Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire

Last night we had a standoff with Kenny, one which I hope makes a permanent impression. We have honestly had very little problems as he has integrated into our family, with the one main thing being his desire to control everything, to run the show. This is part personality, as he has obvious very strong leadership qualities, and part history as he was used to telling many of the younger kids what to do as he has explained that he "took care of them" often at the orphanage. It has required us to be very consistent in reminding him that he is NOT the mommy or daddy, and that he is NOT in charge. A few times it has led to some real head banging moments but most often it has only taken us reminding him and he has backed off.

Recently though, we have had a problem with him lying about little things to keep himself out of trouble. Unfortunately for him, "Momma's in da House" and he can't manage to really get away with anything without me catching him...sometimes I actually feel a little sorry for him. Yesterday evening, it started off as something small...there was gum stuck to a tray that we used to carry some snacks downstairs. I asked him "Kenny, did you put your gum here? It's not a big deal but gum belongs in the trash when you are done, not put on plates or trays." and he instantly...and quite nervously replied "No". Hmmm...the boys were given a small gum ball machine a week ago and Kenny has been the one constantly chewing gum, and I hadn't even seen Matthew or Joshua chewing gum since the first couple of days they had the machine. I had even seen Kenny chewing gum at the time he was using the tray.

I realized the time had come to make a bigger point of these smaller little lies. We have not been ignoring them, but it was time for the "Big Guns" to make a statement. So I called Matthew and Joshua in and asked them each point blank in front of Kenny, "Did you you chew gum and put it here?", and of course both indicated they hadn't. Well, thankfully Dominick quickly and wordlessly caught on and went right along with me on it with no explanation and he let all 3 boys know we were very angry, not over the gum but over the lying, so we sent all 3 to their room and told them to think about it for 5 minutes and one of them had better fess up, hoping that Kenny would not want his brothers to get in trouble for something he did and would step forward and admit it. 5 minutes passed and we called each one out, first Matthew, then Josh, and saving Kenny for last and speaking to them each alone. We didn't do more than quickly ask Matt and Josh one more time, then said thanks and asked them to go into another room while we talked to Kenny.

We asked Kenny one last time, and he again said "No", and then I looked him straight in the eye and said "Kenny, I know you are lying and so do you. You did it, and I am not going to let you sit there and lie to me. Are you going to let us punish Matthew and Joshua for something that you did? Do you love your brothers? Would they ever do that to you?" and at that he finally admitted it. He said he had lied because he didn't want to get in trouble, and I told him "But just like the last couple of times, now you are in bigger trouble...and I told you it wasn't a big deal in the first place, but now it IS a big deal, because we don't lie in our family and I have had enough of you doing this to avoid getting into trouble.".

So, we made him apologize to his brothers, during which he sobbed because he really does love them and wouldn't want them to get into trouble. Then even though it was only 7:00 PM we told him that because he had lied, he now would have to miss out on playing Monopoly with us as we had planned and he had to go to bed very off he went to bed crying as if we had just stabbed him in the heart. We made sure to have plenty of fun so he could hear what he was missing, which further increased his tears along with my feelings of guilt. But we have had 5 or 6 incidents in the last couple of weeks and we had tried talking to him, reasoning with him, etc. to no avail...thus it was now time to try a new tactic.

As we sat at the table playing, Matthew reminded me of when he lied when he was around 3 years old. I finally had to make a point with him too, so one day I promised to take him to the library which has always been a real treat for our kids, and then we drove right past it and he asked "Mommy....why aren't we going to the library? You promised!!!", and I said "Oh, the library? I lied, we aren't going." and said nothing else for a few minutes as I watched him in the rearview mirror and the tears welled up. I then pulled over, got out of the front and opened his door so we could talk. I asked him "Matthew, does it feel good when I lie to you? Does it make you feel mad and hurt?" and of course he said "You aren't supposed to lie, Mommy!" and I said "Well, why not? You do and you think it is ok...but the way you are feeling right now is how I feel when you lie to hurts me, and keeps me from trusting you.". He looked up at me and said "OK Mommy, I won't lie anymore, it doesn't feel nice." As bad as I felt at the moment, it was the most effective way to prove the point, and Matthew has honestly never lied since then, even when he knew ahead of time he would get in trouble he has told us the truth.

