Random Jake pictures because I didn't have anything more suitable.
Still, sometimes there are things I really want to share or talk about, and so I do it in bits till a post finally comes together haha.. Like this. It has bothered me enough to want to get it off my chest and hear your thoughts on it as well.
Some nights back I was at my cousin's place; the kids were all playing together when my aunt came in asking who had throw a can of pop into the wastepaper basket in the study. Now obviously she meant someone in my cousin's household, and most likely, one of my cousin's kids, who apparently had done the deed a couple of days prior. Because the wastebasket is in the study, it's clearly not meant for edibles, and a trail of ants had appeared there.
Well, everyone automatically started saying it wasn't them, and so my cousin's wife narrowed it down by saying she had given the pop to Marine, one of their daughters. So of course the family started accusing her, saying it was so typical of her, etc etc.
The thing is, Marine kept insisting she hadn't done it; on being pressed further, she said she only remembered leaving it on my aunt's table (which is also typical) (and would also have created a trail of ants). Well obviously, now the whole thing started shifting from the thoughtlessness of throwing foody crap in the study, to whether Marine was actually lying.
Finally, my cousin's wife took Marine aside to where we were sitting, and sternly asked her point blank whether she was telling the truth. Again and again, Marine insisted she was -- this was when it came up that she remembered just leaving it on her grandmother's table. One last time, my cousin's wife asked Marine to promise her -- before God -- that she was telling the truth. Having helped take care of the kids for many years, I knew this was the ultimate; usually if the kids really were fibbing, they would admit it at this point, if not earlier.
Marine was already crying by this time (she is nine, by the way), but declared again that she was telling the truth -- she only remembered leaving it on my aunt's table (for which thoughtlessness she did apologise). She said she had drunk some pop in the study, then drifted over to her own room to offer her brother some, then drifted back to the study, where she left the pop. Knowing Marine as well as I do, I felt sure she was telling the truth -- as in, she honestly believed she'd left the can on the table, and did not remember chucking it in the basket.
Well, my cousin's wife was quite prepared to leave it at that, saying either she or someone else, possibly my cousin or even my aunt, had absentmindedly done it. But, perhaps because he'd been somehow vaguely brought into it, my cousin took Marine to the next room and for the next 20, 25 minutes at least, subjected her to a barrage of interrogative questions, in his most blustering tone, from where exactly on the table did she leave the can, to how long she had waited for her brother to drink from it.
At the start of this interrogation, I could hear Marine stoutly sticking to her story, but as it went on, I could hear her tearing up, and getting increasingly confused, stressed and worn out. She couldn't remember exactly on which corner of the table she'd left the can, or how long she'd waited for her brother, or what exactly she'd drifted off to do next after she'd left the can. Well, surprise -- this was like two days ago.
I felt so bad for her, but then I got really upset when I heard him telling her that she was a liar -- he knew her, and he knew she was lying -- she could fool us, but not him. After Marine left us (crying), I told him frankly that I was very dismayed with how he had handled the whole situation -- that no good could come from bullying and intimidating a child like that, and more than that, believing the worst of the child and accusing her without concrete proof.
Well, needless to say, he got all riled up and defensive, and started blustering at me about how he could just see it in her eyes -- he knew. All the circumstantial evidence pointed to her being the guilty person, he said. He went on and on about how she couldn't remember the facts clearly, like where exactly on the table she'd left the can. He reasoned that that showed she was making it up -- how could she possibly remember leaving the can there, and not be able to remember the specifics. She was just coming up with that story to explain what she'd done with it.
I said it was perfectly possible to do that, especially absentmindedly -- I myself continually think I've left crafting stuff somewhere on the dining table for instance, but find later that they're not there, and I'd actually left them somewhere else altogether. When one is distracted, or has a million ideas preoccupying one, one can easily do things like that.
My point was that it was possible that she sincerely did not remember throwing the can in the basket; that as far as she could remember at all, she had just left it on the table. Did that mean she wasn't the one who threw in the basket? No, of course not -- but it did mean that she wasn't lying about it, which was the main thing right? A lie, after all, is "a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth".
