Thursday, May 01, 2008

pants on fire...

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?

Misaki: No.

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.


Gina said...

Oh dear, I agree with ya so much and think it is a really good idea to get it all off your chest too. : )

I'm sorry I have no real advice for you Sarah. Because I've not dealt with that yet (crosses fingers I won't have to, but then you never know, you know, it could be happening to me next month for all I know. : ). Anyways all, I can say is I read what you said, and in my humble opinion, I personally think you are totally doing things the right/correct way. However, doesn't really matter what anyone thinks, as long as you know, what's best for your family and your girls that's all what matters really. Know what I mean? : ) about the lying. I just don't know Sarah. I think going to your mom and dad would be the best thing and see what they think/thought but since you did that already. I guess just pray and hope this too will/shall pass?'s a tough call. I know it breaks your heart and she is such a sweet sweet girl. Hopefully just the whole elementary thing, threw her for a loop and she'll hopefully be back to her own normal wonderful self soon. And I do agree with you, that it needs to be nipped in the bud though too...oh man, this is a toughie. Geeze, this isn't easy is it? : (

About the spanking. If it helps you to know. Even me, when my boys are just beyond naughty (and they are usually good boys). And they've been given the warnings. The talk. And I've done counted to 3, so many times. I too will spank my boys on the butt. Granted, not every day, not every week, maybe not every month. But yes, I certainly understand where you are coming from....totally. I think you and I are really on the same page regarding that. And I know you only spank when need be too.

Anyways...I think my comments weren't so helpful perhaps.. : ) But, I did wanna say something.....anything, just to show some support of you and help you ride this one out. I'm here and if you need me, drop me an email. : )

Kim said...

Wow, Sarah! I have no experience and no advice, but I will be praying for you all. Your parenting skills and stories have helped us a lot! Thanks!

Henri said...

Ask the holy spirit for guidance. That's his job. :)

Personally, I think you should use a bigger stick. haha. No, I'm just kidding. That's the "guy reaction", I suppose. I can't imagine Ayva in this situation, so I really have no useful advice except that the holy spirit is supposed to provide counsel.

I think there's also an element of trust in there too, that as long as you're doing everything you can do (which it sure sounds like you and C are doing!), then you need to trust the holy spirit to do the rest. As parents, we are obligated to do the best we can... but ultimately we are accountable to God, who alone can do a perfect job. So.. my "advice" (haha) is to do the best you can, then trust the holy spirit to do the rest.

An another note -- I pray that when Ayva goes through this stuff, I'll have even a tiny bit of the patience and understanding you have demonstated!

Dawn Carrick said...

Hey Sarah,
I have been reading your blog for awhile now and decided to "unlurk."

I have found with my oldest (he's 10) that when he starts doing things so out of the normal that something more is going on. Often it is something that has happened at school. He doesn't want to tell me, so he acts out, lies, hurts others, etc, to try to get our attention that something isn't right.

I agree with you and think your method of discipline is great!!! I know you will sort it all out.

Isn't parenting fun!!!???


Heidi said...

Hi Sarah,

I used to lie a lot too when I was that age (and if the internet had existed then, my parents would have written your post!).

Each person is different, but as far as I can recall, the reasons why I lied were just to get out of doing something (like hiding books because I did not want to study) or to get out of trouble (like I knew I had done somthing "bad" and wanted to hide it). I think for me, the crux of the matter was that I felt my parents were quite authoritarian, the disciplinarians and "would not understand". So it was not like I could just tell them I did not want to study that afternoon or that I had accidentally spoilt/broken something.

How did my parents deal with it? Dad walloped me with a cane. (No hand-holding or hugging after that - just not done in my culture back then!) It went on for years (sorry to say!) before I finally got out of this. I suspect I stopped maybe around 9 or 10.

The thing now is that due to all that walloping, I am a bad liar and I just don't do it anymore. I can't even lie to save my life now.

ailsa said...

I would agree with Dawn in that there is probably issues at school that is bringing on the lying. It may not be anything drastic but just a small change. You said that she enjoys being seen as cute and likes to be liked, so maybe someone else has taken the No 1 spot and she feels threatened. It may also be that there are other girls who are jealous of her being so pretty and are giving her the cold shoulder. Whatever the reason, I'm sure it's going to pass once she gets more settled at school and you are there to reassure her that she is loved.

One of my daughters also went through a 'fibbing' stage - nothing really bad but it was there. We could also tell from her face when she wasn't telling the truth so maybe deep down, they want to be 'found out'.

Hang in there, I'm sure it's just a stage and nothing that will last.

Trisha said...

Hmm, that is a tough one and i am sure that it feels good getting it off your chest. For Bailey, his behavior worsens when there is something going on at preschool (a fight with a friend, the techer didn't chose him to pass out papers) and it is so hard to get him to talk about what went on. Misaki is older so maybe try talking toher about what is going on at school, you know, how she feels about her teacher, classmates, homework but you are probably already doing that. Also Bailey really beenfits from one-on-one time with either parent. It could be something special like going to the movies together or something more eveyday like cooking together, taking a walk just the two of you or doing something else she enjoys. Parenting is tough but if you do it with love and God I believe that you can't go wrong. Best of luck and keep us updated.

kuri & ping said...

No advice from me since I haven't been there yet, but I think that the way you're going about things is good. That was how things were done in my house, I think (it's been a while since I've been in elementary school) and when we lied, we were smacked, punished (put in our rooms, but without all the amenities that are around today). When we were older, the "I'm disappointed in you" and "I can't trust you" lines worked well, but only when we were older.

