Is This Normal?

Is This Normal

Why is my son spitting?

Stopping the Spitting

Q. My five-year-old is spitting at people when he gets mad. It started at the playground a few weeks ago, when he spat at a kid who wouldn’t share a toy with him. He spits at me when he’s upset with me or I’ve reprimanded him for other behaviors. Even though there are always consequences for this behavior (usually time out), it is not deterring him. Today, he spat on his teacher. What do we do to get him to stop this? — Mattawan Mom

A.You are concerned about your son’s spitting behavior and you understand that spitting is how he is expressing anger, so, you are already on your way to solving this problem!

When the spitting occurs, calmly state, “Spitting is not OK,” and give him a brief time out. Following the time out, tell him that although feeling angry is normal, spitting is not acceptable. Assure him that you will help him when he feels angry, so that he can learn to manage this feeling.

Talk with your son about situations when he has felt angry. What was happening? How did he know he was getting angry? Did he notice changes in his body like his tummy or muscles feeling “tight”? Tell him you will help him learn to solve the problems that cause his angry feelings in ways that won’t make a bigger problem for him. Give him things he can do when he feels angry, like count to five, take some breaths, ask for help, say “I’m MAD!,” stomp his foot, etc. Practice with him.

Take advantage of opportunities to share your feelings and how you calm yourself down in order to make good decisions. Look for times to point out good choices your son makes when angry or frustrated, and comment on these situations as indications that he is growing and learning!

Answered by Nancy Mitchell, LPC, LMSW, therapist at Family & Children Services in Kalamazoo.

Telling Tall Tales

Q. My 12-old-daughter tells lies about her life to other people. She makes up very elaborate, detailed stories about things she does. For example, she told kids at school that she met and spent time with a famous singer while we were on vacation in Florida. And she has made up a story about having a boyfriend who lives in another state. I am pretty sure everyone knows these are lies. She really has me worried. – Kalamazoo Mom

A.Telling lies is not uncommon among children, typically with the intent to get something they want or to avoid a consequence. According to child development expert Jean Piaget, children tend to go through three stages of belief regarding lying. During the first stage, they believe a lie is wrong because of the likely punishment. By age 6, most children recognize that a lie is wrong even if they aren’t punished. Twelve-year-olds in our culture have often learned that lies are a violation of the trust and respect inherent in relationships. Since the lies of the 12-year-old above are not designed to avoid consequences or undesirable tasks, it is important to determine her motivation.

Is she feeling a need to fabricate these stories in order to receive attention and admiration from her peers? Or to distract attention from her own shortcomings, such as academic struggles or perceived personal deficits? Has she been exposed to lying practiced by others as a method of building oneself up?

Depending on the answers to the above questions, she may need some increased praise and recognition for her actual strengths, or assistance in finding aspects of her life of which she can be proud. People of influence in her life may need to examine their own truthfulness to make sure they are not setting an example of fudging the truth or exaggerating accomplishments.

Rather than imposing consequences for this behavior, it is more important to begin an ongoing conversation about the importance of honesty in relationships if we want to be believed and trusted.

Answered by Suzanne Coleman, LPC, child therapist at Family & Children Services in Kalamazoo.

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Kids and lying

According to child development expert Jean Piaget, children tend to go through three stages of belief regarding lying. During the first stage, they believe a lie is wrong because of the likely punishment. By age 6, most children recognize that a lie is wrong even if they aren’t punished. Twelve-year-olds in our culture have often learned that lies are a violation of the trust and respect inherent in relationships. Since the lies of the 12-year-old above are not designed to avoid consequences or undesirable tasks, it is important to determine her motivation.

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