Pants on various degrees of fire

I am fascinated by lying. Seriously. I always have been. I was a theater major, for pete’s sake. The act of pulling on a persona has always been appealing to me, and my parents are only too happy to remind me that I was something of a pathological liar in my youth. I do recall sometimes saying things just to see if lying would work, and of course can think of plenty of times I simply lied as an attempt to get out of trouble.

This may or may not be on my mind because yesterday, after I posted about our SUPER FANTASTIC morning and my caving on taking my child to school because it was so very important… it turned out that she’d lied about needing to be there.* (Of course. Should’ve seen that one coming.)

The thing about lying is that we all do it, to some degree or another. Did you know that this guy says we all lie regularly, maybe as much as three times in ten minutes of casual conversation? Kinda makes “the truth” seem like a unicorn.

Anyway, the older I get, the more I value honesty. I don’t have a lot of patience for game-playing when it comes to communication. I have no desire, anymore, to be anyone but myself. I like it when you’re YOURself, too. And I like it when we’re all honest and no one has to figure out if you really meant something else or whatever.

Enter the lessons of raising humans: Children’s brains aren’t fully formed, you know, and their honesty centers tend to be… well… a little malleable, let’s say. Just because I now truly believe honesty to be the best policy, doesn’t necessarily mean they agree with me. To say the least.

Now, when Chickadee lies, I’d venture a guess that it’s pretty age- and temperament-appropriate for her. I’m most likely to believe her if the lie comes along with a big show of emotion, so her best zingers (like yesterday) are generally accompanied with tears. She lies to get her way. She lies to try to get out of trouble. She lies whenever she thinks she’ll be better off lying than telling the truth, even though caught lies evoke the harshest penalties ’round here. While I’m not pleased that she does this, I’m also not quite ready to declare her irretrievable, because she’s only 12, and I was once young, dumb, and conscienceless, too.

The funny thing to me, though, is that this is where raising an Aspie gets truly interesting. Monkey didn’t lie for most of his life. I think maybe he didn’t understand how to. He told the truth always, often at his peril. He’s still not very good at understanding the whole concept of tact, but we’re working on it.

Nowadays, though, as his social skills improve, so has his lying. And part of me wants to be mad, but—as with the situation detailed in Jillsmo’s post this morning—it’s hard to be upset when it represents a developmental milestone. And for him, it really is. Sometimes I turn to Otto and say, “I’m just so proud—our precious little Monkey is turning into a liarpants!” He now occasionally lies to try to get out of trouble. Most often he lies because it makes the story more interesting and he realized that he CAN. Of course, he’s still just so terrible at it, I was telling a friend yesterday that I often find myself saying, “Really? I don’t think that’s true.” It’s the kind of thing I used to say to Chickadee when she was four. And I have to try REALLY REALLY HARD not to laugh when I say it to Monkey.

Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?

A typical Chickadee lie:
Her: *sobbing* I have to be at the meeting today or I can’t get on a team and then I can’t go to competition and I’ve just been working so so so hard and I really don’t want to miss out on this, Mom. It’s such a good opportunity and I’ve done all this work and I can’t believe I’m going to sacrifice it all just because I made one mistake. Please, please please can’t you make an exception? I swear this is super important!
Me: You HAVE to be there today?
Her: Yes! I swear! Or I have to sit out until March! Please, Mama!
Me: It’s going to cost you.
Her: OH THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

On the other hand….

A typical Monkey lie:
Him: Running laps in Health would take less time if people would just DO it. I mean, I just run my laps and I’m done. But the other kids, they’re totally out of it.
Me: What do you mean? What are they doing, instead?
Him: Well, half of them just run over into the woods and start petting wild bobcats!
Me: Really? I… don’t think that’s true.
Him: Well, one wild bobcat. Just one.
Me: Honey? There are no wild bobcats at school. Nor is anyone petting them. Try again?
Him: Well, it’s a wild cat.
Me: A wild cat.
Him: Okay, it’s someone’s pet. He’s in my class and his cat keeps showing up at school. Still. THEY SHOULD RUN THEIR LAPS.
Me: I see.