As our evening drew to a close, I left the game and went in and sat on Kenny's bed. I told him I was sorry he was having to miss out on the fun, that we missed him and would much rather have him with us. I asked him if he understood why he was being punished and asked him to tell me why so I could be certain he "got it". He said he was sorry for lying and he would try to be a good boy. I told him "Kenny, you ARE a good boy but you are doing something that is very wrong. We want to trust you, but right now I can't trust anything you say because you have lied a lot, haven't you?" and he admitted he had. I pointed out that all he had to do was say "Yes mom, that's my gum" and nothing at all would have happened, that it wasn't the gum that got him in trouble, it was the lie that got him in trouble...and I reiterated that every time we caught him in a lie he was going to be punished more severely than if he had told the truth, so maybe next time if he felt the need to lie he ought to stop and think about it.

This morning Kenny was his cheerful little self, and this afternoon he was happy...and a lot less controlling as well. He and Matthew shovelled snow off our patio and when I told them they didn't need to do it Kenny said "Oh yes Mom, I don't want you to walk out here and fall down.". He has a terrific heart and with consistancy, patience and love...and perhaps a little creativity...we will nip this in the bud and be able to have the kind of trustworthy son we know he is capable of being.

In other Kenny news, he had his palate spreader "installed" yesterday, which will spread his upper jaw to match his lower jaw, and will then allow us to move forward with his first surgery to close the fistula, or hole, in his palate. For the uninitiated, the palate spreader is essentially a metal bar across the roof of his mouth that can be opened gradually with a key-like device and it will slowly spread his upper jaw to the proper proportions. We have to manually spread it a tiny amount every 3 days with the key, and they anticipate him having this for about 10 months or so to achieve the results they are looking for. I thought he would find it more annoying than he did, but he has adjusted to it very quickly and it hasn't affected his speech as much as we anticipated.

This weekend we are finally celebrating Josh's 5th birthday. He had been so sick on the actual day, and for a week afterwards, that we decided to just delay it until he was feeling 100%. On Sunday we are taking him and a couple of buddies up to Grand Junction to go to Chuck E Cheese's. It's not something we normally do as we can't afford much of that kind of thing and don't want the kids geting into the habit of thinking we will do it every year, but thought that since he missed it altogether we would do something a little special. He is very excited, and in some ways celebrating his birthday a little later than the day after Christmas is better, as it allows the focus to be more on him and less on Christmas.

So birthdays and punishments this week. It all keeps life interesting!


pearly1979 said...

I have been through senarios exactly like this one with Kenny so many times with all three of my kids. My daughter Anatasia who is now almost 8 the most, but she has been here the longest. We too try to help them understand things are always worse if you lie. I think in the moment, when they are asked the question they have an irrational fear of what is going to happen to them if they get in trouble. They don't just want to avoid punishment, they are truly afraid. This has helped me some. Another person also suggested not even asking the question but just saying that you know they did from the get go and address the issue. Asking them the question gives them the control to chose to lie or tell the truth. Taking the option to lie away makes sense. You want to hope that when you ask you will get the truth but if you routinely do not then maybe it's some thing you could try. I am working on changing but it's plain old habit to say "Did you do x, y, z". We are also giving LOTS of praise for telling the truth, even over little things. They are getting better.

LaJoy Family said...

Now that you mention it, I think I read that somewhere too...about not giving them the chance but just making a statement. I will try it and you are right, it will be hard to mentally think before I speak and rephrase it!! I haven't really had to deal with this much with the other boys, Matthew's was a minor 2 or 3 incident thing and Joshie hasn't really lied about anything yet, so handling this is a guessing game for me. THanks for the suggestion!

Hilary Marquis said...


You are wonderful parents. It is hard to know when to "make a mountain out of a mole hill". You seized a very good and important opportunity. I admire you. We have been fighting the same lying battle with our 4 yr old...we've had to make a few impressions lately as well. Now I have new ideas! Thanks for sharing your heart & wisdom.

LaJoy Family said...

Thanks so much Hilary, I often hesitate to post about things such as this as I am afraid of what others might think about how we elected to handle it. But in an effort to be honest about what older child adoption is really like, I don't want to sugar coat it, and I also hope that others can learn from us in terms of what works and what doesn't work...and surely along the way there will be dozens of things that don't work!! Hahahaha~! I appreciate your warm support.

Tapsalteerie said...

We don't have any issues with lying as Sophie's never lied about anything and Xander tried a couple times to pass the buck only to find out that Mommy possesses "super detecting skills" and so he decided that the truth is better than fiction :) Beckett just says no to everything, but he's quick to 'fess up if he's done something with his "I'm guilty" grin. With Xander we quit asking "who" did something and asked him "how" something happened and that always gets the truthful answer... funny how a slight rewording can change his whole thought process.

As for birthdays... one of our friends has a son that's bday is right at Christmas. They let him pick a random day in the year to have his bday since Christmas totally overshadowed his special day. Now he has a spring bday which he gets to celebrate with his school friends and stuff... so it's kinda neat (although he does know that his bday is at Christmas).