Question: My two sons (ages 4 and 7) recently found a stack of “Penthouse” magazines when they were staying with my in-laws. I’m angry at my father-in-law for leaving them around, but I’m more concerned about what the kids saw. How do I handle this touchy situation?

Answer: It is important to remember that as a parent, your reaction gives significant meaning to an experience. Parents add their own personal feelings and biases to their children’s lives. We can turn a relatively insignificant event into a major experience simply by the look on our face.

Nudity is not a big deal to small children. They are very comfortable with their own nudity, so other people’s nudity doesn’t usually register. It is always my best advice to answer your child’s questions honestly and simply. Don’t give information that isn’t clearly asked for and try not to give this experience undo meaning.

Many a little boy has stumbled onto a surefire way to rattle mom. The child doesn’t understand what the big deal is, but it sure got mom’s attention so there must be something to this. Hence, the birth of forbidden fruit.

Question: What is the best way to get my children to keep their room clean? I’m about ready to bribe them with money.

Answer: The key word in the question is “their.” A child’s room should be just that, their room. Further, it should be their responsibility. First, I suggest that a standard be established somewhere between your standard for cleanliness and your children’s. Once it has been set, then expectations should also be agreed upon and consequences laid out.

The conversation could go something like this, “If you choose not to make your bed before you go to school in the morning, then you are choosing not to watch TV in the evening.”

I also suggest that if your children make their beds, resist the temptation to straighten them up. It will be a long time before your child can make a bed like you. The comparison could cause frustration.

The mission is for your child to be responsible, not to perfectly make a bed. To build responsibility in your children, it is better to make comments based on their effort, rather than the product of their efforts. Raising children takes concentration that requires a light hand and a forgiving eye.

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