In general I really enjoy the challenges of parenting. There are times when I feel like giving up or giving in but usually my mommy instincts kick in and soon I'm back on track. That being said, sometimes I have no clue what to do about some of the behavior issues that pop up from time to time. Although I think our children are well-behaved, they do have their own personality quirks and/or stage-of-life issues. Emi is bossy, Misaki is forgetful, Sakura is searching for her place in the family and Natsuki is learning to obey. For the most part their bad behavior falls neatly into these categories so it's easy to see it coming and both Chikara and I know what to do about it, plus the kids know that their behavior is wrong since we've gone over it a lot. But occasionally bad behavior comes out of left field and not only did we not see it coming, we also have no idea what to do next.
Case in point is Misaki's behavior over the last few weeks. I had anticipated that "something" would happen because she was starting elementary school and there are a lot of new experiences and new emotions that go along with that. Emi was the same way last year. She suddenly got more bossy (even though I didn't think that was possible) but after the first couple months of school and a lot of time-outs, she calmed down, got into the groove of her new elementary school life and peace returned to our house. I wondered how Misaki would react to this new stage in her life. Up until now, most of her bad behavior includes teasing and not paying attention to us and the consequences thereof so I thought we would get more of that. Boy was I wrong!
One night after Emi and Misaki had moved into their new room and we were putting them to bed, we couldn't find the nightlight. They don't really need it but since they're not used to the layout of their room, I thought it would be a good idea to have one so they could see if they had to get up at night to use the bathroom. But here we were, four days after moving into the room and it's already gone. I asked both of them if they had seen it or played with it and when I asked Misaki, a weird look flashed across her face for a second and then she said she didn't know. All my mommy instincts said she was lying but she's not usually like that so I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and we just left the curtains open a little bit. About an hour later, Emi came down to use the bathroom and when she went back upstairs all of sudden she was yelling for us so I went upstairs to see what had happened and Misaki is standing on the ladder for the bunkbeds holding the nightlight with a guilty look on her face. She was trying to put it back while Emi was out of the room. It was so out of character for her that I just put the nightlight in the socket and put them both in bed with a stern warning to Misaki to "cut it out". It was late and I really didn't want to get into it but it was really weird, even for Misaki.
A few days later school started and things were going smoothly. The second week of school, Misaki's jacket disappeared. This is not unusual since she often forgets her things. But by the third day of it being missing, I started to realize that it wasn't at school, maybe it was in the house or the car. I looked all around but I still couldn't find it. When I asked Misaki when she had seen it last, again the weird look went across her face. What?!? I stopped what I was doing and met her eyes and asked her again.
Me: Misaki, do you know where your jacket is?
Me: If I find out that you actually know where it is and you've been lying to me you will get a spanking because that kind of behavior is definately not OK. Do you understand?
Misaki: ...what if I find it right now?
Seriously, she said that. Suddenly it was clear to me that she was, in fact, lying. My sweet, sweet Misaki was lying (badly) to my face. What should I do? What should I do? Ahhhhhh! (deep breath, deep breath) So I told her I would just be mad and she stood up, walked into the living room, pretended to look around for a second and then pulled her jacket out from BEHIND THE TV! She had hidden it there because she didn't want to wear it to school. It's not that she didn't like the jacket but after one warm day the week before, she had decided that she didn't want to wear a jacket but the weather turned cool again so I wanted both her and her sister to wear their jackets to school and if it warmed up then they could just put it in their bags.
We had a little talk about how lying is wrong and she cried and apologized very nicely but it was all very bewildering for me since she hasn't ever really lied to me like this before. When Chikara came home from work, I told him the whole story and we talked about what we should do. Obviously, lying is totally unacceptable and even if it seems benign at this age, I would never want my children to get into a habit of lying that would be hard to break as they got older. Do you know adults that lie habitually? It's not pretty and we definitely don't want that for our children. One Scripture I constantly remind myself about is Proverbs 22:6,
"Train up a child in the way he should go
And when he is old he will not depart from it"
This is it, childhood, our big chance to teach our kids all the things they need to know. But how? How can we reach Misaki and let her know that lying in any form is wrong? Misaki usually learns by indefinable means. As in, I have no idea how she finally figured out how to use the toilet, or write letters or jump rope. We tried any way we could think of to describe what we wanted her to do, showed her, drew a picture for her, talked about it, etc. but all of a sudden one day she could just do it. I've talked before about the owie on her left forearm. One day, after two years of encouraging her to stop picking it, she just stopped. Out of the blue. I have no idea what finally clicked for her and most milestones in her life have been like that. So although I'm grateful that she finally figured out all of that stuff, I have no idea what process she uses to learn things so again I'm at a loss as to how to explain to her, meaningfully, what we want from her.