I find your blog so helpful to read and get an idea of what we're going to go through someday. I hope I can be as good of a mother as you are to your daughters.

Mom said...

Hi, it's mom. The thing is,when your cute little six year old does these shocking things,you wonder if this is her first steps on the slippery slope - like she's going to end up in the big house or something.
But it is serious, and you've communicated that to her. Pride is an issue with lying, but she's not just lying, she's doing naughty little things, which is one issue, and then lying, which is another issue. I don't think it's something going on at school because this has mostly happened just at the start of the school year.
Do you think it's possible that this is attention getting? Last year she had her own school, but now she has the same school/room/clothes/toys/life as Emi. Does she maybe need a little walk around the block with mommy every day, or a private reading time with Mom , or a chore she does all by herself and no one else is allowed to do it and she gets praised a lot for doing this task or.....get my heavy drift?

I raised a child that had to have attention good or bad, didn't matter, as long as it was attention. That child is now the most empathetic of all my kids, so attuned to the needs of others. I gave all the individual attention I could held the line on right and wrong, and picked my battles. They had to know that when their life was up and down, that Dad and I were solid as a rock.
Now that gets to be you - tag, you're it!
I'm doing a parenting panel this weekend = I'm going to put your question in the pot, and see what the ladies come up with.

Christelle said...

Hi Sarah! First of all, thanks for all your advice on my blog :) Never worry that your comments are too long!

Next, well as you can imagine I don't have any "I've been there as a parent" advice. But in reviewing my own upbringing, I have to agree with Kuri. When I did something wrong, my dad gave me a "good" spanking (funny how we use that adjective)- once so hard that I still had his finger marks on my bumb the next day at preschool. (I hadn't come home one evening- stayed playing somewhere with friends til late and he thought I'd been kidnapped- needless to say, I never did that again). My sister once took some branches to the paint job on a neighbour's car. My mum was worried she was on her way to delinquency (she was under five) and my dad gave her the good ol' spanking. My brother got it the most I think. All of us turned out very well if I do say so myself. (I don't want to make it sound like we were spanked all the time cause that is definitely not the case). I know I will use spankings when necessary too. The other thing that worked especially well on me as I got older was the fear of disappointing my parents (it still works I must say).

I only lied to cover up something I didn't want to get in trouble for, often something I broke or whatever accidently. It sounds like Misaki is doing things and then lying more to get attention. Again, no expert here. I wish I did have more advice to give, but it sounds to me like you are doing a great job and don't really need any. The only other thing I can think of is taking away something she likes for a while as a punishment if it happens again- if she stops taking other people's things (what she seems to have done most) and lying about it, then she can have her thing(s) back. As a teacher, I have often checked understanding by asking kids to tell me why I was mad at them, what they think they did wrong, sometimes I ask what they think I should do or what will happen and how we can fix the problem, and end with a promise not to do it again (but I teach older kids- don't know if that or some variation on that would work with a 6 year old). Hmmm, for someone without much advice to give, this comment got really long. Sorry! Thanks for being so honest on your blog! In seeking help for yourself, you're also helping others :)

mandatalksalot said...

I don't know what to suggest. On my girsl I ONLY spanked if they lied, but I ALWAYS spanked if they lied. It worked. So my instinct is that you are doing the right thing.....but if you think the spanking isnt setting in, then that might be a sign that its not. Sorry for not being more helpful :)

Tigermama said...

Hi Sarah!

Wow, what a difficult situation. Thanks for sharing. Things like this are exactly what we parents need to be blogging about. It really helps!

I think you`re mom hit the nail on the head. Attention is attention (negative or positive) and it seems your sweet little girl is going to extremes to get it.

Please let us know how things go in the next little while!

Take care.

Hannah said...

Sheesh, I've been thinking about this so much because I used to lie all the time about everything, even things that I knew didn't matter. I've been trying to think about why I did that so it might give you a perspective into Misaki - after all, why else would God have given you such a pain for a little sister if not to learn from each other as adults? Anyway, I remember whenever I was confronted by parents or another authority about a specific action or behaviour I was so mortified that I'd done it that I just wanted it to go away. It wasn't about attention or the lack thereof, it was that I knew I had screwed up and didn't want anyone to know I was capable of such horrible things. The irony is that I married a man who truly does not care what people think about him and that has freed me in every way. There is also, of course, and element of not wanting to be held accountable for my actions which is a lesson we all learn, either the easy way or the hard way. Fortunately for me I learned the medium way. It could have better, but it could have been waaaaaay worse.

Misaki will grow out of this. She will be an adult who chooses truth and honesty and good behaviour that she doesn't have to hide from. She will be successful and trustworthy and the two of you will have such an amazing relationship that sometimes you'll wonder if this heart-wrenching season actually took place. The best thing Mom and Dad ever did is that they never stopped confronting me with the truth, they were extremely honest with me in how my actions were affecting others and myself, they never trusted me until I'd actually deserved it, and they never held back their affection just because they were upset with me. AND the great thing about God is that He loves Misaki even more than you do (if you can imagine) and He will NOT let her go because that is a promise He made to you and Chikara. You two are great parents, possibly the best parents I know and you will absolutely train her up in the way she will go.

Anonymous said...

I want to be a reply-er like Hannah when I grow up!