This blog is my place to vent and share resources with other parents of children of trauma. I try to be open and honest about my feelings in order to help others know they are not alone. Therapeutic parenting of adopted teenagers with RAD and other severe mental illnesses and issues (plus "neurotypical" teens) , is not easy, and there are time when I say what I feel... at the moment. We're all human!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Lying and Stealing

Why do they lie?  Lying, stealing,  "crazy lying" (saying things that can't possibly be true), lying when there seems to be no purpose (the truth might even be better!), lying when caught red-handed (even if there's video evidence!), lying when assured that the truth will bring no consequences whereas the lies will bring severe consequences, layers of lies upon lies...

There are many possible reasons why kids with RAD and other trauma issues lie:

Reasons for Lying:

**Object Permanence**
Children with RAD frequently have undeveloped or underdeveloped Object Permanence - causing the inability to attach to or trust someone. It's hard to trust someone who disappears the moment they step out of sight! But there are more long-range consequences to Object Permanence issues as well, including the ability to reason.

**Brain Damage - RAD and FASD**
Both Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) cause permanent brain damage. If we put in every effort early on things may slowly get better, but we can not assume things will be "fixed." Effective treatment doesn't mean the issues stop. The goal is to limit/ contain them until we can live with it. 

**Pre-Operations (Age 2-6 yrs.)**

During the Pre-Operations developmental stage, children create meaning through fantasy.
Kids with arrested development at the Pre-operations stage (which is common for children of trauma) are not able to understand how people can infer things without seeing them. If you can't see it, Mom, it didn't happen. You can't know.

Let me say that again, if you can't see it, you couldn't know! They are very visual and must touch or feel everything.  Thus, your child feels that you are persecuting him or her "illegally" when you give them consequences for something you figure out/ assume/ intuit/ put together...  

If you know that your child is the one who usually steals, is the only one who had access to whatever to the candy, there is chocolate all over their face and fingers, and you found wrappers hidden in the suspected child's room... your child literally does not "get" how you could accuse them of stealing the candy... their brain literally does not work that way so they don't understand yours.

Frequently for a child in the P-O stage, once a subject is dropped then it is over - out of sight out of mind.  If you bring a lie up again or talk about events that happened in the past, then you are "holding a grudge."  There is a real "blank slate" mentality that they don't necessarily have control over, especially if there is damage to the memory part of their brain.

{This is the stage when imaginary friends might show up. Not Me and his cousin Ida Know live in our house. My children "know" that it wasn't themselves who did it so it must be Not Me or Ida Know. Mom couldn't have found out because she wasn't there to see it.}

It is believed that the reason so many children of trauma are stuck in the pre-operations stage is that it allows children to fantasize that they are omnipotent and invulnerable which alleviates the stress of being traumatized.
Humans feel the need to be certain (to resist stress), so they try to make sense out of what is not sensible - I think of dreams as a good example of this. Most of the time a dream is a series of images that need processing. We try to put those images into a "story" or something that makes sense.

This is mindless intentionality. The child is doing what comes naturally, not deliberately defying you on purpose.

**Magical thinking/ Distorted Reality (Ages 5 or 6)**

At the age of 5 or 6, children go through the "magical thinking" stage.  They can want something so badly that they believe it - so it is true. It becomes their reality and I don't think they even remember that wasn't how it happened. I firmly believe that they could pass a lie detector on this! 

{When Bob was 4, she came home from preschool with a necklace that I didn't recognize.  When I asked her about it, she said Grandma had given it to her for Christmas.  Ummm... nope!  Turns out it belonged to another preschooler and she'd wanted it so badly that she'd managed to convince herself that it was hers.}

You can see how this might work with the denial stage of grief as well. 
This can also be a symptom of mental illness (depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia).

Often, Kitty thinks of the rest of the world as liars, because her perception of events can be so incredibly distorted that she hears things that weren't said.  Hubby saying, "Who left the butter out?"  became in her mind a yelling, diatribe of all of her faults - and she reacted accordingly.  She really believed that Hubby verbally attacked her, and nothing we said could change that perception.  Operating in this distorted reality can make her appear to be lying.

**Concrete Operational Stage/ Black and White Thinking (Before age 10)**

Around age 10, most kids start to understand abstract concepts (like algebra, freedom, modern art, planning for the future, and problem-solving). Children with arrested development at the Concrete Operational Stage (which is common for children with trauma issues), tend to focus on the here and now, may not be able to learn from peer or role modeling (watching others to see how they handle situations), and often have difficulty with natural or logical consequences (because they can't generalize one situation to another). 

