Discipline for Lying and Cheating

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Peterk71, Mar 14, 2008.

  1. Peterk71

    Peterk71 New Member

    I have a 12 yr old son who has been diagnosed with mild ADHD. He takes ritalin which definitely helps. My problem is that lately he has been caught lying and cheating at school. Even when he's caught red handed he denies he did it or he blames it on another student. My wife and I have taken away just about every privilege he's got but to no avail. We make him write papers about thinking errors. He also tends to lie through omission. He sees a therapist. I feel we are running out of options. I'm worried that we may be damaging him emotionally. Does anybody have any suggestions? Thanks.
  2. looking4hope

    looking4hope New Member

    I know you've seen this in other posts, but the book "The Explosive Child" has some strategies that can work. My other suggestion is to talk to your difficult child when he is calm, and ask him what he would do if he were you. Then come up with a contract explaining the consequences for specific behaviors that have been agreed upon by both of you. Kids have more buy-in when they participate in these discussions. I would then reinforce every day that the contract is in place, and you expect him to comply. Also consider adding rewards for sticking to the contract, such as he can take a friend out to a movie and pizza with the family if he doesn't lie for a month. When it's written down, he knows what's expected and what the rewards can be.

    We've all struggled with this, and unfortunately lying is a HUGE problem for our difficult children. My son didn't get better with the lying until he was correctly diagnosed and his medications were corrected. Checking into the medications might also help -- is the lying occuring later in the day? Sometimes when kids come down from stimulants, their behavior is worse. You might want to make a log and bring it to his psychiatrist. If you do find a pattern, they will definitely want to know.

    Good luck!
  3. Loving Abbey 2

    Loving Abbey 2 Not really a Newbie

    My way of handling school issues is not always popular. I let the school handle them. When she comes home, we can talk about what happened and what else could have been done but I don't punish her again. Kids get natural consequences in school. Punishing them twice may not result in anything except an angry kid who is not being successful anywhere. But it's just my opinion! And my difficult child is nearly 9 not 12 but, too much carry over just means difficult child is always in trouble. She also is less afraid to talk about what is happening at school since I seperated school from home.
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Peter. welcome.

    You're new - not just to this site, but to the concept of having a child who is a difficult child (Gift From God). They often need to be handled differently.

    I can see you are feeling desperate, wondering how on earth you can ever teach him to be a fine, upstanding, honest citizen if this is how he is now.

    I have news for you - he is also probably feeling desperate, overwhelmed, incredibly anxious and lost. And despite your best motives, you are not helping.

    But how could you know? You are doing everything you're being told, everything you've ever been taught was right.

    So, time to re-think, because whatever you're doing now, it's clearly not working. And when a discipline strategy is not working, it's time to drop it for something better.

    Abbey is right - school problems should stay at school. They won't like it when you tell them this, but it's not fair on you or your son, to have to continue their work in this way. When is the kid ever going to get a break if school problems come home with him?

    Can you cast your mind back to your own childhood? Don't think of the red-letter moments when you were standing on the podium maybe giving a speech, or being given an award in front of the class. Instead, try to remember those times when your stomach was churning; you had forgotten to do your homework and you KNEW the teacher would be angry. Or you'd just been cornered by the bully who wanted you to do something unpleasant for him (or to do something unpleasant to you). Or you were called up to see the principal, and on the way to his office you were racking your brains to remember what you might have done wrong. Or you've brought home your report card and you don't know how your parents are going to take it.

    Think how you felt. Now maybe multiply that feeling by a whole integer greater than 1. Apply it to your son (and to any child, especially one who is difficult child). Chances are, when put on the spot the kid will lie. It's natural. People (not just kids) lie to get out of trouble. Adults do it. Remember that joke - "Q: How can you tell when a politician is lying? A: His lips are moving."

    We all lie, although a lot of us try not to. We lie to protect ourselves or someone we love (ie ourselves, in some more distant way). Cheating is just an extension of this - we cheat to avoid discovery, to try to win approval and hopefully some other reward we feel we need, or to avoid punishment.

