her daughter is deliberately lying or simply forgetful, as her daughter was a micro-preemie, and Nina is worried that her premature birth has affected her behavior and memory.

Nina is also wondering about the best way to encourage her daughter to tell the truth about her behavior. Her husband feels that their daughter plays both of her parents against each other, and he punishes her by saying that he is not going to take her anywhere for the summer; she won’t be allowed to go bike riding or have other interesting adventures. Nina wants to know if these are apt punishments for her daughter’s behavior.


Unfortunately for parents, there is no absolute, surefire way to determine if your child is deliberately lying or has simply forgotten the rules. Therefore, instead of spending your time trying to figure out if your daughter is lying, shift your focus to trying to help her remember the rules.


Tell your daughter, “I can see that it has been hard for you to remember our rules about not eating in the bedroom and watching TV with the door closed. Let’s see if we can figure out a way to help you remember.”

Try different ways to help her with her memory, such as having her write sticky notes with the rules and posting them near the TV, or making poster collages with pictures of food that is crossed out.

Any extra practice with memory tricks will be helpful for children who have experienced developmental difficulties.


Tell her that even though it may be hard for her to remember, she will still need to learn the consequences for breaking the rules.
Discuss what those consequences will be and follow through on them every time. She needs to see that the end result is the same, whether she lies or forgets, and you won’t have to waste time or energy trying to figure out if she is lying.

Be on the lookout for times when she does remember the rules. Give lots of positive attention, such as saying, “I noticed that you finished your snack in the kitchen before you went in to watch television. You must feel good about remembering to follow the rules. I’m really proud of you.”

Make a behavior chart to keep track of days where she was able to follow the rules.
Think of rewards that she can earn after a week or a month of good days.

In terms of the consequences, discipline works better if it is specific, immediate, is appropriate for the situation, and allows the child to make up for breaking the rules.
For example, a consequence of eating where she is not supposed to could be having to clean and vacuum the area.

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