Personally, I tend to speak and teach by using examples and analogies. My kids stuck in the concrete stage could NOT get it.  If I tried to compare how they handled (or could have handled differently) a previous issue to help them understand a current issue then they instantly went into “fight, flight or freeze mode” because, in their mind, they felt they were going to be punished for this past transgression. If I tried using someone else as an example to prevent this reaction, for example, the “Boy Who Cried Wolf, ” they just couldn’t generalize it to the situation. 

The good news is that being stuck in the Concrete Operational developmental stage meant it was often pretty easy to spot Bear's lies. The bad news is even when I tried to make concepts as concrete and visual as possible, like the 
Trust Jar, he still didn't understand. He also had even more issues with things like impulse control because he couldn't foresee a future where he got caught.

"Dissociation is a term in psychology describing a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional reality. It is commonly displayed on a continuum. In mild cases, dissociation can be regarded as a coping mechanism or defense mechanisms in seeking to master, minimize or tolerate stress – including boredom or conflict. At the nonpathological end of the continuum, dissociation describes common events such as daydreaming while driving a vehicle. Further along the continuum are non-pathological altered states of consciousness." ~Wikipedia

Kitty is especially likely to dissociate, particularly in Fight/ Flight/ or Freeze situations when something has triggered her.  Years of trauma caused her to dissociate to such an extent that she no longer felt both her physical feelings (ex. she was not ticklish and would frequently ask people to pinch her arms and legs because she couldn't feel it) and emotional feelings (she was so shut down that we suspected dissociative identity disorder aka multiple personality disorder).

Unlike Bear, Kitty isn't usually a "liar," but in the middle of a fight, flight, or freeze reaction, she can "flip a switch" and have no memory of an event or something she has just said or done and therefore would probably "lie" by denying things that happened.. {At one point during a huge meltdown at her therapist's office, she suddenly "flipped the switch." 5 minutes later, with tears still wet on her cheeks, I asked her about it. She had NO IDEA what I was talking about!}  

**Defense Mechanisms**
Another problem for our kids is that they have developed protective defense mechanisms to keep themselves from being hurt, abused, and/or to keep others from discovering that they are horribly flawed, unworthy, and unlovable. This is a deep-seated core belief that we, as parents, may not ever be able to change.  Kitty's self-esteem is entirely dependent on the opinions of others, so she cannot allow anyone she doesn’t trust to see that she has any issues at all. [If You Find Out I'm Not Perfect, You'll Leave]

Years of hyper-vigilant PTSD have perfected these defense mechanisms and they are almost impossible to extinguish, even now that they are no longer needed.  Lying is usually a first-line, life or death, instinctual reaction to a perceived danger.

**Common Child of Trauma's Beliefs about Lying** - 
"When a Stranger Calls You Mom" by Katharine Leslie{Bear definitely believes most if not all of these. Kitty believes a lot of them.}
  • Those who love me will hurt me.
  • It is safer to get my needs for closeness met by strangers or those who are not important to me. (Can you say, "Kleenex girls"?! I knew you could.)
  • I have to look out for myself, cause nobody else will.
  • I have to hurt others before they hurt me.
  • I lose myself (I will die) if I become who you want me to be (like you).
  • I might as well lie, no one believes me anyway.
  • I'm forced to lie when people ask me questions.
  • People should stay out of my business.
  • If I want something then I should have it.
  • If I see something I want I should take it.
  • People make me mad.
  • When I'm mad I don't care who gets hurt.
  • People deserve what they get.
  • If I don't get what I want you are to blame.

**Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs**

Many kids with trauma issues tend to behave only because they fear the consequences of being caught (if they understand consequences at all) rather than doing something because it's the right thing. This is not because they're bad, or manipulative, or hate their parent; it is because they are stuck at the bottom of  Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Their trauma and fears keep them constantly feeling like they're in a war zone  - focused only on survival. [Why Doesn't My Child Feel Safe?]

Maslow’s five levels of hierarchy are:
1.) Physiological or biological needs. These are the survival needs — air, water, food, sleep, and procreation. These requirements are the basic instinctual needs of human and animal existence.
2.) Security or safety needs. These needs include health, financial security, shelter and the assurance of living in a place where one does not feel threatened.
3.) Social needs. Love, friendship, and community. Families, religious groups and social organizations fulfill the need to belong.
4.) Esteem needs. Maslow noted two types of esteem needs — self-esteem and esteem from others.
5.) Self-actualization needs. This is the search for becoming one's "best self." Unlike the lower levels of the hierarchy, this need is never completely met as there are continuous new occasions for growth. Maslow stated only about 2% of the world population is in the self-actualization state.
Deficit Needs/ Survival Needs
The bottom four levels of the hierarchy are referred to as "Deficit needs," sometimes called D-needs. The theory is that if a person doesn’t have enough of something in these four levels, he or she would feel the deficit — or need. Maslow has also termed these first four categories as survival needs. If one of these needs was not properly met when a person was a child, that person may fixate on the particular need throughout the rest of his or her life.