One type of lie infuriates me, the other delights me. That does seem a little unfair to the kids, I suppose. Hopefully they can work it out in therapy. After they stop LYING THEIR ASSES OFF.

* In addition to the standard “you’ve broken our trust and we are so disappointed” lecture, Chickadee’s dishonesty netted her the most dreaded of all punishments—she has 24 hours to come up with a suitable punishment for herself, or we’ll choose one for her. I believe this to be a tool of exquisite torture to be used very sparingly, but what can I say? This time I think she deserved it. (And yes, if the punishment isn’t dire enough, we choose something else for her, something that incorporates the knowledge that she didn’t take this seriously enough to come up with an appropriate consequence on her own.)

54 Responses to “Pants on various degrees of fire”

  1. 1
    Beth R September 14, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    Petting wild bobcats, huh? Wow. I think I might have enjoyed that gym class more than mine :)

  2. 2
    Karen September 14, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    Then there’s the fine art of “white lies,” which I’ve gradually been teaching my kids. That’s a lie designed to avoid hurting someone’s feelings: Instead of “No, I don’t want to have a playdate with you, ever” how about “My schedule is really too busy these days.” Instead of “No, Grandma, we didn’t like the cookies you made,” go for “Yes, they were delicious!” This prepares them for adulthood: Instead of “No, that’s the ugliest wedding gown I’ve ever seen,” it’s “You look gorgeous!”

  3. 3
    Jess September 14, 2010 at 11:56 am #

    Heh, Karen. The other day, my 8 year-old was being lectured on honesty, and she said, “But what about white lies?”

    Doh.

  4. 4
    Frank September 14, 2010 at 11:57 am #

    So, is that the “modern” version of having to go find a switch so you can be beaten with it?

    On a serious note, I DREAD the time when trying to teach young unit of our house the difference between LYING.. and the few times when its OK to fib a little… such as TACT (which is all about lying, in the strictest of senses) and the ‘white lies’ such as mentioned by Karen above.

  5. 5
    bob September 14, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    @karen – or the ultimate husband white lie to avoid hurt feelings: “why, no – your butt does not look big in that dress.”

    It will be interesting to know what punishment Chickadee thinks she deserves. Poor, poor Chickadee. The world is against her, no one understands what she goes through every day.

  6. 6
    Dawn September 14, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    Oh, I wish I’d known you when my kids were younger. You come up with the most DEVIOUS punishments. “Pick your own punishment and make it GOOD.” It has a built-in entertainment factor for the parent. Brilliant. Just freakin’ BRILLIANT!

  7. 7
    elz September 14, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    Pick Your Own Punishment-ooooh, that’s good and also sort of eeevil. I have no patience for lying. This might be because I am absolutely incapable of telling a lie. No poker face. At all. Another reason I went into health law and not criminal law.

  8. 8
    Mamadragon September 14, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    I will be interested to see what Chickadee comes up with for herself.

    My Aspie is also learning the fine art of the social lie. We’re starting with, “Gee these are delicious cookies, Mrs. Neighbour Who Can’t Cook, but I’m really really full.” All on her own she has discovered, “I didn’t call my sister that word! I called her a….a..FITCH..no, a HITCH! That’s it! And I said I ATE her! And I want to FILL her!” Ahhh…rhyming lies. Nice try, Aspie girl.

  9. 9
    kim September 14, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    Hmmm. Maybe Chickadee should miss the competition after all? But that’s just my devious mind going.

  10. 10
    Rebecca September 14, 2010 at 12:44 pm #

    Well timed post for me! My 7 year old lied to me yesterday (and forged my initials on his planner so he wouldn’t get in trouble.) I guess I’m still in the “How could my precious BAY BEEEE lie to me!?” phase. Good to know it’s normal-ish.

