Why is it so hard to be honest?

In many of things I’ve read about raising children and particularly children who have issues like ADHD or ASD etc, I’ve encountered the same theories about why these children lie a lot. I’m pretty sure I agree that my son in particular lies because he is afraid of being in trouble. His experiences from quite young have been that many of the things he does get him trouble, and so his first instinct is to lie. I get that.

He’s a smart kid though. So why, when he repeatedly gets caught doing the same things that have got him in trouble previously, does he still continue to deny and lie? He knows full well that his parents aren’t stupid. He knows that we know when he’s done something. We don’t use many techniques other parents use, like entrapment or asking him questions where we know he will most likely try to lie first. We come straight out and let him know that we know what he’s done. We even show him how we know and what gave it away! Yet, he will repeat the behaviour.

We’ve changed our methods in terms of punishing the lie much more than the actual behaviour. We’ve made a big huge fuss if he does something and is honest about it, even to the point of rewarding the honesty, despite the fact that he did something he should have been in trouble for!

Despite all these things we’ve been working for years, my son is still really sneaky and dishonest. I know that sounds like an awful thing to say about him, and I don’t think he is those things deep down. I think there is something that is just making him not think about the consequences… except over and over and he doesn’t seem to learn! Every single day this week he has tried to sneak foods that he is not allowed to have without asking. Every. Single. Day.

When he thinks he’s the only one up in the morning…when he thinks I’m not listening because I’m resting in the bedroom…when he thinks he won’t get caught. Nothing seems to stop him. I’ve expressed my disappointment over and over. I’ve allowed him to have the food if he asks for it first (not after he’s tried taking it of course). I’ve talked and talked to him about how it makes him feel when he gets caught and whether he feels good about himself or bad about himself when he does something like that. I’ve threatened to remove those kinds of foods from the house. (Yes, in the past, I did remove them completely… he stole them from other people when he was at school!).

Arghh! What do I need to do to get him to understand that stealing is not OK. That being dishonest is not OK. That taking food he knows is off limits is still stealing. He’s finally come around to understanding that taking fruit of other people’s trees or flowers from their gardens is stealing, but when it comes to things in his own house, he just doesn’t get it. I’ve equated it to simply breaking my rules, which is not allowed. I’ve equated it to being dishonest and sneaky, which is not respectful to either himself or me. Nothing is getting through. Just 20 minutes ago, he asked if he could have a second ice block. I said no, but if he wanted a snack, he could have (insert list of things I said he COULD have). I then went into my bedroom to do some uni work.

He said, “fine, put your headphones on and listen to your lecture then.”  my suspicions were immediately raised and I called out,

“don’t you go and get an ice block while I’m not in here!”

Less than 10 minutes later, I heard him in the freezer, unwrapping an ice block and sitting down to eat it! I marched out and took it from him and angrily pointed out how dishonest that was, and that he only did it because he thought I wasn’t listening and he wouldn’t get caught. I asked him how that made him feel to have disappointed me so much. He just got angry and said that he was starving and I wasn’t feeding him so had to do it!

I reminded him that we had just had lunch together a short time ago, and I had in fact heated up and given him two servings of lasagna at his request. I had also given him a list of foods he was allowed to get, just that the ice block was not one of them as he had already had one today!!

Man I hope this doesn’t continue all the way into his adult life where he just lies and sneaks and steals, because he’s been doing since before he was three! I just don’t know what else to do to show him how bad it is. 😦

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2 Responses to Why is it so hard to be honest?

  1. Ain't No Shrinking Violet says:

    I wonder if some ASD kids don’t understand things like lying/stealing because they have difficulties understanding empathy. If you don’t understand how a behavior negatively affects someone else on a deep level, you tend to not care. Also, I think many aren’t motivated by various social concepts (such as “stealing isn’t allowed”) because they aren’t very social themselves, so they’re not as affected/motivated by social consequences. What are the answers? I have no idea. 😦

    • KL says:

      It’s probably very true what you say. I think I still struggle accepting that he has ASD at all, as he’s so high functioning. He does seem to be disappointed with himself each time he gets caught, or perhaps just sad that he’s disappointed me… Hard to tell how much pressure or discipline to apply when you don’t really know whether they have a true sense that what they are doing is wrong.

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