Written by Doctor G

Predict Temptation!

Is it better to tell your child not to do something bad BEFORE they do it?  Or are you giving them the bad idea and showing mistrust?

Lexi, in Queens, NY

A: Tell them before they do it!

When we predict a temptation and guide them about that moment, we are teaching a bunch of great lessons.  First of all, we can teach them about planning ahead.  Second of all, you are showing your child that you don’t expect them to be perfect.  Also, that you have faith in their ability to control their actions.  Lastly, you are proving that you “get” them, that you understand the struggles they face.

You didn’t give an example, but I will.  You’re dropping your 14 year old daughter off at a sleepover birthday party with about 10 girls.  To the best of your knowledge, these are good kids and conscientious parents.  But “group think” and too much caffeine coupled with parents who do need some sleep can lead to all kinds of great ideas around midnight.  So you mention that you hope she has a great time, but if the suggestion comes up to invite other people over after the parents are asleep, or “sneak out” that she would of course be in more trouble than she has ever seen in her 14 years on earth.  You’re happy to talk about why those are not ok activities if she would like…

What if she had never thought of it?  Will she now be the ring-leader?  Probably not.  Her personality hasn’t fundamentally changed because you have (maybe) given more mischief-credit than was due.  Consider the power of being in a group – and the dumb things that can lead us to do – along with the likelihood that someone in that group will think of and suggest such a thing.  It’s low risk that you will plant a brand new idea.  It’s far more likely that you are helping her prepare for something that will probably happen, even if not at this sleepover, then soon.

Remember, until somewhere around age 10 most kids think we are omniscient in any case.  After that they don’t think so, but they are not sure.  On some level, they still believe that we know all they do and can read their minds.  I know they will figure out the truth soon enough, but in the meantime – go with it.

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