  11. 11
    Jenn C. September 14, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    What I think I find the most interesting is that Chickadee’s lie didn’t actually get her much – you could argue that it cost her (not just in terms of punishment, but that she’s already burned her “save” and you charged her actual money for the drop-off at school)… so she could attend a not-super-important club meeting. Clearly there’s not a lot of cost-benefit analysis going on in the pre-teen brain.

    Of course, once she’d created the lie, to have backed off once you made the costs apparent would have exposed the lie, so I suppose she was committed at that point.

    I too love the “make up your own punishment” idea. I’ll have to remember that one. Reading your posts make me fear the upcoming years.

  12. 12
    Melanie September 14, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    Ah, Aspies and their conservative use of tact! My Aspie is 17 and for the most part his social skills improve everyday.. but then there is the tact thing. I am caught in the conundrum of needing to teach my precious child to lie! My mother loves the new Geico commercial with Abe Lincoln where Mary Todd asks if her butt looks big and Abe hems and haws and finally says Perhaps! My mother thinks that commercial was modeled on my boy!

    Last Spring was his Junior prom and he went with one of his best friends who happens to be a girl.. He is used to seeing this girl in all her tomboy glory… scant make up, t-shirt and jeans type thing. She looked beautiful evening of the prom, and had even had her cousin come to fix her hair and do her makeup complete with the smokey eye!

    I can blame it on the fact that my son was already anxiety ridden due to the fact that he was wearing a tie, and a jacket, and dress shoes, and pants that just felt weird and no, he couldn’t tell me why, thank you.. it was just weird and he hated it and he was stressed and felt sick etc…. but then he saw his friend who looked beautiful, but not the same as he was used to seeing her.. and we all know how sameness is important to these guys. So instead of saying how nice she looked he said….

    “I hope you didn’t pay your cousin for doing that to you!”

    And the evening was off to a glorious start!

    The truth of the matter is, this girl is a lovely girl and has known my son since they were 2 and is very understanding and forgiving and they had a wonderful time.

    But I will be rehearsing appropriate prom night greetings with him every day from now until his senior prom!

  13. 13
    Kerry September 14, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    I’m confused. I understand that lying was part of this equation, but I feel like it was negated by the “save” that she used. Does this factor in?

  14. 14
    Kayt September 14, 2010 at 12:51 pm #

    My parents used to make me tell them what my punishment should be. If they thought it wasn’t harsh enough, I’d get a spanking on top of whatever I picked.

  15. 15
    meghann September 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    My ten year old Aspie’s lying is similar. It’s always stuff that makes you look at him like he has two heads and say “Um, NO.” His most famous kind of lying though, is making stuff up when he doesn’t know it. If a topic that is new to him is being talked about, he will make up facts, and give them in a pompous tone, and gets mad when you point out that he has no idea what he’s talking about.

    My six year old is autistic and is just now starting to lie. It’s the simple kind, the kind his four year old sister does with gusto. Things like blaming a sibling for something that was broken. A sibling that wasn’t even home at the time, lol! Like you, it’s hard to be super mad at it, when it’s a developmental thing.

    Although it was much harder to be happy when he started to finally go through the terrible twos at four years old. All of his therapists were thrilled because it meant he was finally moving forward developmentally. I had a harder time seeing it that way.

  16. 16
    Katie in MA September 14, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    One day Chickie will learn to incporporate wild bobcats into all of her lies. In the meantime, I’d volunteer myself for a week’s worth of kitchen duty if I were her. My mom didn’t have a dishwasher (still doesn’t), so offering to do the dishes and clean the kitchen after meals was always the easiest way to bail myself out.

  17. 17
    Randi September 14, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    Oooh – I love the punishment for Chickadee – I’m going to have to remember that one!!

  18. 18
    Nelson's Mama September 14, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    I like that you understand that lying can be just a part of growing up and not a character flaw.