I felt it was wrong to accuse her based on circumstantial evidence and a "gut feeling"; if there was any chance at all of her not lying, I felt we should believe the best of her and just take her at her word. I believe browbeating her in some cop-movie attempt to trip her up and catch her in her guilt is just futile and damaging -- trust me, I know the long-term effects of unmerciful harshness and negative labels. Harsh parenting is connected to low self-esteem in children, and is one of the surefire ways to, over time, cause serious rifts and even total alienation. "Do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them]" it says in Colossians, "lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit]".
Well, the next thing I knew, we were getting into some stupid debate about criminal culpability -- he actually brought up how a person with dementia who murders someone is still a murderer, even if they honestly don't remember doing it. I couldn't quite follow this parallel at all, and could only say, yes, the person is a murderer, but one can't actually say they lied about not remembering.
In sum, several relational and parenting rules became reinforced in my mind. 1) Always be compassionate, and believe the best of people; 2) Avoid negative assumptions and labels; 3) Don't abuse your position of power; 4) Be firm, but kind; 5) Don't yell; and 6) Temper justice with mercy.
I also read up on dealing with kids when they lie -- because all our little angels will do it, at one point or another; heck, all of us do. I found these points in a great article by Dr Victoria Samuel, a clinical psychologist who works within a specialist child team in the UK's NHS:
1. Calmly name the issue but don’t demand confessions
Don't ask questions about behaviour if you already know the answer! Trying to force your child to confess is rarely effective: most children (and adults) will lie to protect themselves when put on the spot...
If you know your child is lying to avoid getting into trouble calmly describe the problem: "I see you got pen on the wall, how can we sort that out?" If possible, avoid lecturing or criticising your child as this tends to be counter-productive, leading to defensiveness and more lying...
Never call your child a liar; negative labels such as this can erode self-esteem and lead to self-confirming behaviour. Similarly, it is not helpful to bring up past transgressions "This is the third time you’ve lied about this".
If you catch your child telling a blatant lie, tell them you know they're not being honest: "I know that isn't true. It's normal to worry about telling the truth if we're afraid we've done something wrong, but lying isn't helpful. Let's see what we can do solve the problem".
2. Try to understand why your child is finding it hard to be honest
It's important to think about why your child feels she needs to lie. Perhaps your child lies about the marks she get at school because she is feeling overly pressurised to achieve. Or if your child repeatedly lies about their actions to avoid discipline, perhaps the consequences you are using are so severe that your child is too afraid to tell the truth. Remember that consequences are about teaching a child, not inflicting distress.
3. Teach your child about why lying doesn't work
Teach your child about the importance of telling the truth and how lying can stop people believing them even when they are being honest. A good way to do this is to read books with your child which give a clear message that lying is not helpful; 'The Boy who Cried Wolf' is an obvious example. It helps to take time after reading the stories to chat with your child about what he has learnt. Remember this should be relaxed and fun, not a morality lecture!
4. Respond with clear consequences
By around the age of six, children are able to know the difference between truth and lies. So if they lie to try to cover up something they've done, it may be helpful to give consequences, both for the lying and for the behaviour they are attempting to conceal. Make it clear to your child that honesty will get your approval and mean they get off more lightly.
This approach means that if your child does something wrong they're less likely to take the risk of covering up with a lie. Again, remember that consequences should not be overly severe as this may push your child to lie to protect themselves.
5. Set a good example
Remember that children learn more through watching other people's behaviour than through any other form of direct guidance or discipline. Unfortunately this means that if you're prone to being economical with the truth, be it mouthing "I'm not in" when your mother-in-law rings, or by taking a few years of your child's age when buying a bus ticket, you will inadvertently be teaching your child that lying is acceptable.
6. Praise honesty
Always be encouraging and positive whenever your child tells the truth and praise them for being honest: "Thank you for telling me you broke the glass. I really like it when you’re honest". (extracted from How to deal with lying and encourage honesty; italics mine. Read the article in full here).
Have a kind, loving week, my friends -- catch up again real soon!