Some shared ideas on how to live with young people who lie and steal This booklet is designed by Carers, Looked After Children and Adopters, for Carers and Adopters. Lying and Stealing Do not lie, do not steal, THANKS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Anne Sheppard - Strategic Manager, Emotional Health Kath Burton, Carole Lomas — Adoption Support Or you will begin to feel The full force of the law. Carol Holt — Workforce Development The CLASS Team One white lie will never harm, ITV Border Television Or so the sayings say. But one lie can lead to more, And in the end you’ll pay. Stealing is worse still, Taking something that’s not yours. Eventually you will pay the bill, With the execution of the laws. By Tony Graham BOOKLET DESIGNED BY: Pauline Al-Tikriti Chloe Rachel Dodsworth Andrew Barbara Jones Tony Sue Murray Harry Annette Noble Matthew Janette Solomons Doreen Varcoe FEEDBACK If you like this booklet, let us know! Also, we are aware that this is just a brief introduction to the topic of Lying and Stealing. If you have other ideas, or strategies which have worked for you, please tell us so we can add them to the list We have put this guide together because we know that lying and stealing are difficult to live with. We hope that when you have read through this guide you will take these behaviors less personally and have more tools to deal with them LEVELS OF HONESTY Answer the questions below before you go any further Have you ever: Yes No 1. Helped yourself to food from the fridge? 2. Kept loose change you found around the house? 3. Exaggerated your work expenses? 4. Kept something you found on the bus or train? Please contact Barbara or Rachel on: 5. Got away with a mistake in your favour at the supermarket? 6. Took something out of someone else’s skip? Barbara Jones, Tel: 07717480822 Email: [email protected] Rachel Dodsworth, Tel: 07825340410 Email: [email protected] 7. Lied about how much you spend? 8. Said ‘I love you’ and not meant it? 9. Bought something off the back of a lorry? 10. Told white lies (the tooth fairy, Santa, ‘your face will stay like that if the wind changes’) Perceptions of honesty and dishonesty vary a great deal. We cannot assume other peoples’ perceptions of the truth/untruth are the same as ours. Children who live with us have received many mixed messages about right and wrong. Honesty is individually perceived, it is not How do you feel about lying and stealing? References Do you feel? Archer C. (1999). Next Steps in Parenting the Child who Hurts. London Kingsley Berryman, J. et al (1993). Developmental Psychology and you. Routledge Vera Fahlberg (1991). A Child’s Journey Through Placement Herbert, M. (1991). Clinical Child Psychology. John Wiley & Sons Smith, P. and Cowie, H. (1991) 2nd Edition, Understanding Children’s Development. Cambridge University Press Weiner, B. (1995). Judgements of Responsibility, A Foundation for a Theory of Social Conduct. The Guilford Press. McLeod, A. (2008). Listening to Children. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Children Looked After Support Service. Lying and Stealing Information pack (2008). Barbara Jones 07717 480 822 • Take care that you keep your word, and that you always mean what you say. A child with weak connections between cause and effect must experience great consistency if she is to ‘get’ it. • Be prepared to alert friends, teachers, relatives to your child’s difficulties with the truth. It won’t stop the problem but it makes sure it is dealt with consistently and reinforces the message that Your child can’t play one adult against another. • • Choose your time and place carefully to begin talking about such things. You need to be calm and unhurried and your child does not need distractions, such as a friend waiting to play. However, for an older child you could ‘go public’ and speak openly in front of their friends about their activities. Sometimes this can have a dramatic effect, since an adolescent places enormous value on what their peers think. The message to get across is important: you expect honesty, that you believe your child can achieve this, and that, although you care greatly about her, you are nobody’s fool. Allowing consequences to happen naturally, if she lies or steals, should help her realise cause and effect and give her some practice at conscience building. Long lectures on right and wrong, or the evils of deceit, are both inappropriate and ineffective here. • If you are encountering a complete lack of remorse, this can be very distressing. You may feel this indicates your child is in some way irretrievably evil. However, while this is understandable, it is essential that you keep on reminding yourself that no child is all bad. If the child