Sunday, August 23, 2009

Practicing Honesty

I realized yesterday that our children, around 8 years ago, began to develop amongst themselves, an ethos of dishonesty. While this is the absolute opposite of what their parents practice, they seem to have collectively determined that to lie was the best bet. They have covered for each other, lied for each other, taught each other how to lie, to the point that the do not value truth one bit. Combined with the FASD that some of them have, where the truth may not even be able to be grasps because of the gaps in their short and long term memory, we have had a jungle of lies to wander through for years.

Once some of the older kids either left the home or were unable to live at home, this seemed to improve. A few of our kids who do are nuero-typical and attached, seem to have the makings of a conscience. While their sibling loyalty was strong, if pressured, they would still value our relationship over them.

This last week, for some reason, either because I've been paying more attention or because with John home they are reverting to old patterns, I have been playing detective, bad cop, interrogator and prosecuting attorney a lot. And i am amazingly good. I didn't spend 9 years being responsible for hundreds of naughty college students for nothing. As Residence Hall Director and then Dean of Students, I was in charge of the college discipline policy. I got very good and knowing when someone was lying and if the facts didn't match up. I interrogate separately and then I combine everything that was squeezed out of them and double it and then figure I have received half of the truth. ;-)

It is very tiresome to live with people you can't trust. I think I should repeat that sentence and state it more strongly. It is exhausting to daily live with people who will look you straight in the eye with the intent to deceive.

I have been approaching John's return home as if he were one of the 19 year old kids that You Gotta Believe is placing in my home for the first time. He is so afraid of getting "kicked out" again that he is having a very hard time being honest. SInce it is not our intention to kick him out unless he is physically dangerous or we can't afford the things he is stealing from us (and stealing has never been his consistent issue) he will be allowed to remain here. However, I am confronting him daily about things he is doing that are inappropriate simply to help him practice honesty.

There are no consequences from us when he does not keep our small rules. He is 19 years old and has enough consequences hanging over his head if he screws up at all to keep him pretty safe. But I am asking him questions just to see if he is able to tell the truth. So far, he's doing better than he has in the past, but still can look me straight in the eye and lie to me.

Yesterday I finally figured out if it was him or Ricardo who was lying about something by putting huge pressure on Ricardo. Finally, when John realized that Ricardo was willing to give up a season of soccer to protect him, John confessed. Surprisingly, I think that is progress. A few years ago, John would have let Ricardo do it and not felt any guilt whatsoever.

So we're taking things one day at a time. I'm talking constantly about telling the truth, emphasizing honesty in every conversation for a while. This will annoy them, probably, but I annoy them 24/7 anyway. Day and night, just ask them. Might as well be annoying them with a theme.

Hey, that's a great concept: Theme Annoyance.

Anyway, this morning I woke up and found Rand in clean clothes, having had a shower and having shaved. I said, "Wow, Rand. Good job. Times they are a changing. Now if I could just have a whole day where nobody lies to me...." He said, "Mom, that's a fantasy."

And completely off-topic, Sadie has decided that she and I need to take One-A-Day for women with some special breast and bone cancer reduction thing. So we bought some yesterday and she has taken it upon herself to make sure that I take my vitamins every day. Funny how those roles change. I figured it would happen when she was 44 instead of 14 though.

Off to church...


Lee said...

Oh I can't tell you how helpful it is to read posts about others who deal with the honesty issue too. Honesty is inherent to my core life values. But it isn't for one of my kids, who has been taught in his early years that you say and do whatever you "need" to say to get what you want, stay safe, whatever. Sigh.

nancy said...

Theme Annoyance. I'm on it!

Other Mother said...

Once again - a post that reminds me we are not alone - in the honesty issue. And your line about interrogate, combine and double to get half made me laugh out loud!