"Being Needs"

With D-needs, once fulfilled, you don’t often notice them. "Being Needs" or B-needs, however, become stronger as they are realized. When the first four D-needs are met, then a person begins to search for becoming his or her best self.

**Thinking Errors**

Many people adopt belief systems or world views that make them feel "in the know." These beliefs can be quite wrong, like thinking errors. Most residential treatment centers, hospitals, and other places, especially those that work with DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) and CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) try to help their clients identify and change these thinking errors.  {I've found this to be a pretty good tool to learn, although it only works if you have the cognitive and emotional ability to recognize, accept, and change these things... which my kids generally don't.}

**Impulse Control**

One day when Bob was about 15 months old, she was sitting on the floor in the kitchen, slamming a cabinet door.  Hubby came in and told her to stop.  She looked at him, seemingly understood, gave him a big, toothy grin... and slammed the cabinet door again. Hubby was furious and wanted to give her a consequence (I have no idea what that would even be). I reminded him of his 30 y.o. friend who had recently slammed his fist into a wall and broken them both. This adult friend obviously knew better but impulsively did it anyway. Can we expect more from a child whose brain is not wired correctly yet?

**The Addictive Brain**
We've seen evidence Bear has an "addictive brain" for years. An addictive brain is not necessarily about drugs. Bear's addictions shifted often and he could stop them seemingly cold turkey (drugs, alcohol, tobacco... but also sugar/ junk food, sex, stealing, adrenaline, chaos...). He will lie and steal to feed his addictions. 

"Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find -- the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding.' A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else."

Bear remains "addicted." In part because his attachment issues - the (in)ability to make human connections - hasn't really healed. 


If You Can't Do The Time, Don't Do The Crime

A lot of people believe that if a child knows the consequences of lying, stealing, or any other "crime" then they will be less likely to commit that crime or if given the opportunity that they will confess to the crime to avoid more severe consequences.

Some of the flaws in this theory:

  • Lack of Impulse Control - means they might do it anyway without stopping to think of the consequences first. 
  • Distorted Reality - they may not be able to see what they're doing as wrong and probably do not believe they will ever get caught
  • Trauma History - in a lot of ways our kids are often like prisoners of war - no consequence is worse than what they've lived through (whether in reality or in their head [Chronic-PTSD]). 
  • Trust Issues - they protect themselves by deliberately preventing themselves from caring about anyone or anything enough to allow themselves to feel upset if they lose it, even if it's more of a "sour grapes" kind of thing.
  • Life or Death Defense Mechanism- they lie as if their life depends on it... because it has in the past and it still feels like it does.  This is a core belief. A lecture, time out, losing their cellphone, or even jail time doesn't matter more than death!
We do occasionally see confessions from Bear, but they are usually WAAAYYYY after the fact (like a year and a half or more) when the child feels there will be no consequences or that he might even get kudos for dealing with it.

We do not have a standard consequence for lying or stealing (although in general if a child steals then he/she will probably have to pay back double the value of the item).  This is because we do not want the child to decide if the crime is worth the time - especially since they don't really believe there will be consequences because they don't believe they will get caught.


**Nature vs Nurture**
I should let you know that Hubby and I disagree about whether or not the lying and stealing are part of Bear's illness/issues. I say of course they are. Hubby says they are environmental/ learned behaviors. Actually, we're probably both right. Unfortunately, we both agree there is no "cure" for this; however, it does appear to improve (or maybe we've just made it more difficult for him to do). 

I question whether or not Bear is capable of understanding consequences, curbing his impulsivity, overcoming his past, and trusting enough to ever get to the point where he no longer steals or lies. 

Hubby thinks that Bear might stop lying and stealing if the consequences are severe enough that Bear decides they are not worth the effort. 

I don't know. I do think Bear is aware enough to avoid situations where the "punishment" outweighs the reward.  He also rarely commits the same "crime" twice. 