behaves in an extreme manner, you can reassure yourself that there is an equally extreme part of her character which feels blame and shame intensely. • Keep working on the underlying issues which have shaped the child’s perception of the world, and her distorted responses to it. It may be useful for a therapist who has a good understanding of dissociation to help you work through some of these difficulties and enable your child to begin to make sense of her own behaviours”. Reasons given for lying and stealing McLeod, 2008 • To avoid negative consequences • To obtain a reward • To protect their self esteem • To protect relationships • To conform to norms and conventions ? Carers also identified other reasons: • Exaggeration to impress their peers • Their previous life experiences • Influence of the media (mainly soaps) • ‘They lie to me all the time, so who cares’? • ‘She’s made me, what can I do to get out of this’? • ‘It’s a secret, they’ll hurt me if I tell’ • ‘I am a mistake’ • ‘She’s so stupid, she won’t know anyway’ • ‘I don't remember’ • Zero tolerance from a young age, so rebel • Try to give yourself time to ‘get it together’ before you address an incident of stealing. You may be lucky and discover items missing while the child is at school. This would give you time to work through your inevitable anger and frustration, through unrealistic fantasies of ‘revenge to a point where you can plan your reasoned response. This puts you back in healthy charge of a situation where timing can be critical. Now the Very briefly, this is how the theory works. Children learn at an early age the benefits of not telling the truth. Abused children can have a distorted view of the world, fuelled by their experiences. They need to survive the world so they do anything they can to survive shame or to feel powerful and less vulnerable. • If you make a mistake or ‘get it wrong’ use this as an opportunity to demonstrate that it is not the end of the world to make mistakes, and apologise gracefully. • Explore with the child why you think she acted the way she did, when she did. Share your interpretation with her, with as much empathy as you can manage. Demonstrating you can be trusted to deal with things insightfully and fair-mindedly will encourage her to internalise the concept of trust in you, which will gradually be reflected in her increasing truthfulness and trustworthiness. • Allow the child to make their own mistakes. Introduce the idea that you have to make mistakes if you are to learn and grow. Mistakes are valuable opportunities to ‘get things wrong and put them right’. Try to make some all too obvious mistakes yourself, exaggerating your reactions and talking to yourself as you work things out. • When you feel the time is right, invite your child to go to the shop and make some simple purchases for you. This implies and increasing level of trust and responsibility to which she may rise. Try to giver her almost the right money, so there is only a small amount of change and less room for ‘mistakes’. Be pleased if she manages it; show sadness if she messes up and suggest she needs more Traumatised children can genuinely believe what they are saying at that moment! To make deceit easier to bear they can even learn to disconnect from their feelings. Stealing can alter a child’s arousal state and they may ‘buzz’. Neglected children can panic about where their next meal is coming from, even when they have been with carers for a long time. They are ‘hardwired’ to ‘steal’ food or hoard food. This is common. Remember that abuse and trauma may have delayed the child’s conscience development and they may be working at a much younger age. A fuller explanation can be found at the e-library or by contacting the CLASS Team. Also check out the references at the end of this booklet. practice. • Make sure you look after yourself, get support, take opportunities to reward yourself, having things stolen or damaged and being lied to as if you are an idiot can make a huge dent in your self esteem. Give yourself treats! You need and deserve to find ways of making yourself feel better. ‘stolen’ may in turn ‘steal’ and this may help them make sense of their behaviour. • • • • • • • Being neglected and abused means being denied opportunities to feel loved and safe (nurture), with firm, unambiguous boundaries (structure). Carers need to be the ‘loving safe container’ for the child. They need to be the child’s external conscience, until she can trust herself not to take things. Providing reasonable, nonpunitive consequences and ‘being sad for’ the child rather than ‘mad at’ them will demonstrate the characteristics of conscience that you are trying to model. Explore what steps you can take to avoid putting