Friday, June 17, 2011

Telling the truth is hard (revisited)

A few months ago I wrote a post entitled, “Telling the truth is hard.” The next day I followed it up with, “Telling the truth is hard (continued).” Well, another issue cropped up shortly after those posts, so I thought it would be good to share an update with you now that some of the dust has settled.
In case you haven’t had a chance to read the old posts yet, I’ll bring you up to speed:
Monkey was having lots of trouble with honesty. It came to a head when he (1) stole money from me and lied about it, and (2) stole food and lied about it (you can read about how we dealt specifically with this issue HERE).
About a week after these incidents, I learned that he had stolen a toy from a child at school. It took us almost 2 more weeks to figure out the details of what happened and who the toy belonged to, much less return it to its rightful owner with an apology letter and sacrificial gift. (He did not like having to give up something of his to this other child! Can you say mean mom lesson?) 
Monkey said something before that I thought would be good to repeat now before we move along with the latest chapter.
When asked the question, “Why do you think it’s okay to lie,” he answered, “I don’t have the right equipment.” I was fairly astonished by his comment at the time and thought it was very profound.
The stolen toy incident spurred yet another in-depth conversation about honesty with both me and his dad. Monkey hates having these kinds of conversations. It’s hard for him to focus and stay engaged (much less stay somewhat still), and he gets very uncomfortable with having to talk about anything for more than a couple of minutes. It causes him stress, which makes it exceedingly difficult to have a meaningful conversation that could yield any sort of positive result.   
Some of the things he said were truly interesting and I thought I would share the highlights of what he told us as we pressed him for information about the incident.
“I’m 8 and I want to be honest.” – Well, this is refreshing! Our hope is that he actually tries to follow through on this considering all of the talks we’ve had as of late.
“Sometimes the truth gets mixed up in my head and the truth wears me out.” – This makes me think that he is worn out because his automatic response to something right now is to think of a lie. Somehow it’s harder for him to fess up and be honest from the onset because he’s already formed a habitual response to deny the situation and concoct a story. I wish this were not the case and I hope he recognizes that telling the truth is the easier and better choice.
“Sometimes I get dishonest beliefs and I don’t always want to be like that.” – This made me glad that he knew enough to recognize that it isn’t right for him to constantly lie. I love the fact that he wants to change for the better.
When I reminded him about how he told me that he doesn’t have the “right equipment,” we talked about what equipment he thought he needed to tell the truth. We ultimately agreed that truth equipment consists of your heart and brain. We talked about how an 8 year old is old enough to realize that it is not acceptable to be dishonest, and that they are also old enough to use their truth equipment to make good choices.
“It’s so hard for me to be honest because I don’t know what to say.” – This makes a lot of sense to me! It actually explains his use of scripting and echolalia, and also how some of the things he says are out of context and not understandable. Whenever we ask him to clarify something because we don’t understand what he means, he always responds with, “I don’t know” and seems confused by the whole conversation. 
I asked him if he took any time to think about what he should say before he opens his mouth. He didn’t know how to respond to my question. I know for a fact that sometimes it takes him (and his brother, for that matter) a longer time to process information through his brain. I suggested that maybe his brain is confused because he is trying to rush to say something because he thinks that is what people want him to do. He seemed to nod his agreement, so we talked about how he could ask for a minute whenever he needed time to think before speaking. I explained processing time to him and that sometimes it takes longer to process information through our brains. I also told him that by taking some processing time, he would probably have an easier time telling the truth. He really seemed to like the idea of asking for a moment to think and immediately began to practice it while we concluded our conversation. My husband and I took that as a sign of good faith that he would try harder next time and ended our talk with big hugs and encouraging words.
There has been a decrease in his dishonest behaviors since having this last conversation (and also since we locked up most of our food in the pantry!). He still tries to get away with some things here and there, but the severity has diminished quite a bit. We’re still working on it and know that we will continue to do so for some time to come. It definitely takes a while for things to generalize and stick with him. But, things are better than they were when I wrote the original posts in this series, and we’re happy for the improvement!  
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