Bear will lie or steal when:
  •  He feels he is entitled (He wants something and knows we won't give it to him, does not agree with our reasons for not letting him have it, and/or thinks that rule should not apply to him).  Ex. The cell phone is his property. We did not have a right to take it from him. "Everyone" has a cell phone. He has been behaving so he deserves to have his cell phone back. He "needs" his cell phone to text his biodad and biograndma. Mom left the cell phone unattended.
         ....therefore, he took the cell phone and lied about it.
  •  He is pretty sure that he won't get caught and/or blamed.
  •  He lies when he thinks he is going to get into trouble - self-preservation defense mechanism. (He often lies even when he won't get in trouble because that defense mechanism kicks in automatically)
  •  He wants something/ impulse/ poor judgment.
  •  He enjoys the adrenaline rush

Bear's SOP (Standard Operating Procedure).
How the Grinch Stole Christmas - YouTube1. Someone confronts Bear. If something is missing or not right and Bear is suspected then Bear is questioned by the school or someone else. They ask whether or not he did it. (I do NOT confront or question him; I know better.).

He lies - convincingly.  (Think of the Grinch!)

2. Part or all of Bear's lie is proven false/discovered. He is confronted by someone with the evidence of his lie(s) and given the opportunity to tell the truth/confess. (Again, I do NOT do this. I know it is pointless and counterproductive.)

3. Bear will pick a fight or throw up a diversion.  Most often, Bear denies that he made the statement (lie) in the first place. He acts angry that he was accused and accuses his accuser of not having listened or heard him right and/or claims the person is picking on Bear. 

This buys him time to come up with an alternative lie.  

Because of his black and white thinking, Bear believes that if he gets you to stop saying he's lying then he was right and that's why he has "won."  He doesn't understand the concept of agreeing to disagree or that someone might be backing off because they realize it's pointless to argue with him. He definitely doesn't understand that getting the person to back off doesn't mean the accusations go away and that this damages people's trust in him. 

4. Bear gives an alternative lie.

5. Accuser is unable to prove or disprove the lie (or doesn't bother trying) and the matter is dropped 

Part or all of Bear's alternate lie is proven false - in which case...

Lather, Rinse, Repeat 
- with Bear coming up with more convincing alternative lies the longer he has to think about it.

I investigate the lying and stealing.  The school and everyone else, of course, do not do this or stop after only a half-hearted effort. They assume that Bear is a typical kid whose first instinct is not to lie or that because there have been other opportunities for Bear to lie and steal when he did not, that he, therefore, is a trustworthy person. This is an invalid assumption.  {If you want to see how well I feel that worked for him, read this post, 
What My Child Learned From Not Getting Consequences in School}


The Amazing Christine Moers on Lying

"Crazy Lying": Enough to Drive You Crazy by Trauma Mama Drama Crazy Lying - the kind of lying where it couldn't possibly be true. They're caught red-handed and still deny it and it seems like it's just to annoy you... 

OK, so now we have a better idea about WHY our kids lie and steal, but what do we DO about it?!

First, DON'T ask "WHY?!
For all of the previous reasons mentioned, your child doesn't know, can't express, or just flat out isn't going to tell you why.  If you ask why you're going to get another lie!  This is a life or death response on your child's part.

This is why I rarely ever ask my child "Why?"  Although I will occasionally question the child circumspectly, especially if I already know we are going to have to drop the issue anyway due to lack of evidence.

Avoid Feeding Into The Lies 

I believe that allowing our children to get away with lies, feeds into their illness and belief that adults are stupid and can't keep them safe, which increases the need to protect themselves by not depending on adults and keeping them at arm's length.  [Why Doesn't My Child Feel Safe?]


So here's my method: Investigate as much as possible, preferably without letting the child know he is suspected of anything. Monk is my detective mentor.  I check the facts and try to figure out ways to confirm or deny the lies/theft.  Our country believes in "Innocent until proven guilty" and if I absolutely cannot prove it, I might let the matter drop, but at times I give a child a consequence without absolute proof.

Document, Document, Document! - this helps you get services for your child and can help protect you and your family from false allegations.

Therapeutic Parenting

Sounds crazy, but working on attachment and feeling safe builds trust and helps the child stay regulated. Regulated, attached children have less need for old defense mechanisms (like automatically lying). Children that trust the people they live with don't need to prove that you'll leave them if they aren't perfect. This can help the child feel safe enough to get unstuck from an old emotional developmental stage and mature and advance.

Consequences often depend on the child's emotional age [Therapeutic Parenting Based on Emotional Developmental Age] and emotional state of the child [Dysregulation and Meltdowns]. If the child under age 8 or was in the middle of a fight/ flight/ freeze episode (the brain shuts down and the child is operating on instinct) when the lying occurred? That child would not benefit from the same consequences as a child who is older and in control. I try to remember (Yes, I know it's NOT easy), what's going on in the child's head when the incident occurred.

See more about consequences below under Discipline vs Behavior Problems

Chores, Responsibilities, and Other Things My Kids Can't Handle - 
When a child is overwhelmed and dysregulated by chores and expectations lying and stealing events frequently increase.