temptation in the child’s way. Use a secure place for your money and jewellery, and get into the habit of using it at all times. Get a bumbag for a purse. With practice this will become second nature and will avoid some of the bad feeling about the invasion of personal space etc. Try being creative and leave ‘Hug cheques’ where you previously left money. Do not blame yourself or the child if they take advantage of lapses in vigilance on your part, as they inevitably will. Do not expect instant success. Aim for gradual and realistic progress towards increased trust and trustworthiness. Be careful not to put yourself in a situation where the child never receives any pocket money because it is all ‘owed’. This could trigger her feelings of emptiness and abandonment and lead to further stealing. Also she would not be able to practice managing money well. Make a list of jobs that can offset items taken and which will also make you feel better about the unpleasant incidents. If she is unwilling, try saying things like ‘thanks for your help, I know you will do a good job’, with genuine feeling. Avoid saying ‘I told you so’. This can turn a valuable learning opportunity into an experience of anger, punishment and rejection. Chloe’s acrostic and word search L A N H Y V R K I N L Y J H Y M X Z S O V W I E S A Q T O T INSENSITIVE T Q I N D S U M U N NAUGHTY H S Z E G P X N D E GUILTY G F Q M I D V A G C M V E D A C F S N E Z N A U G F H S S S D I S A S T R O U S V V Y Y S G T C A A H M G T D H S I T R Y L U N G Q H A H Y I P K G U W D T O F THOUGHTLESS O C B C U I V I U R EASY Y E L L I N G O G O ASSOCIATIONS L D B N X S B N H G LOVE ME D T E X B E S S T G INNOCENT Y L R A E N O X L Y NEARLY X M W M C S U C E E T U X U N I Y V S L N F H F C T Y F S B E F M P H I K S B I C O N G X V M B T L O E U U E E N G N L N A J I Y M H F D U N N X L F W E F Z G I G Z T F E O V S D X R T Y H R E F O X V Y I X S T G M A L LYING YELLING ANGRY NOT NECESSARY DISASTROUS STUPID GULLIBLE • THINGS TO TRY: important. I want you to take some time to think about it’. Parents can then ask the question, and tell the young person that she will recheck with them in 5 minutes. Since the parent is stressing the importance of not answering impulsively, the adult needs to ignore anything— either the truth or a lie—coming from the child before the set time. Try to avoid: X Harsh punishment will alienate the child further and encourage them not to get caught. It won’t encourage the development of morals but will probably demonstrate to the child the need to be devious. X Long debates trying to prove the child did some thing wrong is exhausting and probably • Shoplifting. ‘We know this is a problem for you and we are going to have to work together to make it easier for you not to be tempted to take things’. Always ask to see the receipt of items brought home. unproductive. X In view of the child’s impulsive habit of denying things in an attempt to avoid getting into trouble, try putting the emphasis on thinking before answering e.g. ‘I need to ask you about something. It is Protecting children from the consequences of lying and stealing may encourage them to think they are above the law, the rules of home, school etc. • Children need an allowance to spend on things they want. Older children need opportunities to earn money so that they can purchase things for which they are willing to work” Try this: ‘According to Caroline Archer’ (with kind permission) √ • “Try to focus on the emotional age of the child; a teenager may be stuck in aspects if a two or four year old development emotionally. • Try leaving messages for her to find when you are not around, to remind her that you have her in mind, try ‘Hug I.O.Us’ or treats/sweets. Do not worry about being over indulgent. • Try to reinforce the message that it is never a child’s fault when they are mistreated, and that no child deserves to be treated badly, try to clarify that it is OK to feel how he/she feels, but not OK to hurt herself or others as a result. • Gently re-tell his/her lifestory to clarify his/her muddles. Let them know you understand that a child who feels they have been √ Get the right tone of voice. Shouting or anger will hook the child into fear or rage. Calm discussion will encourage the use of the frontal lobe (part of the brain that inhibits impulse). The most useful type of discipline conducive to moral development involves pointing out the effects of behaviour giving reasons and explanations. √ Turn away and remove eye contact. By changing your body language you will demonstrate disapproval. This may work to reduce the lying and stealing behaviour but on its own will not con- Lying and Stealing—’According to Vera Fahlberg’ ‘”he most common obstacle to