[FoRK] Parenting advice wanted...

Corinna < corinna.schultz at gmail.com > on > Fri Apr 28 07:44:22 PDT 2006

from those of you who have been around the hill...

My son is 8. He recently broke some rules big time. He knows that I know 
what happened, I talked with him about it, he's been given consequences. But 
he will not tell me in a straightforward manner any real details about what 
he did. What I know I have gathered through seeing the results of what he 
did and talking to his sister (who was an accomplice).

When I say "tell me what you did when you left your room" he just clams up. 
He has a history of "lying" about doing stuff (he won't tell the whole 
truth, or he tells just enough to sound plausible, or he looks shocked when 
he's accused of something), and he tells small "fantasy-type" stories (like 
how he did something or saw something that sounds remarkably like something 
he's read about recently) on a regular basis. When you explain something, 
his usual response is "I know" (though of course he didn't) and if you ask 
"do you know what this is for" (about some strange object at the store) 
he'll say "yes" even though he doesn't. Sometimes, I shake my head and 
wonder if he's got split personality...

I know much of this is normal behavior for a kid his age. He's intelligent, 
active, and somewhat emotionally immature, and rather socially isolated (he 
occasionally plays with kids in the neighborhood). He's probably got a 
slight neural defect like autism, adhd, or something in that constellation, 
judging from his overall behavior pattern.

There have been some discipline issues too, where we have perhaps reacted 
too harshly, and I know he probably has a subconscious desire to put on a 
strong front as a result. (We're not perfect parents, though we're trying!) 
He's one of those kids who, at any stage, exhibits normal behavior, but to 
an extreme - finger biting, tantrums, noisiness, social cluelessness, messy 
handwriting, etc. This has made us tend to be harsher than we really should 
be.

My concern is that for an infraction this large, that it's important for him 
to verbalize what happened, to make the violation concrete and conscious, 
instead of allowing him to be evasive.  However, I'm not sure whether I 
should push the issue -- for example -- you are going to be restricted in 
your room until you talk to me and tell me what happened.  I'm leery of a 
battle of wills. I'm concerned that if we don't talk about it, he'll think 
the punishment is arbitrary, and he'll convince himself that we're being 
unfair, and he won't learn from this situation.

In the meantime, I'm trying to spend as much time as I can with him. He's 
probably distressed that I'm going to be leaving soon (in about 8 days), and 
he's always had a strong attachment to me (I probably weaned him too soon, 
and he had a hard time adjusting when I started working full time when he 
was 4). (He asked me to take him with me, and I explained why I couldn't, 
and why he wouldn't be happy if I did.)

So I guess the question is should I push him to talk about what he did, so 
we can clarify the details, and why what he did was a violation, and why the 
consequences make sense in this situation?

-Corinna




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