    I’m always amazed at the parents that “back” their kids in a corner and then are angry when their kids lie to them…it’s called cover your ass. I’d probably do it too ;)

  19. 19
    becky September 14, 2010 at 1:37 pm #

    @Kerry (#13) – look at it this way. She lied in order to redeem the save. If she had just invoked the save without all the crying & hysterics, I doubt that Mir would have been mad at all. Exasperated, perhaps, but not mad.

  20. 20
    Megan September 14, 2010 at 1:43 pm #

    Mir! You use the choose-your-own-ending punishment! Yay!! I love the bind that puts the little loves in – the careful weighing of options because dude, don’t go too harsh or you’ll totally over-punish yourself BUT don’t go soft or you’ll get nailed. Sigh. Good times. [note: I was the BIGGEST sucker as a kid for this punishments – ALWAYS over punished myself. I once grounded myself for a MONTH for every fifteen minutes late I had been. Yeah. Guilt, thy name is Mormon mother…]

    Also for this: “I’m also not quite ready to declare her irretrievable, because she’s only 12, and I was once young, dumb, and conscienceless, too.” THANK YOU. There is such, SUCH a huge difference between a kid who is told to knock off the lying you lying mclierpants you and a kid who is told You Are A Liar [and, subscript God, he hates teh liars with a great and mighty hating. So you suck.] It’s hard to see these shades of grey as a kid, so yes, they have to come from a long-suffering and often cheek-biting parent. You rock.

    Also: I don’t quite know why the capslock button seems to have been hit on this post, but I do apologize. I don’t repent mind you, but I apologize…

  21. 21
    Lucinda September 14, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    Bobcats! I’m going to be chuckling all day over that one.

  22. 22
    Anna September 14, 2010 at 2:10 pm #

    I have a severe distaste for liars, especially grown up ones. Yeah, for the kids, I handle it much the same way you do in your home. But if I catch a grown up in a lie, you’re not likely to ever have a favorable outlook in my view, ever again.

  23. 23
    jodie September 14, 2010 at 2:19 pm #

    As the mother of a four year old, I am officially filing this one away “for future use” drawer. Mwa haha ha ha.

  24. 24
    Tracy September 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    I think we can all relate to this post. There is nothing worse to me now than dishonesty, however, I can appreciate the fact that I was once a liarpants, too. Oh and I love the punishment idea. I wish I would have thought of that when my kids were that age.

  25. 25
    Ani September 14, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    Bwahaha I first read that as “peLting” wild bobcats and I was wondering why 5th graders were provoking wild animals.

  26. 26
    RuthWells September 14, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    Ooooooooooooooooooh, Nellie. Tough spot for the Chickie Girl.

    (It IS rather delightful how badly Aspies lie, isn’t it? Been there. Hubby still can’t lie worth a damn.)

  27. 27
    dad September 14, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    The distinction is that certain lies fall into the category of “victimless crimes.” White lies and tales of petting wild bobcats stirs awe but unless someone actually encounters a wild bobcat and chooses to stroke its fur rather than run like hell and as a result gets bitten no one gets hurt. On the other hand, pleading for help for one’s own convenience and stealing your time makes you a victim.

    I suspect you already may have taught them the kids the difference. Remind them. If they say they don’t remember, tell them they are lying.

  28. 28
    Scottsdale Girl September 14, 2010 at 3:51 pm #

    And then there is the lie by omission debate… men seem to think that NOT telling a part of the story isn’t a lie…women seem to disagree. And as one of those women I get very frustrated with omissions…

    Wild bobcats…loved that.

    As a child my mom just spanked the crap out of me when I lied. I don’t remember lying much until about 16. Then I lied ALL THE TIME. I mean, she could not have handled the truth anyway.

  29. 29
    My Kids Mom September 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm #

    Make your own consequence is the mother of all punishments! Mine hate it! Agreed that it should only be used sparingly, of course.

    How about, “If I lie again you can toss me into the woods with the bobcats.”

  30. 30
    StacyQ September 14, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    It’s scary to see a 12 year old coming up with that good of a lie… I’m not sure I could be that convincing myself. I am so going to be in trouble when my kids figure out this stuff.