    I remember a girl at school, when I was 8. I sat next to her in class. I was one of the brainy kids. She wasn't particularly brainy, she was a nice kid but shy. Looking back now, I realise she was very unhappy with herself. having to sit next to me probably didn't help one little bit, poor kid.
    Our teacher would give us a mental arithmetic test. He then would read out the answers and we had to tick them. Our next job was to pass our pages to the person next to us, who would count up the ticks and give a score out of 20.
    My friend next to me kept her book up between us so I couldn't peek at her work. I didn't need to, I was pretty good at maths. So I was surprised when she began to get full marks in her tests. One day I happened to lean back and saw she hadn't answered any questions, but instead had the question numbers, followed by a space, and then a tick. As the teacher read out the next answer I saw her write it into the space. I couldn't believe it - then I saw her do it again on the next answer.
    I was horrified. I dobbed her in - I didn't even think twice, I didn't think about why or anything else. Kids at that age are very black-and-white and I was no exception.
    The teacher came over and was stern but not angry. He immediately marked her wrong on the ones she hadn't yet filled in, and she was crying. I felt sorry for her, but also angry with her. I was also surprised that she felt she needed to do this or that she even had, because she was such a nice kid, I liked her.
    She was angry with me for a bit, but the teacher was a gem - he kept her back at recess, not to punish her (because frankly, the public shaming was sufficient punishment) but to talk to her and find out why. He realised she felt inadequate and organised some coaching and encouragement for her. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have offered to teach her. It just didn't occur to me that she wasn't as capable as I was - surely everybody was?

    There are many reasons why a kid with ADHD feels inadequate and anxious. Trying to keep up in school is only one possibility. A teacher who tends to use humour can (without meaning to) send a message of belitting, or criticism, that can really upset a student. I've seen that happen too, and been the subject of it with other teachers when I was a kid.

    He may have other issues besides ADHD. It may affect him in ways which make coping in class much more difficult. My older son couldn't mentally multi-task, which meant he couldn't do writing tasks, he had difficulty concentrating in class (and therefore learning). He was constantly being criticised for not handing in work or for inattention. He learned to slide by, to pretend. Soon I had teachers reporting what a nice kid he was, he was quiet and obedient in class. Of course he was quiet - he was sitting there with his eyes open in the direction of the teacher, but he would be totally zoned out.

    For a while there, he would steal money from my wallet to buy himself toys and gadgets. When we asked where they came from, he said he'd borrowed them from a friend. But still the gadgets remained. We finally caught him, and what curd him was my reaction. He just hadn't realised how much he was hurting me, and how damaging it was to break my trust.
    But that is him.
    With my son, we had to not only punish (he had to pay me back, by working it off) but we had to work on the WHY. And a lot of it was, he felt inadequate and was trying to buy popularity. All his friends had lots of things, he didn't. (We found out later, his friends had lots of things because they were stealing, and beginning to deal in drugs).
    We also found that stress and anxiety made him worse, increased his temptation. He was trying to use 'things' to fill the void he felt in himself. He just didn't understand himself enough, so we worked on that as well.

    He also learned that he really is bad at lying, he's not good at it and I would generally catch him out. He learned he didn't like how he felt inside when he lied, and how telling the truth (and NOT getting into trouble for it) was much better.
    difficult child 1 is a very quiet, introverted person. The classic "still waters run deep". With friends and sometimes at other times, he can be happy and animated. But with anything deeply personal, his feelings are difficult to express.

    What should you do now?

    Read "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. It really helps. Really. It's not a cure, it won't have all the answers, but at this stage ANY answers make a difference. What I got from the book - empowerment to love my child, to get inside his head and to trust my own judgement to break the rules telling me how to raise my child.
    At first the techniques seem anarchic, but in fact they are making the parent take a step back (with eyes wide open, hands outstretched) to let the child attempt some degree of self-determination; just as you do for a child learning to walk. I have found tis way much less work, and also much more successful.

    What else to do - leave school issues at school. They will be punishing him also, so you don't need to double up.

    Let any punishment fit the crime. Anything else smacks of retribution and breeds resentment, thus cracking open a wider gulf between you, right when he needs your support and guidance the most.

    Listen to him. Ask him how he is feeling. Do not be judgemental. He needs to know he can confess to you without fear of punishment. If he confesses to something he has done wrong, then ask him what he feels you should do, or maybe even what he feels he should do, to make restitution. Chances are, he would punish himself far more severely than you.

    People talk about the carefree days of childhood - frankly, I think they have amnesia. I hated my childhood. I hated the powerlessness, I hated the bullying (from other kids as well as adults with power in my life). I wanted to have more say in choices made on my behalf "for your own good". I hated being lied to, or cheated out of what I should have been given. But it happened, often in subtle ways no adult would have recognised.