One thing that helped was stripping the child's room of all but the bed, one book, and one quiet toy, usually a stuffed animal. This not only helped keep the child from feeling overwhelmed but it also made it much easier to search the room for stolen contraband!

Structure, Supervision, and Caring Support,

Children NEED structure and caring support to feel safe and start to heal.   This feeling of safety is often not based in reality – it is a perceived feeling of safety.
Structure and supervision had the strongest effect on controlling my child's lying and stealing. 
I know this might sound really awful and controlling, not to mention difficult for us, his parents (aka jailors), but close supervision definitely reduced the issues with lying and stealing. This might just be because it reduced his opportunities to do so but I believe a big part of it was that Bear felt safer knowing we cared enough about him to provide that level of structure and caring support. I sometimes think Bear acted out when he felt unsafe just to increase our level of supervision.

  • Line-of-sight supervision - Generally, Bear was on line-of-sight supervision at all times unless he was in his room alone. This was a huge deal and made Hubby and I feel like wardens, but he NEEDED it. We tried to make it feel more like we were spending quality time with him than that we didn't trust him.

    Bear was NEVER left without the supervision of an adult who was aware of his needs and issues. Since he was too old for childcare, this often meant things like hiring after-school care providers (or Grandma!), having him in highly structured volunteer or extracurricular programs, us going to the mall and movies with him (We did try to give him at least the illusion of having his space and privacy. For example, when at the movies, we sat several rows away -where he felt we couldn't easily see him)... [Interview Questions for Caregivers and Respite Workers]
  • Bedroom door and window alarms - while we did have window alarms (that prevented Bear from sneaking out of the house), I felt like we should have had a door alarm too (still not sure why it bothered Hubby so much).

    Bear often left his room in the middle of the night - usually to steal food or some other item. I know many parents that had to worry about the safety of other family members, and installed door locks on bedroom doors. Not to lock children in! But so they could lock their own doors and feel safe from their sibling.
  • Room and belongings searches - Bear frequently stole things and hoarded food and other items. Usually, when searching his room, I gave it a good cleaning and removed all contraband and health hazards. While I usually did this randomly when he wasn't at home, Bear was aware that we did this for his safety, and rarely protested - even when I found contraband and gave him consequences. 
  • Food and Hoarding - For many of our kids, food is a major trigger, and stealing and hoarding food are common issues. This post has lots of ideas on how to handle Food, Hoarding, and Diet issues. 
  • School - My kids required a LOT of structure at school. We often had to battle the school to get this for them (even filed due process once). Both Kitty and Bear ended up in a special program/ school for emotionally disturbed students. All the staff was trained in special education and behavior management. Most had worked in residential treatment facilities. The student to teacher ratio ranged up to 8 to 1 at the most. Even when on his home campus, Bear received extra supervision - at one point even being escorted any time he left the classroom.

Love This Parenting with Connection Idea!
by a fellow Trauma Mama

A child used money intended for another use to buy a toy, and then persistently claimed to have found the new item. 
One possibility is that he doesn’t feel worthy of the gift. 
Rather than punishing the child, or trying to force the child to admit the item was stolen, how about saying, “I know you bought the toy. I know you are pretending to have found it, and I think it’s because you don’t feel you should have it. You don’t feel good enough to have it. But you are good enough, which is why you’re keeping this lovely gift because you’re worthy of it.”

We did something similar with a Zune. [Way To Go, Bear!]

After a never-ending series of small electronic theft (cell phones, mp3s...) I caught Bear with an expensive 8mb Zune mp3 player and decided I'd had enough. I told him this time his restitution for the theft was earning the cost of the item (just like the expensive liquor, but I didn't double it like we usually do for theft since the player was so expensive - 0ver $100!). But there was a twist. When he was done, he actually got an 8mb Zune.

He decided that rather than do "community service" like he'd done for the liquor (30 hours of free labor for family and friends/ neighbors), he was just going to earn the Zune with his allowance. If he does all of his chores and has a good attitude that would be $8 a week, so 15 weeks - a little over 3 months to earn the $120 (I rounded up for S&H and tax). Of course on a good week he actually only earned about $4. I finally allowed him to do some work at a neighborhood thrift store and he voluntarily gave up some of his birthday money, and after getting sick of his massive debts and minimal progress earning it back, we recently doubled his allowance (and the number of chores he needed to do to earn it)...

So finally, 7 months later he's earned his Zune. I'm so proud of him! Plus, I look back and realize that I can't remember having caught him with any stolen electronic items since this started so maybe he's finally stopped stealing! Well... stealing electronics anyway.


Is this a Discipline Problem or a Behavior Problem?