  31. 31
    Amelia September 14, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    WOW! Make your own punishment?! I’ve never heard of that, but I am totally adding it to my arsenal to be used when my daughter is a little older. You’re a genius.

  32. 32
    J from Ireland September 14, 2010 at 5:16 pm #

    Oh I can so relate to this. My special needs son gets told he is brilliant for doing something I tell the other kids is so wrong because it makes him so “normal” The other kids certainly don’t know this as I would be in a world of trouble if it ever got out. I LOVE getting my kids to come up with their own punishments, sometimes they come up with some really good stuff that I would never think of!!

  33. 33
    nwanda September 14, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    I actually petted wild bobcats when I was in junior high school. Okay, that’s a lie.

  34. 34
    BethRD September 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    My rule is (at least in theory) that whatever you say should be at LEAST two, and preferably all three, of: true, kind, necessary. I heard that somewhere a few years ago and I love it. It means that, first, sometimes you get a pass on something you say that is kind and necessary but not true, and second, you don’t get a pass on things you say that are unkind just because they’re true. And of course that the best thing to do is to tell people the truth, the things they need to know, but to be kind when you do it.

    My son the not-officially-Aspie third grader also doesn’t lie. I think he understands it’s possible, but I think he thinks it’s just too much work and it offends his sensibilities. He also doesn’t handle tact very well, but the fact that he barely talks to people at all kind of cancels that out, as to blurt out something insulting would require, well, talking. My three-year-old, on the other hand, has already figured out that “But *Daddy* said I could,” sometimes works. I think we’re in trouble.

  35. 35
    StephLove September 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    My 9 year old, who a psychologist recently told us “has Apsergers characteristics” but not quite enough for a diagnosis, doesn’t lie. Ever. Either that or he does it so well we’ve never caught him, but I think it’s the former. It’s made us unprepared to deal with the fact that his 4-year-old sister does lie, not well, but I’m sure she’ll improve with time. It’s like she ordered up the non-lying older sibling to lull her parents into a false sense of security.

  36. 36
    bj September 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

    “. If a topic that is new to him is being talked about, he will make up facts, and give them in a pompous tone, and gets mad when you point out that he has no idea what he’s talking about.”

    I thought that was just being a man.

  37. 37
    Heidi September 14, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    I’m thinking that Monkey’s drawing from his imagination, not withdrawing from the Lie Bank.

  38. 38
    pam September 14, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    oy

  39. 39
    Heather Cook September 14, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    I am quite sure the people who work for me lie to me at least once a day…. salespeople are like that sometimes! (Well, not all of my people, but there are a few…)

  40. 40
    Cele September 14, 2010 at 11:23 pm #

    Oh mi gosh that was the worst, my mother and or after would send me to my room to think about how I was going to explain to them what and why I had done whatever and what the just punishment should be. I would cry for hours, the waiting and thinking was worse than just about anything else.

  41. 41
    Shannon September 14, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    That is the most deviously AWESOME punishment I’ve ever heard of! I will be filing that away for future use. :)

  42. 42
    Becca September 15, 2010 at 1:54 am #

    I’m an adult aspie and while I can lie (growing up with a narcissist for a mother made it necessary for survival) I just don’t understand tact. I can never figure out when it’s needed versus when someone is asking for honest feedback. It’s worst when someone asks you to be honest but then is upset when you are. It’s so confusing that people will say things they don’t mean.

  43. 43
    Brigitte September 15, 2010 at 8:29 am #

    Wow. This is why I’ve always been such a social FAIL and am endlessly disappointed and angered at daily dealings with people.

    I have learned to manage omitting things, avoiding topics, and the occasional white lie, but I totally suck at and and don’t grasp the whole lying thing. It just seems like it would be a huge source of stress to have to make up EXTRA things to think about, when my brain is already far too full.

  44. 44
    Jean September 15, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    On a whole other part of your post–how the heck would that guy KNOW we lie “as much as three times in ten minutes? How could anyone know that? Those kinds of claims always bug me.