    Maybe the best approach is to change your view of your son. He still needs support, he still needs you as a parent figure, but he is near puberty and needs to be shown respect. I know when he messes up you don't think he deserves it, but he does. By showing him respect you will be teaching him to give respect in turn. Model the behaviour for him, that you want him to show. Think about where he could be learning to lie and cheat - do you set a scrupulously squeaky clean example? So often we think we do, but we don't. We're driving and the speedo shows we're edging up just above the limit. Or we run a red light, just after it's changed. Or we're given the wrong change in a shop and if it's in our favour and only a few cents, we don't say anything. Or we lie and say we're busy this weekend when some totally crashing bore of a relative or neighbour asks us round for coffee. Or we're on a diet but reach for the biscuit tin and say, "Only one - it won't make any difference."

    Kids see this and often get a different message from the one we expect.

    Maybe it's not from you. Maybe it's not from inside your family. Who else is he around? How can you be sure they are behaving with total honesty?

    If you treat you son as a burgeoning adult, someone you share your living space with, work on cooperation in things like chores, other tasks, bring in teamwork, don't immediately think of him as sneaky and lazy, you may find some improvements.

    Tell the school that you will handle home problems at home but school problems now must stay at school - you still want to be kept informed but you will no longer punish at home for what happens at school. Next time the school says, "he stole from the teacher's desk," talk to your son about it. hear his side. If you think he is lying, get more info from the teacher. Call your son on every lie but don't do anything other than talk about how this sort of action damages him inside, how it disappoints you and hurts you to see him reduced to this, and how he can make it right.

    Be careful to not bail him out - natural consequences must happen. But you can support him and help him, if he rally wants to change his behaviour.

    This is so familiar to most of us. It's not easy, but if this is fairly new, you can turn it around.

    Watch who his friends are. See what their behaviour is like. If you suspect it's coming from them, limit his access to them. Or if he insists on spending time with them, then you invite them all to you - a sleepover or camping trip maybe, or some other activity where you can watch, observe and if necessary, adjudicate.

    Do things with him. Teach him your hobbies, your chores. Work on them together. difficult child 3 had to make a compost bin for school - husband worked with him, showed him how to use the tools safely, encouraged him and every time we use that bin it's a reminder of a positive experience. difficult child 3 sees that bin and remembers - he did a good thing and enjoyed it.

    Again, welcome. Stick around. If you can, get your wife to read posts here as well, it can really boost your communication. My husband now posts here in his own right, as "Marg's Man".

  5. daralex

    daralex Clinging onto my sanity

    Welcome Peter - it's great to have you here! I couldn't have said it better than Marg. It's a real head twister trying to put ourselves in their shoes, but natural consequences are a great thing. Hang in there keep reading posts and welcome to life with a difficult child!!
  6. Tezzie

    Tezzie Member

    Wecome Peter,
    The lying & cheating are part of the package deal with a difficult child. For us, it's meant a VERY short leash & lots of supervision. We deal with home stuff, let the school deal with school stuff. Unfortunately, what comes along with this frequently is stealing, or at least borrowing/using without asking.

    Natural consequences tend to work the best for us & things like watching TV & playing video games are privileges to be earned, not rights to be expected.

    Hang in there, it takes lots of patience, lots of communication with the school, lots of work with the therapist & the knowledge that you aren't alone in the struggle.

  7. Peterk71

    Peterk71 New Member

    Thanks for the info and the sympathy! The latest and greatest with my son is that the private school he attends has threatened to expel him for any further honor violations. Furthermore, they will reevaluate whether or not to allow him to attend next year depending on his behaviour for the remainder of this year. I explained to my son the potential consequences of his actions. I even posted the letter from the headmaster on his bathroom mirror as well as his bedroom door. He is stll acting up! I don't know what to do! Should I let things ride and let the chips fall where they may and allow him to be expelled?
    Terrific forum!
  8. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    What are the options if he is expelled?
  9. Peterk71

    Peterk71 New Member

    He goes back to public school which he hates. In addition, my wife is threatening to make him take 7th grade over!?!
  10. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?


    I generally try to keep schoo issues at school, too, but if he truly dislikes public school so much, maybe the contract at home is a good idea.

    I'd offer frequent rewards, tho, to help keep him on task - cause the school's pretty much dishing out the punishment if he doesn't comply.
  11. Star*

    Star* call 911........call 911


    Hi and welcome. I think when I sat down with our sons therapist and said "we have tried everything there is nothing else left - short of the "rack" and exile to Never Never land...we finally came to the realization that if everything we did wasn't right- maybe we should re-learn how to do some of those things so our son could understand us.