Discipline problems (noncompliance, misbehavior) occur when the caregivers have not structured the child's environment for success or when parents are inconsistent (expectations or consequences), non-responsive, or inaccessible. When adults adjust their behaviors and attitudes, often children with discipline problems can be brought under control in as few as 3 to 7 days.

Behavior problems, on the other hand, lie within the child. These are persistent behaviors that do not disappear even with the best parenting (although good parenting can help to control the behaviors). These can include impulsivity, inattentiveness, memory issues,  and other behaviors from  ADHD, FASD, and other issues. Also, immature behaviors associated with missing capacities in object relations.


I'll admit, there are times when I want so badly to punish my child even though I know punishment doesn't work. That's the way we're raised. Spare the rod and spoil the child and all that. Deep down, I want the child to realize that he/she is busted and this is his/her consequence/ punishment so the child will learn from it and won't do it again. When the urge gets too strong, I take lots of deep breaths and go re-read old posts on my blog until it passes. 

Whether this is a discipline problem or a behavior problem, when there needs to be a consequence for the family to move forward, I calmly and matter of factly present the child with the consequences of his actions (discipline/punishment). 

If this child has behavior issues, I do not ask or allow the child to offer explanations, because that will usually lead to yet another lie/ argument.  I just say, "You told a lie (or stole or whatever).  Your consequence is _______________.  Then I walk away because I cannot/will not deal with the lying, argument, fall out.

Many times, I have just said "You need to do _______________." I don't confront/accuse the child about making the mess or lying about doing the chore or whatever. If they ask why they have to do it, I just tell them "because it needs to be done." Then I walk away  

I do believe that the FAIR Club assignments are a good way to work with kids of trauma as long as you adjust them to accommodate their attachment-challenges/ trauma/ mental health issues... While consequences/discipline (like the FAIR Club) usually don't work well with our kids {Structure, Supervision, and Caring Support generally works better}, when you're trying to parent/ discipline multiple kids with different levels of needs, you can't ignore the fact that the other kids are watching. 

I was very aware that if the kids thought that their siblings were "getting away with" behaviors that they themself would typically have had consequences for then I would have a rebellion on my hands! The kids might feel that I care more about the child not getting disciplined and feel hurt and/or unloved. They would often act out and misbehave and try to "get away with" the same behaviors.

FAIR Club for Discipline Problems

Consequences - Writing Assignments
Consequences - Community Service

Ex:  Our standard consequence for stealing or breaking someone else's things is paying back double the value. In this case, Bear took $11 out of Ponito's wallet (which was then hidden, but Ponito did get it back). 

1. He will be required to do his brother's chores for 2 weeks ($10 if done well).

2. He will be required to give Ponito the remaining $12 from his saved allowance.
3. He will go back to carrying a see-thru backpack or no backpack at all.
4. He will not be allowed to carry a wallet.
5. He will continue to spend the night at Grandma's on Saturday night (something he's told me he doesn't like doing), but they will be closely supervising him.
6. He will not be allowed to go to his own Sunday school. Instead, he will have to go to church and adult Sunday school with Poppy.
7. His room will be searched regularly again (although I probably will not tell him this)
8. He will lose the "benefit of the doubt" if things are stolen or missing (I will not be telling Kitty this as I worry she will take advantage)
9. He is already not allowed to go places with his friends unless Hubby or I can be present, but he will be reminded that this definitely does not increase our trust
10. He will be in the FAIR Club until all money is paid back to Ponito.
11. He will be informed that if anything more comes to light at the school, or if there are future issues then he will no longer be allowed to ride home from the public high school on the regular bus, and could potentially lose his ability to attend the public high school.
12. This will definitely delay his being able to eat lunch at the public high school indefinitely. He'll have to continue to eat lunch at his special school.


For The Parents: 

As parents dealing with a child with behavior issues, we need to shift our parenting paradigms from "discipline issues" of intent and control to "behavior issues" of brain dysfunction. We're not dropping our expectations, we're just changing them. We do need to give ourselves a chance to mourn the loss of our idealized child and realize that we have a right to vent and even say, "I hate this kid."  [Finding the Joy]

I finally accepted that my son could lie straight to my face and could probably pass a lie detector test.  He believed his lies totally and completely.  To him, it wasn't really even a lie anymore.  I had to accept that his version of reality was just ... different, and be empathetic about his reasons why (Fear).  I stopped putting him in a position where he could lie.  I stopped asking him questions when I knew the answer would be a lie (pretty much ALL questions - except "What do you want for dinner?").