conscience development in a family setting is the parents’ notion that they have to be able to trust the child before they can really nurture him or her. This is the opposite of the truth. The child must first learn to trust that adults care enough to protect him or her from making serious mistakes; enough to provide adequate supervision even when it is not easy to do so. The child needs to learn to trust that the adults’ limit-setting will be out of consideration for the needs of the child, not because the adult needs to be in control of everything. The child needs to know that the parent will stick up for the child when he or she needs adult support” tribute to the development of morals/ consciousness/guilt etc. It may lead to the child becoming more devious about not getting caught. √ Use expressions such as ‘I feel really sad that you took that money, that was a poor choice’. This will emphasise to the child that he does have the ability to choose or can develop it. √ Develop strong ties of affection between you and the child. Hugs for doing the right thing, positive messages for any behaviour you like. √ be clear about the firm moral demands you make of the child, be specific, use clear, age appropriate Some suggestions—’According to Vera Fahlberg’ • • • “How do you know when your child is lying? Focus on the positive aspects of the child’s body language telling the truth, even though the mouth may be having difficulty in this area. Make expectations clear. Ask, ‘Is your room tidy?’ rather than ‘Did you tidy your room?’ The latter could have been truthfully answered ‘Yes’ if the child has ever tidied his or her room. It has nothing to do with its present state. Be aware of the likelihood of concrete thinking such as this. Give logical consequences for dishonesty, e.g. working to repay stolen money makes more sense than being grounded for a week. It teaches an alternative way for the child to get his or her needs met. • Parents and teachers need to stay in frequent contact. If the child has been returning home with other people’s items in his or her pockets, s/he could be rewarded or praised whenever s/he returns with empty pockets. • Be specific, achievable goals, e.g. ‘I’m not going to lie to my parents today’ is a realistic goal, which is likely to be achievable, enabling the young person to build self esteem. ‘I’ll never do it again’ is a very weighty promise. language to say what you expect of your child. Check that they understand what you are saying. √ Be consistent with your sanctions. √ Use intensive reasoning and explanation. Start at their level (which is probably lower than you think). √ Use visual clues such as: pictures, TV programmes, magazine stories. √ Give responsibility to the child and reward good performance. √ Help the child develop empathy, again using visual aids, pictures, dolls etc. √ ‘ Initiate discussion of moral issues, for example say what should I do about..’,‘ what would you do if…’, ‘How do you think that person is feeling now…’. √ Refrain from using the words ‘liar’ or ‘thief’. Try ‘my child has a problem distinguishing fantasy from reality’. √ √ In relation to sanctions imposed by school or Model appropriate problem solving skills. ‘I police, think carefully about your role here. It is believe that you probably did it, and I’m asking you to make good the loss. If I am wrong I will understandable to want to protect but what would be the long-term effect of this? apologise’, √ Keep a list of jobs the child can do to make amends. √ Keep your word. Do what you say. √ Be prepared to have to alert your friends to your child’s problems. It won’t feel nice to do but it may prevent the behaviour happening elsewhere and it gives the child the message that you won’t tolerate lying or stealing. √ Choose sensible times and places to challenge children about their behaviour. Be calm as anger may trigger a stress response in the child. They will not be receptive to anything you say and will not be able to reason. Sometimes when you have both/all had time to reflect, it is easier to deal with the situation. √ Convey that you expect honesty and that you feel the child can achieve this and you will help. √ Use natural consequences, teach about cause and effect. Children normally learn this from babyhood during play and interaction, but your child may not have done this, so you may have to go right back to basics depending on the age and stage of child/ren. E.g. what happens when you freeze water, knock tower down, go out in the rain etc. √ Consider how you would handle unfounded allegations against you before they happen. AND FINALLY Think about yourself, and use advice in safe caring to protect yourself.
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