Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lies, D@$% Lies, and 9-year-olds

I had planned to blog about our sweet little town's Christmas Tree Lighting the other night and include some anecdotes about me and my inability to estimate crowd size and how during our premarital counseling this led to a very interesting discussion with me, my husband and our pastor. Instead, I will now be discussing lies. Grrr...

I read a blogger the other day who said her tween daughter has turned into an habitual liar and she thinks this is normal behavior for tweens. As the mother of a 9-year-old who is starting to bend the truth like Bekham, I am dismayed. Really, it's going to get worse? GAH!

This week has been a bad week for lies. The other day my precious son who just a few years ago was toddling up to me to give me a kiss on my knee, came bounding in the door, looked me almost straight in the eye (I still have about 4 inches on him) showed me a picture and said, "Look what me and my friend drew." It was a picture of a person on a motorcycle. It looked to me as if it had been traced, but whatever. I think it rated an "Oh, that's nice" response from me. Then he started prattling on about how he only "drew" half of it, but it still counted because he and his friend did it together and isn't that great. "Yeah, okay, good." And in my head I'm thinking about dinner, and my van that was in the shop, and the Christmas Tree lighting we had to go to, and the friend's child who was at my house upstairs playing with my 3-year-old. But some synapse in the back of my brain was firing and thinking, "What's the deal with the picture?" I figured it had been "traced," so not technically "drawn" so that's why he was acting weird and moved on.

The rest of the night was a whirlwind of picking up my van, getting Sonic for dinner and running back out to the Tree Lighting. As we walk in the door with Sonic in our hands, my precious son looks at the picture that had been discarded on the table and bursts out with "I didn't really draw that!" What? What exactly are you talking about? The truth -- or something possibly resembling the truth -- comes out after many different versions to finally be that he found the picture discarded under a cafeteria table and then he took it and colored it. There was no drawing on his part, and since he found it on the floor, it was not done by his friend. It was only colored by him.

Okay, really? You really chose to lie about something that stupid and insignificant? I just can't wrap my brain around that. Did he think he'd get in trouble for picking someone else's trash up off the floor and keeping it? Did he think he needed to impress me by saying he had drawn it himself. He's a pretty good artist in his own right, and I am usually impressed by the work he does. I mean, I get lying to cover your assets -- we've all done that -- but lying about stupid crap makes me crazy. Is he lying because he's scared of getting in trouble? Is he lying to get attention? Is he lying because he thinks its fun, and he's going to end up in prison one day for his con-artist ways? Gah! I can't figure it out.

In our house lying in a capital offense -- okay, obviously I don't mean that literally, but it is a serious crime. If you fess up to something you've done without lying about it, more often than not you will not be punished. But lie to me or your daddy, and it will not be pretty. Our son is very aware of our views on lying. So why does he doe it? I asked him why he lied and he flipped out. He knew what was coming, and he started backpedalling and justifying as hard as he could. "It was just something stupid! Why does it even matter? It could have been my friend who drew it, you don't know who threw it away. It was only a half-lie, which shouldn't even count!" Just imagine a boy almost my size throwing him self on the ground crying and pitching a fit and you get the picture. It was ugly, but I stood my ground.

So why is lying such a big deal? Because as Christians, Jeff and I know that Satan is the father of all lies. And we cannot allow our children to become habitual liars. *Some of my liberal readers (you know who you are) just flipped out that I referred to Satan. Yes, I do believe in an actual Satan and an actual Hell, and I'm happy to talk to you about it at our next get together.*

So what's a mom to do? I mean after I threaten to beat him if he doesn't quit throwing a hissy fit over the punishment that hasn't even been decided on yet? Oh yeah, I make him look up and write five Bible verses about lying and actions. *Okay, now some of my Christian readers just flipped out that I am using copy work from the Bible as punishment.* I'll admit that the first time I heard this suggestion, I didn't like it. I thought, "It will make my kids hate the Bible if I use it as punishment." But then one night I was out of ideas for a MAJOR violation that had occurred, so I used it. And it worked. He was truly sorry for his actions. More contrite than I had every seen him. And really, the word "discipline" comes from the word "disciple," which means to teach, so what better tool to learn from than scripture. The Bible has lots to say about lying, which brings me to this...

I am a liar. Wow, that seems so harsh, written down on the page in black and white, as it were. But it's true. Readers, you can call it hyperbole (which I love to call it, because it is such a fun word and so apropos of me) or exaggeration or just plain stretching the truth, but I do it all the time. Now flat out to your face lying? I don't usually do that, probably because a.) it's wrong and b.) I stink at it. Can't lie to save my life. Look totally guilty and usually start giggling from nerves over the fact that I am LYING LIKE A DOG to somebody. But stretch the truth -- I do it all the time. "I've got a million things to do today... It must have been 110 degrees in there... I was too sick to get out of bed... Yes, Santa does deliver presents to little boys and girls all over the world in one night." Yep, I'm a liar. So how can I come down so hard on my son, if I'm guilty of the same sin? I don't know, maybe that's why I'm harder on him. But I know I can't just let it slide.

Tonight, it was a lie about homework. He said he'd studied his spelling. I told him to study some more (he forgot his homework twice this week, so I figured he could use the practice). He said he accidentally threw the list in the trash when he cleaned out his folder. Well, I knew he had cleaned out his folder before starting his homework, so obviously he hadn't studied. ARGH!!! Now, I didn't just have the lost spelling list to deal with (I made him dig through the trash to find it -- to no avail) I also had the lying to deal with. Didn't we just go through the lying thing two nights ago? So, more verses. This time instead of five verses, which was pretty light weight, I had him copy each of those five verses five times a piece exactly as they are written. (He tends to shorten and paraphrase.) It took a good 30-45 minutes, instead of the 10 it took the other day. I wanted him to realize that doing the homework he didn't want to do would have taken 10 minutes. Lying over doing the homework and having to suffer the consequences, 45 minutes. No comparison. Don't lie and life will be easier.

So maybe that will sink in a little more. Or maybe, if lying really does get worse as they get towards the teen years, maybe he'll just have a large chunk of the Bible memorized by the time he's 14. I guess there's always that...

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