For a long time, I felt truly awful for giving my son consequences when I couldn't absolutely prove that he did it, especially since our entire justice system is built on "Innocent until proven guilty."  It didn't help that Hubby strongly prescribes to this belief and also feels that lying is one of the worst "crimes" a child/ person can commit. The hardest part is that not only did I feel Hubby thought less of me for giving Bear consequences when I couldn't absolutely prove he did it, I also felt Hubby got upset with me for not always punishing/ consequencing a child when he/she was caught "red-handed" and therefore "deserved" it.

It was hard, but I finally decided to Choose Joy.  My children's illness/ trauma is not my fault (it's not their fault either).  I helped them as much as I could, but I couldn't continue to blame myself.  It helped a lot to have the support of fellow "trauma mamas" who "get it" validate me and back me up, but it all boiled down to accepting that this is the hand we've been dealt and stop blaming my children and trying to hold them accountable for something outside of their control.

Some of the most important things I've learned to help me cope:

Prioritizing Yourself, Your Family, and Your Child - In That Order
Finding the Joy

For "Neurotypical" Children

An article about lying. - 10 Ways To Tell He's Lying
Some handouts I gave my children about lying:

10 Things You Need to Know About Lies & Lying

  1. Lying is the number one reason that people lose trust. 
  2. The most common reason that people lie is to avoid confrontation. Getting in trouble is never fun but lying to avoid it is always a "band-aid" solution. When the truth comes out the confrontation is guaranteed to be even more unpleasant than it would have been without the lie. A lie compounds the problem, it doesn't solve it. 
  3. Another common reason people lie is to make themselves seem "better" or more interesting. This sort of lying can be a sign of low self-esteem, problems at home, or depression. 
  4. Lies are like dominos - one lie can knock out whole relationships, destroy entire aspects of your life, or even limit your future in unforeseeable ways. 
  5. Lies are a gamble. Every time you lie you gamble with being caught. 
  6. Lies have a way of getting out and coming back to haunt you. 
  7. The worst lies are the ones you tell yourself. When you lie to others you are also lying to yourself. 
  8. Chronic lying can signal a psychiatric or social disorder. If you find yourself "lying for no reason" or to cover up behavior that you know is harmful consider seeking professional help. 
  9. Lies can damage your self-image and cause inner conflicts (like dissonance) that drastically change the way you view and act upon, the world and other people. 
  10. "Little white lies" are lies that are told about superficial things and are told when the truth would only serve to hurt another person. They ARE NOT told to avoid confrontation or cover up the harmful actions of another person. For example: telling another friend that a haircut looks good when you don't really like it is a "little white lie", telling your parents that you are spending the night at a friend's house so that you can stay out past curfew is NOT. 

The Real Reasons Parents Ask So Many Questions
(No, it isn't just to drive you crazy!)

Parents ask a lot of questions and it drives teens crazy. Despite what teen culture says parents don’t make inquiries in order to invade your privacy or control what you do. Parents ask questions because they care, because they’ve been a teen and want to spare you some of the more unpleasant experiences that seem to be common during adolescence, and because they want to keep you safe.

It is not a verbally inquisitive invasion of privacy that prompts your parents to ask, where you’re going, what will you be doing, when you expect to be home, and who you’ll be with, no, parents ask these things for one simple reason – they want to protect you. So it is a sad reality that many teens lie to their parents when they are asked questions about their plans. If you lie to your parents it could be yourself that you are harming the most.

Why? Not only does lying to your parents damage their trust but it has the potential to put you in real danger.

Let’s look at the four most common questions parents ask that teens lie about and examine how being anything but truthful could harm you in the end.

Common Question 1:  "Where are you going?"

The reason teens think parents ask this question.
The three most common reasons teens think parents ask this question are;
  • to be nosey, 
  • to stop them from going, 
  • or to know where to go to check up or spy on them. 

The real reason parents ask this question.

Parents really ask this question so that they can be sure that where you are going is safe, suitable for somebody your age and properly supervised. While it is possible that your parents would stop you from going somewhere unsafe, unsuitable, or poorly supervised their motive for asking is not to ruin your fun but to make sure that you won’t be put in harm's way.

The danger to YOU if you answer this question with a lie.

Teens who believe that their parents wouldn’t allow them to go where they want to go will often lie when asked this question, but lying could have some dire consequences. If you feel you have to lie about where you are going you should take a moment to reflect on why you are lying, do you know that where you want to go could pose a danger, even a remote one, and is this why you are covering up? If you lie to your parents about where you will be you put yourself at risk of not being able to get help if you need it, of your parents not being able to locate you if there is an emergency, of them being unable to give accurate information to law enforcement if something happens to you, and you will be more likely to engage in further risky behavior in order to keep your lie from coming to light. One example, if you lie about going to an unchaperoned house party and find that your ride home is too drunk to drive you may be more likely to get in their car because calling your parents for a safe ride home would expose the lie.

