I received an interesting email this week and want to see what your thoughts are on the matter:
Hi, this is way off topic but I thought I would ask you for some advice. I just found out that my 12 year-old son forged my signature on a note sent home by his teacher. Then when I found it, he continued to lie about it. As I sit here eating crow and popping anti acids I am clueless as what to do. I've asked to meet with two of his teachers and told him that all TV, video games, and computers are out of bounds for him. But how long can I do that? Any suggestions? I'm desperate. Have your kids done this? Please say yes, I don't want to think that I'm alone on this one. OK, deep breaths and some chocolate and a few hours of sleep should put this in perspective. Right?
I'd almost like to say nothing more, but leave this open to comments and see what you have to say but I don't want to cop out on you here. I'll tell you what I said in response but then I want to hear if you've had similar experiences and what you did--I'd especially like to hear from those of you with older children. With my oldest at 14 I've had some exposure to this but not as much as many of you out there.
Most kids lie at one time or another, so don't panic.
This doesn't mean it's a good thing but it means that it's pretty much to be expected. It's human nature to want to create an alternate reality to escape a difficult situation so don't think it means you've failed as a mother if you find your child lying. It also means that if your child has never told a lie they're probably either a million-to-one anomaly in the system or you've been blissfully ignorant. Don't get me wrong, there's no finger pointing here, one of my own children has been caught many times telling lies and it's made me wonder secretly if the others are just better at it so they don't get caught as much. Hard to tell. The point is, you almost have to expect that it will happen sooner or later, let's hope you catch them sooner than later so you can deal with it.
Children need to know you love them.
No matter what, whether they're telling the truth or not, they need to know this and it comes from repetitive actions and words that reflect your love over the years--not just during the confrontation over the misdeed. However, just as important, they need to know that forgery and lying are wrong, that they've disappointed you by doing something dishonest and that despite what they might think or see in the world around them, being dishonest has significant consequences. Bad consequences.
Children need to know how you feel about honesty.
Not just by your words at that particular crisis moment but by your own example of being honest every day. They're watching you and learning from you--do they see you giving back extra change at the grocery store, avoiding the little white lies, telling the truth and giving back what you borrow? They're pretty smart and your example will have a lot of weight when it comes to how they feel about being honest themselves.
Punish the child for two separate offenses.
I would also tell my child that they're being punished for two different things--one punishment for the forgery and then another separate punishment for the lie and I'd make the second punishment worse than the first.
Now . . . as for specific punishments, that's up for you to decide because you know your child best, what they value and what would make the greatest impression on them. Don't make it so harsh that they feel they'll never recover--especially for a first offense--but make it harsh enough to convey your sincerity and intent. If you can't trust them, perhaps taking away privileges that require trust--being with friends, having free time, etc., would be appropriate.
Teach that trust is earned.
As Andrew explained to our kids, trust is like the rungs on a ladder, with each trustworthy and honest action being the equivalent of one step. But, with just one lie or dishonest action instead of stepping back one step you slide all the way to the bottom of the ladder. It's not fair but that's how trust works: a lifetime to build, a minute to destroy. Once you've slid to the bottom it doesn't mean you can't climb up again, it just means you've lost what you'd gained before and have to prove yourself all over again.
Don't be surprised--or give up--if the child does it again.
These things take time and consistency and slip-ups will probably occur. But stick with it. That's where the love part comes in--show them that you're willing to forgive and teach and care no matter what but be firm in your standards of behavior for them and for yourself. Just because they do it again doesn't mean your technique isn't working, it just means your child is human and probably needs more time to learn (don't we all?) Don't write-off your efforts as a failure if they don't get immediate results, you're in this for the long haul anyway, right?
And I know this is very late but there were some issues with the prize going unclaimed this week and I had to do a redraw but at any rate, Dorit Sasson at Pieces of Me was this week's giveaway winner and has won the lovely biwa stick pearl earrings from jaC Jewelry. Congratulations to her! I'll be posting a double-prize giveaway tomorrow so stick around.
Karen at Simply a Musing Blog is hosting a Nip Cancer in the Bud segment at her blog and is taking questions that will be put to some Texas oncologists about cancer. If you have anything for the experts nip on over to Karen's place to leave her a message. She'd love to hear from you. Tell her hi for me.
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