Tuesday, March 18, 2014

on deception, and mercy




Random Jake pictures because I didn't have anything more suitable.

Hi everyone! How have you been? I know it's been awhile, and I truly thank everyone who is still faithfully sticking with me! I was just telling a good bloggy friend the other day that I had a nagging consciousness that I hadn't posted for some time, but that I'd have to wait till Jake is at least a year old before I got back to writing regularly again. And she said, "Don't be stressed out about blogging. Family is far more important!" How true!

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!

17 comments:

Jane Chérie said...

Your little Jake is adorable! Blogging should definitely come second after him :)

After reading your post, I am feeling very sad for Marine and what she had to endure. I don't think parents should be so harsh on children. Teaching them good values and morals to help them become good human beings is important but to punish them, to accuse them in that way is in my humble opinion, not constructive in any way.

I have a nephew who lies often. But his parents do confront him with his actions and explain to him that it is wrong. Ultimately, I think the loving and caring he will feel will make him a better person. I have witnessed too many injustice done to my cousins who were battered for unfair reasons. Let me tell you, they do remember and they don't learn from that.

Thanks for reminding about compassion. It's something we all need to remember :)

Rowena @ rolala loves said...

Poor Marine. I remember being railroaded into admitting that I did something which I didn't as a child and it's something that I'm still particularly sensitive about (it makes me super defensive) to this day. It's good that you're taking the route of positive parenting with your kiddos.
Jakey is such a cutie! Hope you're well my friend!

Rowena @ rolala loves

sulky kitten said...

Love those photos, so cute. I like your ideas on dealing with children, Jan. I feel sorry for Marine though, to have had such a barracking from your cousin.I'm surprised he didn't force a signed 'confession' out of her.

Kay G. said...

Hey Janice!
Looks like your family is bit on the challenging side, just like mine!
Oh, I wish I could be there and pick up that sweet little baby boy and cuddle him, what a doll!
I hope your girls are enjoying being big sisters! xx

Birdie said...

I feel so sad for Marine. Many times in my life I have been falsely accused and it is a terrible feeling, There is one issue that still bothers me to this day!

And Jake! I LOVE his hair!

AntiquityTravelers said...

You have such a thoughtful view of parenting! I do completely agree with your point here, and badgering a 9 yo that way ... how could that possible end in a good way?

AntiquityTravelers said...

oh! and I can't believe I didn't say .... what a cutie Jake is!

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

I cringed through the whole interrogation. I actually felt sorry for the kid. Maybe she did leave it there, maybe she didn't. But she didn't 'murder' anyone, and the reaction seemed quite harsh. I think what bothered me the most was that this whole ordeal was witnessed by other people, which probably left that young child feeling humiliated. A private, one on one, talk is much more effective, respectful, and certainly more compassionate!

OHMYGOD...your baby boy is utterly adorable!

My Garden Diaries said...

Jake is so cute in those shots! ANd yes...take your time with the blogging thing...life and family do come first! As for what happened with Marine...I feel terrible for her. The thing is what is going to happen when she is older and there are REAL issues! Not only are they making her feel bad about herself they are closing a major door in their relationship with her. I was a teacher for many years and no matter how old a child is...they deserve respect and love. Though they are small they are people and they are blessings. Thank you for sharing this story...I can only imagine how much this bothered you. Your advice and tips at the end of this post are so important for all to read. A wonderful week to you...Nicole xo

The Dainty Dolls House said...

Poor child, I really don't like those moments...I had many like that as a child and it isn't so nice. No one should do those things to a child. Your boy is so sweet, precious lil' face xx

Christine Altmiller said...

Oh poor girl,being spoken to in such a manner and for so long, while being told negative things about herself. Your post was thoughtful and helpful and a good reminder as to how to handle these situations better.
And on a lighter note ~ Jake is such a cutie!
I have not been around much, but it is good to be here at your blog again :-)

Miss Val's Creations said...

Oh my! This would have made me upset too. Poor Marine. These steps are great for children who may be lying. I know it can be common for little ones to do at a certain age and this would nip it in the bud!

Jake is so adorable with his canine buddy! I love his hair. :)

Magic Love Crow said...

I love the pictures! They are so cute!
Now, first of all, it was a can of pop! Give it a break everyone! I am sorry about the ants! I would have just said, everyone, remember, no garbage in this area, because this is what can happen!
My mom always said to us, always tell the truth to her. She said, she might get upset, but she would never get mad. She said, that way, we as a family would deal with things together. And, you know, I don't think I have ever told a lie to my mom?
Keep being you my friend! You are a good mom ;o)

Libby said...

Jake is absolutely adorable. Makes me smile. :-)

Now as for the other story....whoa! As you know, I do not have kids, but I teach so I'm dealing with a multitude of parents and kids all the time. I am aware of the different styles of parenting though and I think that in this situation, the style is more authoritarian, which IMO doesn't always work.

Sometimes I think, we as adults, miss the bigger picture. Is the real issue whether or not the kid broke the rules about eating/drinking in the wrong room or whether she is a liar (in general). Sometimes we try so hard to prove our point that we do more damage than good and make the matters too severe for the situation. Sometimes it's because we're really upset about something else, sometimes it's because that's how we were raised, sometimes it's because we don't know anything else to do, sometimes it's from sheer frustration and it shows.

I really hope that even after a situation like this that someone scoops that little one up and shows her compassion and helps mends her spirit without necessarily excusing her in whatever fault she may have had in the initial situation. Easier said than done, I know.

Audrey said...

Poor Marine! I guess when it comes to parenting that I'm always careful and try really hard to make sure that my response fits the "crime". No, I do not want ants in my trash can in my study....but I also wouldn't want to break my daughter's confidence over something that small. Do you know what I mean? Still, I hope it didn't create too big a rift and I hope Marine weathered the storm okay. And I was thrilled to see Baby Jake.....he is ADORABLE!!!! Hope you all have a lovely weekend! XOXO

Claudia Aguilar said...

Definitely cannot believe I missed this post! Jake is the cutest :)

I hate ants and definitely would be upset but not to the point of making such inquisition and make the poor girl cry :( I gotta come back and review those pointers again I have "little angels" too you know!

Fundy Blue said...

What beautiful pictures of Jake and his bud! He must fill your days with joy!
Sounds like your cousin got into a power struggle with Marine and was going to prove he was right no matter what. It's been my experience that when kids of this age adamantly insist they're telling the truth, they usually are. Poor Marine ~ It made my stomach clench to read this. Good for you for calling him on this!

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