Children Lie

Posted on
Categories Discipline, Financial Literacy, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Parenting, Special Needs, Talking to Kids, Theme WeekTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 6 Comments

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to blog about this incident. It’s embarrassing to one of my daughters, but not atypical for children their age. Seven-year-olds lie and even steal. It’s developmentally appropriate, but not socially or morally acceptable. Maybe our story will help another parent know that she’s not alone in tackling these issues. Here’s what happened.

For their 7th birthday, I got each of my daughters a gift card to a local bookstore. I like to use gift cards to teach my girls financial decision-making. The finite balance on the gift card teaches them that paying with plastic should be treated as responsibly as paying with cash. When they run out, they’re out. It encourages budgeting and exercises their basic arithmetic while they’re shopping. They have to factor in sales tax. Whenever possible, I try to set up situations where my daughters spend their gift cards over multiple shopping trips. I figure it helps them understand the idea of debit and the longterm record-keeping required to track their gift card balance is a good exercise.

The gift cards I gave J and M were identical. Although I suggested that we simply write their names on each one, the girls elected to distinguish them differently. One of them decided that she would remove the hangtag from her card while the other left hers intact.

Nearly two months after our initial shopping venture, the girls asked to go to the bookstore this weekend. I asked them to grab their gift cards and buckle up in the car. I gathered up my things while they packed up theirs. The one who’d left her hangtag on let us know that she’d found her gift card, but removed the tag so that the card would fit in the wallet. The other child was upset, feeling that Sissy had gone back on an agreement. It didn’t help that she couldn’t find her gift card.

I happened to know where the second gift card was. Someone had just left her card lying on the floor of the living room last time we went to the bookstore. Despite two reminders, it was never put away, so I picked it up and set it aside.

I retrieved the gift card and discovered that it was the one with the hangtag still attached. My daughter had claimed her sister’s gift card and concocted a lie to cover it up. I showed her the gift card and she instantly knew she was caught. Sister didn’t even realize what she was witnessing. I explained it to her, and she was understandably appalled. Her sister had essentially stolen from her and then lied to cover it up.

The offending party volunteered that the appropriate consequence for her actions was my permanently confiscating her gift card. I didn’t want to do that, but I did tell her that she would not be spending her card on this trip. Sister not only forgave her, but bought the offender a book with her own card.

The next day, I took a moment alone to talk to my daughter about why she’d made the series of choices she had. She didn’t want to talk about it because she felt bad. I reminded her that she had made some pretty bad choices, and one of the consequences of those choices was feeling guilty. She was going to have to talk about it and she was going to have to feel bad. Once she finally agreed to discuss the whole situation, she explained to me that she knew that she’d done wrong by not putting her gift card away. All the wrong actions that followed were to cover up that mistake.

I told her clearly that lying and stealing were far worse than the original offense, and those were the choices I was truly disappointed in. Dishonesty and theft would not be tolerated. Mistakes happen and can be fixed, but lying was unacceptable.

I live what I preach. I admit my mistakes to my children. The only lie I’m guilty of is eating chocolate at work so that my girls don’t know the quantity of sugar I consume. I’m working on fixing that one. I even struggle with the mythology of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Those feel like lies, even if our entire community is complicit.

This is another one of those ways in which parenting gets harder. You leave behind the sleepless nights and the diapers and potty training, only to have to help your children navigate morality and peer pressure.

What would you have done in my shoes? How do you tackle lapses in honesty?

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Share and (not) Share Alike

Posted on
Categories Behavior, Development, Mommy Issues, Relationships, Singletons, ToddlersTags , , , , 4 Comments

Our house is turning into a “sharing-free” zone. It has been to a certain extent for a while, but it’s now almost complete. So if you are sick of saying, “honey, you have to share your puzzle with your brother,” only to have both kiddos freak out, take refuge with us for a while!