  45. 45
    Shelley September 15, 2010 at 11:26 am #

    I was laughing so hard reading Monkey’s lie I had tears in my eyes! Update us on what Chickadee chooses as her punishment.

  46. 46
    s September 15, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    I am laughing here because oh the lying, and like your kids, my kids are GOOD, they are just liars (and not particularly GOOD LIARS). Yesterday, as we pulled up our driveway in between picking the kids up from school and getting back into the car for an appt, I asked him about his homework, he said oh, I already did my spanish – I did it on the bus. And I said ok, then duhhhhh you did not RIDE HOME ON THE BUS, I just picked you up and drove your lovely self home to our house and your backpack is sitting right here in the passenger seat.

    So, not only did he lie, he has now ruined that answer for the rest of his bus riding life!

    I do often find myself chuckling though at the lies – I think sometimes they really lie because their INTENT doesn’t match their action…(ie I did NOT punch my sister, I was just mad but I did not intend to actually HURT her even though yes I technically DID hit her with my hand). Kids!

  47. 47
    beth September 15, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    Our usual consequence for lying is that you don’t get believed any more. I want confirmation for anything. Is your homework done? Bring it here to show me, I can’t take your word for it. Is your bed made? I’m walking upstairs to check. You haven’t watched any TV yet today? Well, who were you with all afternoon, so I can check. It’s annoying for everyone, but so far it keeps the lies pretty far apart. After a week or so we start trying trust again.

    Chickadee’s lies sound like emotional truth — at that moment she felt it was a huge deal to get to school, and so she made up a huge deal. And once she started, she couldn’t back off. That’s a courage thing, having the courage to admit she has made a mistake, and back off instead of going for the lie. Explaining it like that to our girl helps her frame things in a way that means she wants to fix things — she wants to be a courageous person, which is more heroic than not being a liar.

  48. 48
    chris September 15, 2010 at 6:13 pm #

    As punishment I think Chickadee should have to run laps while petting wild bobcats.

  49. 49
    Laura September 15, 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    I use the choose your own consequence thing all of the time in my classroom – got it from the nice folks at Love and Logic. My 4th graders often choose much worse punishments than I do, and then I get to be the nice teacher who lets them off easy. Ha!

  50. 50
    Casey September 15, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    This is probably going to make me SO unpopular. But – the only way I got my son to stop lying to ME, was to tell him I was going to start lying to HIM. and, dude. It totally worked. “we’re going to McD’s after school!” “oops, I lied”. Now, many of you will feel that is too cruel. But he was a liar liar liarpants. Yes, I know, it’s a rather negative way to go about it, and I understand that – but it WORKED. He hated being lied to. It took less than a week. He was 10.

    Casey

  51. 51
    mamaspeak September 16, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    Beth (47) – Wow! The courage thing, while true is kinda heavy. How old was your child when you started phrasing it that way?

    Casey (50) – I actually kinda love your solution (no lying! ;-)

    I have two girls ages 7 & 4. My 7yo has always been “the sweet one” and the 4yo is “my spirited child.” 4yo lies almost constantly, it’s like it’s imprinted into her DNA. I almost think it’s like she doesn’t know how NOT to do it. BC she’s 4 I know (at least I believe I know), but it scares me bc, by the time it starts to really matter, she’ll have a lot of practice & probably be pretty good at it.

    My 7yo has been caught in 2 lies recently. Both were things that I thought her sister had done, but turns out she had done. Initially they were “errors of omission” while her sister was getting interrogated & accused. When I was satisfied her sister hadn’t done it & turned to her, she lied point blank for like 2 seconds & then told the truth.
    I find it hard how to handle the whole she finally told the truth. I don’t want to punish her and therefore end up lying in the future. But she did make the infraction AND then was going to allow someone else to take the punishment.
    Any suggestions?

  52. 52
    beth September 16, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    At around eight or so is when we started talking about courage as a part of telling the truth. I think it was actually easier for them to tie it into something they do want, and that’s the age when kids are doing a lot of hero-play, in various forms (from superhero to mommy, you know). Everyone wants to be a hero!