    I equate parenting a difficult child to being and speaking as a parent only in Swedish and having a child who only speaks and understands English. No matter how many times you say DO NOT LIE - he's never going to hear Do not Lie - he hears pretty much what the dog hears. :talkhand:

    So what to do? First of all effective communication should be everyones first language but it isn't. Learning as a parent HOW to speak so your kids will listen is hard. It's hard because we are brought up to think and believe certain things being said will stick - and....obviously they do not. So then I think it's up to the parent to learn how to communicate effectively. And it sounds like I'm telling you you have no idea HOW to talk to your child and maybe it's offensive - but has anything you've said up to now worked? Nope.

    So what's wrong with educating yourself and your wife so that what you are saying TO your son actually sticks? If you are willing to do whatever it takes then this falls under that shadow.

    I have been reading a book called How to speak so your kids will listen and how to listen so your kids will talk - and it is phenomenal. It has weekly lessons that you read, a little worksheet in the book with exercises to follow and at first I was nearly insulted - I thought what a dumb exercise I talk nice ALL the tme - and then I tried the first week exercise with a time limit and out of 8 exercises I got to question 2 in the time given. I was floored.

    Recently at an IEP meeting - I tried the technique (the only one I had done in week #1) with my 17 year old very defiant son - and it WORKED. he looked at me like I had 3 eyes or something.

    Give this book a read - it talks about how you have to do one lesson at a time and cautions skipping ahead. Learn how to talk to a child/difficult child first before you go skipping ahead with how to tell a child he should not lie. If you skip ahead you don't get a good base of conversation /understanding with your child.

    One example states a child is in a basketball game. He scores all the winning points on his team. His team looses, and he walks towards his Aunt in the stands. He thinks he's going to get yelled at for loosing, but instead his Aunt says "Hey Buddy GOOD GAME. You should teach the other guys on your team how to play like you!" and you /me most people would think a child would get that as a compliment - but it is NOT - it's a slam.
    Hey buddy good game - GREAT!
    You should teach the others to play like you - SLAM. To a child they don't get what you mean. Instead the child heard - It's your fault you lost because you didn't teach everyone. Which he couldn't do, but to a child he sees it as a put down. Weird huh? THAT is what this book separates. The harmful statements that we say that MAKE you THINK you are saying something good or meaningful - and what a child ACTUALLY hears.

    Hope this helps -
  12. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    What does the therapist suggest? At that age you should all be working on behavioral modifications, reward systems, natural consequences, etc...
  13. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    Why does he lie and cheat? Is he feeling pressured to do better than he *thinks* he is capable? (The key word being 'thinks'. It's all about his perception.) I ask because you state in another post how his actions are being watched so closely...maybe it's overwhelming him and he's cheating so he doesn't do poorly?

    I would want to find out the 'why' first - if there is one. Sometimes there isn't. But, if there is it would make it much easier to address.
  14. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    What is going on at school? This makes me wonder WHY he is lieing and cheating. Is he bored? IS he gifted and not having his needs met? Is he challenged and not getting the supports he needs?

    Often our difficult children are both gifted AND challenged. So they need work that is not boring, supports to help them where they don't get it, or can't get it, and really really understanding adults to help them navigate the world.

    I have to say that OFTEN we start with an ADHD diagnosis and over the course of years we learn that much more is going on with our kiddoes. EVEN if hte first docs INSIST nothing else is going on. I strongly recommend seeking out a neuropsychologist to have intensive testing done NOW, before you lose him completely.

    He may have learning disabilities you don't know of. There are disorders like dyscalcula, dysgraphia, etc... that often are NOT found by parents or teachers. Also, with an ADHD diagnosis you should seek out a GOOD child neurologist and have a sleep-deprived EEG done. This is not painful or invasive. Your child is only allowed to sleep a certain number of hours at night, then is kept awake until the test. They hook electrodes up to his head and see what his brain is doing. This used to be STANDARD before they would give you ADHD medications. My daughter, Jess, was given the ADHD inattentive type diagnosis by several docs. I had to PUSH for the EEG, but I got it. The neurologist was AMAZED. He did not expect to find any abnormalities, but she has Absence Epilepsy - she blanks out for a few seconds to a few minutes. So she was inattentive, but no ADHD medication could help. Antiseizure medications have made a huge difference. Now she is present in her world all the time - not missing half of what is said because she just isn't "home" in her brain. in my opinion EVERY child with an ADHD diagnosis should have this test, because you just CAN'T know with-o it.

    Working to treat your son as if you were his "boss" at a job, and trying to be a good boss, instead of always going on about what he does wrong (per your other thread) can make a big difference.