Common Question 2:  "What will you be doing?"

The reason teens think parents ask this question.
Again, the most common reason that teens think parents ask this question is to invade their privacy or to exercise control over what they will be doing.

The real reason parents ask this question.

The reasons that parents ask this question are very similar to the reasons they ask where you are going; namely, they want to be sure you will not be taking unnecessary risks and that you will be safely supervised.

The danger to YOU if you answer this question with a lie.

When you lie to your parents about what you will be doing you may think it is harmless, after all, if you are truthful about where you will be what does it matter what you plan to do while you're there? But there are several things that can go wrong when you lie about what you will be doing. You may be afraid to tell your parents if something bad happens, you may be afraid to ask for their help during a crisis or unforeseen event because of your lie, and you may make it impossible for your parents to help you if you’re hurt since they won’t have an accurate picture about what led up to your injury. 

Also, if you lie about what you are doing chances are good that you shouldn’t be doing it, and regardless of whether your parents ask you for details or not, this should be enough to give you pause about your plans.

Common Question 3:  "When will you be home?"

The reason teens think parents ask this question.
As usual, teens think parents ask this question to exercise control over their lives. More than lie about this teens are likely to say something like, “I don’t know,” “Before curfew,” or “I’ll call and let you know.”

The real reason parents ask this question.

Parents ask this question because they want to know when they can expect you home (duh!) but not so they can send out a search party if you are 20 minutes late. In fact, the real reason parents ask this question may be a little bit selfish on their part. Of course, your safety is important to your parents, and knowing when to expect you home makes it easier for them to know when you may need help - but there is another reason parents ask you this question. Parents ask this question because they never really rest until they know you are safe and knowing when to expect you home gives them peace of mind.

The danger to YOU if you answer this question with a lie.

The danger of lying when asked this question is pretty obvious; if you don’t tell your parents when you expect to be home they won’t know if you’re missing. If you get hurt your parents will know to sound the alarm sooner rather than later if they have a time to expect you home or a time when you will check in. Lie about this and you could end up losing precious time if you land in harm's way.

Common Question 4:  "Who will you be with?"

The reason teens think parents ask this question.
The parents v. friends conflict is as old as time. While most parents like the people their teen is friends with there are times when friends and parents don’t really mesh. Sometimes the reasons behind the feud are valid and other times they are not but regardless if your parents don’t like one or more of your friends you should ask yourself why before continuing the friendship. The most common reason teens think parents want to know who they’ll be with is to stop them from being around friends they do not approve of.

The real reason parents ask this question.

Yes, there is some truth behind the idea that parents ask this question to make sure you aren’t spending time with people they do not like but the more pressing reason behind this question is much less ominous. The most common reason parents ask who you will be with is to know where to start looking if you are late or missing. Parents may also want to know who you’ll be with so they can touch base with other parents about where you’ll be, what you’ll be doing and when you’ll be back.

The danger to YOU if you answer this question with a lie.

When parents don’t like your friend or friends 9 times out of 10 it is with good reason. If you have fallen in with a bad crowd or are engaging in risky peer activities your parents will be unable to help you if you lie about who you are with. And again, because you told one lie you may continue to tell lies to cover it up and you may be less likely to ask for help when you really need it or when you know something is wrong out of fear of having to come clean about the initial lie.

Remember flat lying about your plans or who you’ll be with can do some real harm but leaving out important details, lying by omission, can do harm as well. Lies of omission are the kissing cousins of outright lying and the negative results are often one and the same. Honesty is always the best policy when your parents ask questions no matter why you think they may be asking. Giving away a little of your privacy is a small price to pay for building trust between you and your parents and for keeping you safe.


Amanda said...

I'm so thankful to have stumbled across your blog! I'm a stepmom to 13 year old twin neurotyoically developing boys, adoptive Mom to Anna (age 6, adopted from Russia with love- and FAS, RAD, and 26 other diagnoses), and bio Mom to 20 mo th old Sara (typically developing). Life is hard. No, exhausting. Safety measures are exhausting. In thankful for your blog. We have a blog ( and facebook page (AdventuretoAnna).

Miz Kizzle said...

I like your reference to Monk. I happen to agree with another TV detective, Dr. House: everybody lies.
Our lies come in all shapes and sizes from big fat whoppers to little white lies, to "forgetting" to say or do something. Most of all we lie to ourselves.
Of course children should be taught that lying is bad and that loss of trust is a direct result of being caught in a lie, but I doubt that lying can ever be eradicated.
My kids are older than yours and they're NT. We never had a problem with them stealing. For that I'm grateful.