It wasn’t always this way. For the first six months, EVERYTHING was shared. It just didn’t matter, to them or to us. Ahhhh…the simplicity of it all! Then “I want that!” entered their developing psychologies, and while it wasn’t a substantial strain, it ushered in the era of disgruntled babies who had their siblings rip toys out of their hands. One of mine handled it far better than the other, but it made me realize I needed a consistent strategy for mediating the situation. So I decided, at this very early stage, that if someone was playing with a particular object, it was theirs for the time being. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Only when they were finished could the other one have it. And if it were taken prematurely, I stepped in and returned it to its temporary owner. Of course I did this as gently and comforting as possible. As far as non-toy items (clothes, etc.) the boys still shared everything.

This was all fine and dandy until the boys hit one, and the concept of territory became acute. The battles over toys, food, clothes and attention escalated at a rapid clip. Reffing became a full-time occupation. The rules of the game: no hiting, biting, hair pulling or pushing. Yah right. It was truly trying to ref and call no-holds barred fights. No matter what, though, if you took something, you had to return it. I was generous in giving them plenty of time to process the concept of returning. And it took time. And many times of me returning the object for them. But they started to catch on and I saw real progress. Stealing became less and less. And if they did steal, they even started to catch themselves and give it back without prompting. The praise flowed like the Nile on these occasions.

We would go to the playground and I’d watch (and still watch) other kids bulldoze themselves into toys – grabbing, throwing, taking. The parents of the accosted would say to their dumbstruck child, “you have to share! Johnny can play with that for a while.” I say, screw that philosophy. How would you feel if you were sitting on a park bench, totally content surfing the web or texting on your iPhone, and some random stranger ripped it out of your hands and started emailing their friend? And then pitched a fit at you when you were forced to nicely ask for it back! Oh, the injustice of being a child sometimes.

We’ve maintained this no sharing philosophy pretty well. Of course, they need to play with a few things together, namely the train set. And this becomes a challenge. But we even set up the tracks to have many options so they are not constantly bumping into each other. However, I’ve just begun to realize that the boys still technically “share” everything. They have no toys, no books, no clothes, not even their comfort blankets, that are expressly theirs. The only thing they don’t share is their shoes – and this is by necessity because Oskar has mallets for feet and wears a Stride Rite XW. But I’ve noticed the boys becoming acutely aware of whose is whose and starting to naturally assign ownership. It started a few months ago. Oskar pointing and saying, “Abie’s milk.” Abel doing a roundhouse ID of where everyone sits at the table, “Mommy’s chair, Ozzy’s chair, Daddy’s chair!” And their overall general interest in identifying themselves as individuals. Abel points proudly to himself and say’s with a big smile “ABIE!” This is a big deal, because three months ago, if I showed them a picture of Oskar and asked them who it was, they’d both exclaim, “ABIE!”

So things are changing even more in the direction of no sharing in our house. Shirts are being identified as expressly Oskar’s or Abel’s (and it’s their doing – Abel got the monkey shirt from Lee-Lee for Christmas and he as required it to remained so. And vice-versa). Salty is Ozzy’s train. Thomas is Abel’s. And they have developed an awesome system for “sharing” their belongings all on their own. It’s called the trade. They actually ask each other if they want to trade, and if they are both in agreement, whaalaa! If they are not both in agreement, no go. Pretty cool! Of course, now I find myself reffing “trading” matches when they’re not on the same page, but I’ll take it.

I think given their strong self-awareness and human nature, the tide will continue to turn in this direction. Which makes things more complicated to manage. However, I can’t help but believe this no-sharing philosophy has some merit. Multiples are confronted with identity challenges that don’t enter the world of singletons. They are also forced to, on many levels, share so many things from conception on. This is a remarkable blessing and a curse. The more I can foster their own sense of individuality and ownership in things, the better off they will be. Because even though I maintain this “no sharing” mantra, the reality is they have to develop a sense of sharing and one another way earlier than a singleton child. They are birthed in a world that doesn’t solely revolve around just them.

I’ve often wondered if multiples behave differently than singletons in larger play situations? If they steal less, respect personal space more? Or if kids will be kids, regardless. Sounds like a cool HDYDI study. Leave your experiences with how you handle your kids sharing (or not sharing!) in the comments and let’s see!

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone