Sunday, June 26, 2011

Crime and Punishment

Sometimes, you have to pay the consequences. 

I'm lucky because Dylan does not a bad kid and genuinely likes to do the right thing.  But even for the best kid, it's not possible to grow up doing all the right things, all the time.  There's the desire to rebel, mistakes made, or just bad decisions.

Sometimes, one or all of those involves lying.

Lying is big to me. I'm not talking about "Gee, your hair looks nice!" or "I'm sorry, we have plans." kind of lies.  To me, that kind of lying really is acceptable.  Hurting someone can be the bigger crime.

But straight on answering a question with an untruth is completely unacceptable in my book.

Again, I'm lucky.  Dylan is an honest kid.  So honest, he'd be the kind to ask "What did you do to your hair?" with a horrified expression on his face. 

But every kid lies sooner or later about something.

He has had two previous occasions where he did not tell the truth to a direct question.  I honestly cannot remember the exact situations.  For the first, he was let off with a strong warning and it was a long time before we faced it again.  The next time, there was a punishment.  I think it was missing TV.

Not long ago, we had Lying Crime #3.

Dylan had been "cooking" that afternoon.  That is, he had pulled out all kinds of pots and pans from the kitchen, and was mixing "ingredients" together.  The ingredients consisted of some blueberries we had picked at a farm and a couple of bananas we had just gotten at the store.  I warned him that I didn't want food wasted and that whatever he made, he had to consume. 

I don't think he used many berries (he's not a big blueberry fan) but he cut up two bananas into thick slices.  I warned him again that he had to eat whatever he had used and he assured me he would.

Later, the cut bananas and the various kitchen implements were strewn all over the kitchen, and I told him he had to clean everything up and eat the bananas.  He whined at first that he needed help to clean up, but I reminded him that he was able to get everything out without any help.

A little later, the kitchen was more or less back to normal and the bananas were nowhere in sight.  I asked if he had eaten them. "Yes," he said loudly.

Fatal error.

When I went to throw something away, there in the garbage can were the banana slices.  I was furious.

I asked him to step away from the TV and come talk to me.  I don't think he even remembered the lie and came along willingly.  But once I started talking, he remembered all too well and knew he was in trouble.  He tried to make it no big deal, and tried to say he "didn't know," but I had reminded him too well and too often and, worse, had had loudly answered me in the affirmative when I had asked him directly.  There was no escaping.

I made the mistake of saying we were going to discuss punishments.  He took that to mean that he could decide what his punishment would be.  But as the judge and jury, I declared he would lose two days of TV.  I think if I said I was going to cut off his arm in punishment, he would not have yelled as loudly.

He was devastated, especially because the punishment was starting immediately.  Keep in mind, he was 15 minutes from bedtime, so that was not a big loss.  He cried and fussed and generally made the evening difficult for a while.  Then calmed down.  I thought we were past it.

Nope.  Next morning he was at it again, only with more energy from a good night's sleep.  He wanted to decide the punishment.  He wanted it to be no Cartoon Network.  Keep in mind, he only has limited approval to watch a couple of carefully selected Cartoon Network shows since most of their programming is aimed at teenagers and the ads are ridiculous and non-stop.  I held firm - No TV.

There was much angst and gnashing of teeth.  Even threats.  I was told I was the worst mother.  The meanest.  He also hated his life.  And wondered why he had to be this way.  He insisted he would not go to camp.  It was very dramatic and, worse, it was making me very late for work.  

Much to my chagrin, I finally gave him a shorter sentence.  One day of TV loss, WITH the stipulation that he understand that parents are allowed to make punishments at their discretion in any and all future proceedings.  He agreed...but we'll see when it happens. 

Of course, I'm hopeful that it won't, but I know that's not possible.  He's a kid.  He's especially a kid with some issues, and self control is one of them.  I don't like being the jailer, yet I'm proud because I never yelled throughout all of it.  I did give in a little, but only to clear the slate and move on. I want him to sense fairness and I don't want to stand on something if it's going to make all of our lives miserable.  And obviously, even one day of lost TV seemed to be excessive.  (Amazing in that he is not allowed a lot of TV to begin with.)

It's not always easy being the judge, jury, and jailer.


  1. Lying is a tough one. I busted my baby girl in one this morning and had to mete out a deserving punishment. What's messed up is she wouldn't have been in trouble if she'd just been honest!

  2. Same here! I tell Dylan all the time - I might be upset over what you did, but I won't be nearly as upset if you tell the truth about it.