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May 28, 2008

Thou Shalt Not Lie. Or Steal. Really.

Lies My oldest child is 8 years old, and has hit that lovely stage where she lies. Couple this with some sort of innate compulsion to touch anything within a twenty yard radius that doesn't actually belong to her, and you have a child who is in a lot of hot water much of the time. We are struggling with how to teach her that taking things that belong to others isn't okay, and that lying about it is much, much worse.

We've tried grounding her. We've tried taking away privileges. We are trying to impress upon her how lying about things will actually get her in much more trouble than whatever she did in the first place. But apparently we aren't getting through.

Sunday morning my husband and I were laying in our room talking about what we had planned for the day. Our 4 year old wasn't feeling well, so the trip to Baltimore to the Maryland Science Center that we were going to take that day wasn't going to happen. All of our children were down in our family room watching tv and eating in the kitchen. I am a rubber stamp artist, and I had some of my supplies out on my kitchen table as I'm currently in the process of making cards for my kids' teachers for the end of the year.

"Moooom, Nemo's playing with your paints!" my four-year-old, Sunny, yelled up to us. Nemo is our 18-month old.

I roused myself and grumbled my way down to our kitchen, to find our kitchen doorway gate, which is supposed to keep the Nemo out of the kitchen, has been knocked over, and Nemo gleefully playing with pots of Twinkling H20s, my favorite watercolor paints that I was using on the cards. Thankfully he can't hurt much, but when I took the one he had in his hand away from him I noticed that a good 26 pots of paint are missing.

I asked all four kids if they knew the whereabouts of the paint, and everyone denied it, so I marshalled all of them to look for the paint. We looked in all the cabinets. We looked in boxes. We looked under things. We looked in the trash can. We looked in the dishwasher. We looked down the vents. The paints were nowhere to be found.

By this point I was getting a bit frantic. Those paints would be pretty pricey for to me replace all the colors that were missing. I interrogated the kids over and over, and finally Trout, my oldest, pipes up and says "I saw Little Man messing with my backpack earlier." Little Man is my 6 year old, her favorite target. I zip over to her backpack, and sure enough, there was all the missing paint. Or so I thought.

She claimed that one of her friends at school had started an art club and required that all the kids take some art supplies that belonged to her parents and bring them in. While I give her points for creativity, I wasn't buying it.

I was absolutely furious, not just because she took the paint when all of my kids KNOW they aren't to mess with my stamping supplies without asking me and without my help, and she's the only one of my kids that seems to have a problem with that rule, but also because she tried to blame her brother for it. She had recently gotten in trouble for doing something and lying about it, and clearly the punishment of not going to her friend's party wasn't enough. Tougher measures were called for.

My husband and I discussed the matter at length. I wanted to ground her for three weeks including all extracurricular activities to send a message. He was against that, but he also tends to be a bit of a softy when it comes to punishment and is never strong enough. So we took it old school.

"I will not tell lies. I will not blame my brothers for things I do wrong." One hundred times. "I will not touch or take things that belong to other people." Fifty times.

While she was writing, I started using my paint, and I was searching for a missing color. She rather pointedly asked what color it was, and when I told her it was a particular yellow, she said "The only one that should be missing is China Black."

Come again?

It seems she had taken the China Black and one of my waterpens and taken them to school the week before and left them there. She had also dropped the paint and broke it (they come in little plastic "pots," jars really, in little cakes, and they are fairly brittle if dropped. I added 25 more sentences.

Oh, the agony. The tears, the rending of garments, the wailing and the pleading. It took her the entire day to do 35 of one set and 27 of the other (my husband decreased the sentences when nightfall came and her hand was cramped for the ones she did), and someone had to stand over her and make sure she was writing the whole time. She successfully snuck off to read in the bathroom for a while under my husband's watch (I'm wise to that particular trick and don't let her go to the bathroom for more than 5 minutes at a time unless the need to be there longer is, uh, proven), but otherwise worked on this all day. A gloriously beautiful sunny day where her brother got to go to the store with me and play in the yard all day long.

Original DC Metro Moms Blog post. Mary/FishyGirl blogs the crazy antics of her kids at The Fish Pond, and talks about stuff she likes and stuff she doesn't at Props and Pans.


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