Friday, September 14, 2012

Honesty and Integrity

Today's post has nothing to do with Autism or the twins.

Today's post is about Big Brother.

Today's post is about trust.

You see, yesterday I learned something about my first born child.  I learned that he has been lying to me.  I learned that he's been lying to me for quite some time.  He wasn't telling big lies.  It was a little lie.  Over and over again.  And now that I know, Dad and I quickly needed to decide what should be done about it.

As is often the case, I learned of these lies by accident.  I had asked someone a question, and the response that came back to me told me more than I was already aware of.  This person thought I was asking them about something that had just happened, when in fact, I was just thanking them for telling me something else a few days before.

At our elementary school, they have a system for everyone's accountability of their behavior.  Everyone starts the day on "Green" and for transgressions their color changes.  There is Yellow, Blue and Red.  Yellow is simply a warning, blue is more severe, and Red, well, you don't want to go there.  The rules are clearly defined out at start of the year and expectations grow as the year progresses.  Each student receives awards over time for good behavior that are not available to students who behave poorly.

I have, from kindergarten, asked Big Brother to tell me where he was on this color scale at the end of the day.  There were a couple of days in kindergarten where he had to change his color, usually only one step for very mild transgressions.  These were usually met with a requirement of him fully explaining (separately) to myself and to Dad about what he did and why he had to make the change to his color for the day.  Depending on what had happened, sometimes there was a more severe punishment, but this seemed to be sufficient for his actions.  He was punished at school by having to stand in front of the class and make the color change.  He always seemed to find this humiliating and served as it's own form of punishment, just as it is designed to do.

Well, in first grade, he never had to change his color.  He went through the whole year on Green.  He never reported any transgressions and he was rewarded for such good behavior at the end of the year with a Wii game -- Lego Harry Potter.  At least that's what we told him.  Truthfully, we were planning on giving it to him at the end of the school year anyway, but he earned this because he had spent the whole year on Green.

Since starting second grade, we were noticing him telling us he was changing his color quite frequently.  In the first 10 days of school, we were told of him changing his color 3 times.  So, we offered him an incentive......if he were to maintain a Green card for the week, he would get an extra 15 minutes of Dad reading Harry Potter to him before bed.  We all agreed and thought it would be a good idea.

On Wednesday, I asked Big Brother if he had stayed on Green for the day, and he told me he had.  I gave him a high-5 and we headed to the car and I didn't think twice about it.  I just left it alone.  Yesterday, I heard from someone who was telling me about how he had changed his color for the previous 2 days (Wednesday and Thursday) and why it had happened on both occasions.  This message also told me about several occasions of him changing his color in first grade that he neglected to tell me about.  Big Brother wasn't home, and I was grateful.  I was grateful because I wanted to STRANGLE him!  I notified Dad (who was at soccer practice with Big Brother) and on the way home, Dad pointed out to Big Brother that both Dad and I now KNEW he had been lying to us for quite some time.

Big Brother was mortified.  He has been very upset since this happened and has wanted to know how we found out (which we aren't planning on telling him).  He was so upset last night that he didn't want to come and talk to me to say goodnight, afraid of what I would say or do to him.  We have made it very clear that he is still loved.  We have also made it very clear that we do not tolerate lying.  We have pointed out that, if he had told us what had happened rather than lying about it, chances are he wouldn't have even been punished, or if he was, it wouldn't be anything severe.  But now he is being punished.  He's being punished for having to change the color of his card so frequently AND for telling us lies.

Here is what Dad and I have decided to do....

(1)  No Wii / Playstation / Computer for 8 days (next weekend).
(2)  We have been giving him Friday off for good behavior from his reading.  Not any more.
(3)  We are taking away Wii Lego Harry Potter for a month.  He was told he received it for his good behavior last year.  Since he wasn't so well-behaved, he shouldn't have it at all.

That is his tangible punishment.  However, there is the intangible side of it all.  He now needs to re-earn our trust.  It is my philosophy that we should trust our children, even knowing the possibility that they may not be always telling us the full truth.  Until they break that trust, we as parents should give them the benefit of the doubt.  Once that trust is broken, it is up to each family to decide what it takes and how long it will take for that trust to be re-earned.  It must take longer than the more tangible punishments.  But you have to allow your son and/or daughter to re-earn your trust.  And that's what Big Brother is about to do.  He is going to have to work VERY hard to make sure that he remembers what happens to people who don't tell the truth.

He's a good kid, and I truly believe he's sorry.  Now we need to be sure that this never happens again.


  1. He's a good kid and I'm sure he won't do this again.

    1. Lauren -- he really is. I truly believe that all kids do this (or something like this) but until you do, you always have to believe what they tell you. He took his punishment in stride and we have seen no evidence that he has even exaggerated the truth. Additionally, his teacher commented to me that his behavior in school ALSO has made a huge turn -- he's been more helpful, more respectful and he's been working very hard to control his temper (he can be very emotional at times). At the time I was furious, but now, over 2 weeks later, I find myself smiling about this whole thing. Will it happen again? Probably. But for now, it's under control. We hope.