But on the other hand, maybe I'm overreacting. Two lies in the space of two weeks during an emotionally charge time in her life. Give the kid a break. Maybe this won't turn into a new habit but is just a result of everything else that is going on in her life. I turned to these nice thoughts in an effort to calm myself down.
After the coat incident, Chikara and I decided that maybe she needed a little sleep occasionally in the afternoons to regain her equilibrium. At that time she was still coming home at 11:30am and so between 2 and 3, I had her lay down for a little sleep. That evening when I took her upstairs to get her stuff ready for school the next day, she was blah-blahing as we were walking up the stairs. Yes, I was thinking but other stuff but as I tuned into what she was saying, our conversation went like this.
Misaki: Oh, sorry...
Me: What for?
Misaki: Actually, I don't know, I think it was Sakura.
Me: Sakura what?
Misaki: I don't know but there's black stuff on my bed. Maybe someone drew something.
Me: What?!? (not overreacting at all - yeah right!)
It turned out that during her naptime, she had taken her pencil and gotten the tip wet, drawn on her stuffed animals and then worried that we would find out so she hid the whole thing under her pillow and, the icing on the cake, hid the pencil under her futon. Unfortunately for her, I found the whole thing and she had that same weird look on her face. There we go. Three lies in a row, each worse than the other and each time she tried to cover it up and did not succeed. I guess I should be glad that she's a bad liar so at least this is all out in the open and we can deal with it. What did I do? Well, I had told her that if she lied again she would get a spanking so I gave her a spanking, held her afterwards while she cried, we prayed together, I told her I loved her and she apologized. But I knew that none of it had sunk in for her.
A few days later while she was playing in her room, she called Sakura and gave her something and then called her a minute later and gave her something else. Sakura was all excited and showed us two superballs. It was all OK until we realized that actually the superballs were Emi's superballs and Misaki was secretly giving them to Sakura. Now this time there was no lying but still very odd behavior for Misaki. So I had a talk with her and she had to apologize to Emi but again, I knew she didn't get it.
Then yesterday morning, while Chikara was getting ready to go to work, he calls upstairs and asks if I know where the toothpaste is. Now I admit that lately I've been absentminded but that one totally stumped me. I went downstairs to check it out and sure enough the toothpaste was gone but a similarly shaped tube of hand lotion was in it's place. Misaki. Why? When Misaki and Emi came home from school, I asked both of them together about the toothpaste and Emi's face was a total blank but the weird look flashed over Misaki's face. She was all, "Toothpaste, what toothpaste, I don't think I've ever seen Daddy's toothpaste, etc." while smiling the whole time. So we walk downstairs together and I show her the lotion and where the toothpaste should be and she's feigning innocence the whole time but I know that she's lying. But what I can't figure out is why on earth this would've happened in the first place. It's so totally and completely random. She wouldn't tell me so I spanked her and then in two seconds she "found" it. It was behind the washing machine. I was so in shock over the whole thing that I could hardly form a coherent sentence. She could produce no reason as to why she had taken the toothpaste, hidden it behind the washing machine and replaced it with lotion. And I totally believe her. I think there is absolutely no reasoning to it which is why it's going to be so hard to put a stop to it. I gave her another spanking, held her while she cried, prayed with her, told her I loved her and she apologized to me and later to Chikara after he came home from work. But again, I don't think we reached her. She actually tried to pretend that she couldn't remember what she was supposed to apologizing to Chikara about even though I had reminded her only a few seconds before.
So here I am today, bewildered. I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised. In preparation for the grade school years I've done a lot of reading and I knew that these are the years when children start lying, cheating, stealing and bullying. Maybe not all of them but all kids will try at least one and if parents don't step up right away then what started as an experiment could turn into a lifelong problem.
I also talked to my mom about it. My parents have been teachers since the year I was born and they've worked with all different grades and now my dad is the principal of a private school in Canada and one of his main areas of responsibility is to deal with behavior issues of his students. My mom said that lying in girls is a pride issue. They don't want to look bad so they create elaborate lies to cover up the teeniest thing. I can see how this relates to Misaki. She likes her image of being cute and sweet and she enjoys being well-liked by her friends and adults that she knows. None of the things she did were in themselves exceptionally bad but the lying to cover them up and her unwillingness to tell the truth even after we knew she was lying are the part that scare me. Another part of this that makes me sad is that I can't trust her. I could always trust my kids that they were trying to do the right thing. They might make mistakes from a lack of knowledge but never from willfull disobedience. It's not fun at all.
So why am I sharing this with all of you. Mostly just to share and get it off my chest. Some of you may be upset by my methods of dealing with it and that's OK. Maybe someone has some good advice for me, too. Maybe someone has been through the same thing and has come out the other side and can encourage me. Maybe no one will comment at all but at least it's not bottled up inside of me anymore.
I love my sweet Misaki and I know we'll get through this but right now, in the middle of it, I just have no idea what to do next.