Miscreant or misunderstood?

I’ve lately had cause to consider why someone might steal, or more particularly…lie… lots.

Yes, my six year old boy has of course been the reason for these musings. He’s taken to lying about almost everything. He has also been doing a little bit of stealing. Mostly he’s stealing food out of the pantry, which in light of the fact that he’s actually allowed to have food from the pantry, it’s not really stealing. But the point is that he’s supposed to ask first and not just get up in the morning and get into all the snack foods in the pantry. As of yesterday there are no longer any snack foods easily available to his fingers in an attempt to reduce the temptation.

In our house, stealing is completely unacceptable and lying is of course not far behind. Although the lying thing is a little more of a grey area as we try to teach him about ‘white lies’ to stop him from pointing out rather bluntly that this or that child is fat or stupid….sigh. The difficulty there, is that he is so specific and logical (most of the time) that you can’t actually say, “They aren’t fat or stupid”, when they obviously are! So we have to somehow teach him that it’s important to respect and not hurt people’s feelings, no matter whether what you are saying is true or not.

The funny thing is, he’s really not a great liar.. for that I suppose I should be glad. He leaves evidence of his misdeeds all around the house for easy discovery. He is not smart about the way he lies, using illogical explanations and stories that can be easily dis-proven. He always looks so stunned when I contradict him and tell him that I know exactly what has happened simply by following the trail of ‘crumb’s as it were.

This morning, he got up before anyone else in the household (not unusual), I heard him open the pantry door, and so I came out to see what he was into this time. I quietly strolled into the kitchen and said,

“What were you doing in the pantry?”

Son: “I wasn’t in the pantry” runs up and Koala hugs me around the hips so I can’t proceed further into the kitchen.

Me: “I heard the pantry door, so I know you were in there, just tell me the truth.”

Son:”Oh, I was just checking which cereal I might have wanted for breakfast today”

Me: “Hmmm.. is that the truth?”

Son: “Yep”

I searched around to look for any evidence of consumption and couldn’t find anything, so I went up to him and said,

“Ok, let me smell your breath please”

Son: Lips closed as tightly as possible and shaking his head vehemently

Me: Gently took his face and tilted it towards me and squeezed his cheeks a little until he opened his mouth voluntarily………clearly a smell of peanut butter.

Me: “Right, I can smell that you’ve eaten something, what was it?”

Son: “Nothing! That’s just my morning breath!”

Me: “Sweetie, I don’t understand why you want to lie about it! I know you’ve eaten something, and you probably wouldn’t have been in much trouble for it, but now you are working your way towards a lot of trouble because you are continuously lying to me!”

Son: “Ok, I had some peanut butter from the jar”

Me: slightly exasperated, but still with a calm voice. “Right, so I probably wouldn’t have been too upset about that. It’s not a crime to take a finger full of peanut butter! Now however, I am extremely upset and disappointed that you lied! It is NOT OK to lie! You really need to stop it, especially since you always get caught! It’s never OK to lie”

Right… if you know my son at all, that was the wrong thing to say…

Son: “That’s not true! Sometimes you have to lie! Sometimes you don’t get caught for it! Like if a baddie comes and takes you and you could lie and say, ‘there is another kid over there who really likes baddies and you can take them instead of me!'”

Ummmmm pardon?!!!! Well now I was suckered into a silly argument and he had successfully changed the subject and redirected my attention away from his lying about being the pantry…damn it!

Me: “Well, that’s not very nice for the other kid!”

Son: “Aha! But there was NO other kid! It was a lie! One that could save you from a baddie!”

We are hoping this is just a phase he’s going through and that he’ll soon figure out lying and or stealing is not very profitable or useful. The other problem though, is that when you have a kid like mine, you tend to over think everything and apply too much meaning to almost everything he does. Is he stealing because he’s feeling scared about something? Does he need more or different attention? Is there something inherently wrong with him that makes him lie? Is he really that afraid of us that he lies to get out of trouble? You can seriously drive yourself crazy thinking like that!

We know that he’s struggling a little bit at the moment as next week he will go back to normal school for two days a week, and at the end of the term he will leave his special school for good. That must be scary for him. He’s leaving all his friends and going somewhere where he has no friends, and no teachers giving him constant support and supervision. Poor little thing, imagine how upheaving that must be to a kid with anxiety disorder.

Yesterday, he had a setback where he just blew up after a series of disappointments at the end of school. By the time I picked him up, he was out of control and it fight mode. He kicked and scratched and bit me. When I got control of his body on the grass outside school, he spat at me (and I had just washed my hair!!!!). That behaviour really tells me that he’s worrying about something big. He’s stressing. It’s so hard as a parent to know how to help him when he’s like that. You have to discipline him and let him know it’s not OK to do that me, but at the same time he needs to know we are here to help him. He can trust us to help him sort out these emotions in a calm and safe way.

I think misunderstood, not miscreant. 🙂

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