Sometimes I feel like a prison warden.
It’s not that we keep him locked up, as much as it’s a tempting thought on the more trying days, but quite often the simple act of “child management” can be very draining, we have to be consistent, regimented, firm and disciplined. It’s a matter of showing love through consistency, rules and expectations whilst at the same time managing subversive, unknown and downright challenging and inexplicable behaviours, while still sprinkling this with love and affection.
We discovered quite early on that this adorable boy had a desperate need and want to be liked, I mean really, do you blame him? Unfortunately as is often the case with children in care one of the most common tools they use is lying. It is a behaviour that is so deeply ingrained you wouldn’t even call it compulsive lying, it’s impulsive, no matter the situation the natural impulse he has is to lie.
We first noticed this in the more simple of situations;
“Would you like to watch Casper? Have you seen that before?”
“Oh yeah! I saw it when it first came out at the movies with my mum.”
After pulling some quick stats in your head, compiling that with what you’re aware of the little one’s biological timeline it’s pretty easy to know he certainly didn’t, owing primarily to the film being released the better part of a decade before his birth.
Each time you hear these little lies, and the bigger ones, you have to process quietly in your head, “Why? What has triggered this one?”
Quite often it boils down to, at it’s core, the desire to be liked or the fear that he won’t be liked or loved. The complexities only get deeper and the behaviour only manifests itself further. The lies roll themselves into truths in his head, they become so real he often cannot separate his lies from his truths, which was why we had to make an early decision to call him out on them.
It’s like a vicious circle that continues to drive itself round and around, when we started calling him out on the lies, as gently as we could, it started to trigger the fear of rejection and failure, which could set off the behaviour, the tears, the tantrums. While it’s certainly no walk in the park it’s been a great learning and developing step for him, because it was something no-one had ever done before. His youth workers and everyone around him had always been on egg shells with the behaviour, careful to manage his environment so that his melt downs wouldn’t be triggered, but ultimately the behaviour had to be challenged in order for it to change.
When we first called him out on it he got the shock of his life, literally he seemed like he’d been electrocuted.
“Mate, I’m not 100% sure that would have really happened, are you sure?”
“WHAT? Yeah, no it did! It did! I promise!”
“Mate, look it’s ok, but I know that couldn’t have happened”
“No! I’m not lying!! I’m NOT!”
*Cue the tears*
After a few months it became all too familiar, the lies, the fear, they were all rolled in so deeply together, the performance that came with them was so genuine you almost had to stop and question yourself, “Is he telling the truth this time?”. But the persistence is slowly and surely paying off now, coupled with amazing teachers and principals at the school who also call him out he’s found himself with less and less avenues to lie and more of an understanding about telling the truth.
Unfortunately the lying doesn’t stop and the behaviours can continue to manifest in other ways. Two years on now he still lies, but we can call him out on them more honestly, he can accept it, digest it and fess up more quickly. The lies have died down to general wrong doings and misdemeanours and these days it can take a simple “Mate, you’re lying, tell the truth” and within minutes we have the truth or a slightly more truthful version of it nonetheless.
Alas the behaviour manifests and brings us to the prison state, we have moved onwards from impulsive lying and upwards to impulsive theft. It’s inexplicable and one of the most challenging tasks at present, a behaviour we expected to see years before that is rearing it’s head now.
From other children’s lunches to toys, erasers, money, phones and trinkets. Lately anything that’s not nailed down within the school has been open slather for captain Klepto. We can’t figure out what’s triggering it or why and it’s something he can’t seem to articulate either, but at present, it’s constant.
I must give him credit, the moves are bold and the lies are top notch. From the toys that other children apparently just gave him “because they didn’t want them”, to the phone which he stole and successfully hid inside his classroom for 3 days and the money he stole from the principals desk and craftily hid in his shoes, the boy is smart. But we keep catching him and we keep having to call him out, we have to dish out the consequences over and over again doing everything we can to stop the stealing and the lying, hopefully soon it will stop.
Picking him up from school isn’t a simple task lately, he has to wait in the classroom or be escorted to the office to wait for us, he’s not allowed to walk from class to the office unattended as he only needs about 30 seconds to locate something and take it. Once we arrive we have to check pockets, shoes & socks, we have to check every pocket in his bag and his lunch box, then go back in to the classroom and check his desk, his pencil case and the surrounding areas. Once the checks are done we have to gather the days takings and hand them over to the principal for collection and distribution back from whence they came.
But at the end of the day it’s progress, for him we’re passing his test.
We’re proving that no matter what he does, we will still love him, no matter how much he lies, we will still love him and that he will never be made to leave us. We can only continue with the dedication, love and consistency that he needs to feel safe and loved.
There’s another post to come on school work and his academic progress, but yesterday we hit the highest of highs in our progress with him at school. Since he started school he has never passed a report card. Every single report card has come back with flat D’s across the board, the focus had been on attendance and participation and not yet on achievement.
Nearly two years on and his report card was back, this time with 3 B’s!! Many C’s!! and only 2 D’s!! He’s achieved something that he’s never been able to do in his life and we couldn’t be prouder.
These past 2 years have been the hardest thing we’ve ever done and to see a result like this is incredible, it just makes it all worthwhile and makes us realize that this little man has so much ahead of him. We just cant wait to see what his future holds.