    I think it helps them understand why they lie. First they understand the simple lie — I don’t want to get in trouble, if I say I broke the lamp I’ll get yelled out and that is scary. But by ten or so they understand that I’m doing this lie because I’m afraid to have been wrong, or to back up and lose face. If they can fix that by going forward instead of feeling like they are going back, I think it seems clearer.

    Your miles may vary, of course.

  53. 53
    JE September 17, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

    “She lies whenever she thinks she’ll be better off lying than telling the truth, even though caught lies evoke the harshest penalties ’round here.”

    First, I think you are a good parent. So these are just thoughts which may or may not resonate or help.

    It seems that these harshest penalties aren’t working, since the lying hasn’t stopped. So I wonder if it’s time to try something else. I’ll agree lying is common, but I think it needs to be handled they way all kinds of other things are handled. Bullying is also common, and would be even more so, except society has (mostly) decided it’s “wrong.” People don’t yet think lying is wrong, so we don’t really deal with it effectively and consistently.

    For the record, I think even white lies are wrong, and I think it is always possible to tell the truth gracefully. Always.

    Anyway, I think, Mir, that you might be stepping on your own toes here. I think you supported Otto in words when he refused to drive Chick, but then it seems like you disrespected his decision and, in effect, “unsupported” him by taking Chick to school. I know you love your kids, and I know there are always exceptions. But this seems, from your posts, to be kind of an issue–the Chick lying, the backtalk, etc. Now I realize that the lens of a blog magnifies and diminishes and is not an accurate view of your life.

    But from your blog I’d say you and O need to support each other in this way and enforce consequences. Maybe Chick needs to understand why truth-telling is good (I liked the commenter who talked about courage and emotional truth as well as the one who lied to her son to show him how it felt). Maybe all she sees is the lying is bad/punishment equation. Maybe there needs to be deep conversations on why telling the truth is valuable. Maybe take what happened and reframe it. What if Chick learned that she could come out of her room and instead of snarling, learn to say “I’m really mad this morning and I don’t know why.” NOW we’re immediately getting at the truth, even if it’s emotional truth not based on anything in particular that happened. But instead, she mouths off, Otto reacts, Chick lies, and you cave. You know what I mean?

    I think the lying is not the first step. Something happens before that Chick doesn’t know how to express and I think it turns into moodiness or not knowing HOW to talk about what she wants, and that in turn leads to lying and you wracking your brains about how to punish her by having her punish herself. I agree it’s clever, but I am betting there is something more going on and if THAT can be understood, I bet the lying would diminish.

    Also along these lines (possibly related?) is that you are maybe putting too much emphasis on some aspects of life and not enough on others. A switch in focus, maybe? For example, it IS important that all kids help out in household. But maybe they also need their private space. Is it truly important that their rooms look a certain way? What are you trying to teach that isn’t being taught through “we all take care of the COMMON family areas together”? MAYBE (and this is random, b/c I don’t read all your posts) Chick is reacting to a little too much micromanaging. Comes out of her room in a bad mood. Day starts badly and then you have your blog post. Have you had a dialogue about why you want her room to be clean? Has she told you her feelings about that? Has there been concordance on it? I mean, she’s starting to grow up and I think there needs to be a balance between being part of the family and doing chores that are clearly part of the household VERSUS having some autonomy and learning how to manage one’s own room (if she loses an important paper, well, she’ll learn about organizing). And while I am saying there needs to be dialogue in all areas of life, there doesn’t need to be negotiation on:

    SAFETY

    and there does not need to be negotiation on every little thing. That’s why there are overall dialogues, so that each day can run with everyone usually doing their work and their hobbies and their chores and their talking/laughing/hanging out without you needing to be the bad guy who has to follow them on everything, including making the consequences easier.

    With great respect,

    Joe

  54. 54
    Kaley September 18, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    How did she get caught?

Design by LEAP