Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Punishing children is Exhausting.

Perhaps I shouldn’t “go there”.  Perhaps I should have some limits.  But I'm hoping somewhere out there is someone who can sympathize.

The Kiddo (my boyfriend's daughter) lied to me.  We have her every other weekend and the last time she came to visit, in an outburst of tears and snot, she started her list of complaints about how she is being treated and the terrible crimes and abuses that have been committed against her (sibling feud) and then she dropped the bomb:

 “I want to come live with you guys”. 

Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it if that is what was 110% without a doubt the best possible thing for the child and completely necessary.  But I’m not going to lie…with her father working 14 hours a day she wouldn't be coming to live with US, she’d be coming to live with ME.  With the challenges she is posing lately though, and the restrictions posed on me as a non-parent, I don't think I could do it. 

When talking about the situation with her later, we learned she hadn't told her mom about anything.  We decided that her mom needed to be told the situation as it was being presented to us. When the Kiddo called her mom, what ended up happening was tears and statements that led me to believe she was being less than truthful.  I asked her if there was anything she wanted to come clean about, or if she wanted to tell me what part she played in it all.  She looked me in the eye and proclaimed her innocence to the bitter end.

It ended up coming to light that the Kiddo was perpetrator of the crimes that had been described to us as being done to her.  

*hangs head in shame*

I let the kid tell me a story.  I took her side.  I hugged her and told her I was proud of her for calling her mom and telling her what was going on even though it was hard as she had (allegedly) been threatened with repercussions by the perpetrator.  Isn't that what you’re supposed to do?  Believe a child when they claimed they’re being hurt to the point of excess?  I did all of that, only to find out that a 9 year old had taken me for a ride.

I’m not stupid…I know that in every single sibling fight that both children are usually equally guilty and the one that tells first usually gets the sympathy.  I know there have been pretty severe problems between the Kiddo and her sibling.  I knew that she couldn't be completely innocent in everything that had happened.  But when it came back that the problems that were occurring were actually caused by her…I admit, I felt and still feel like she made an ass out of me.   

I felt the problem needed to be addressed at our house as we were the ones who had been lied to in an epic, Grammy Award deserving performance.  My friends with children all suggested that this was for attention and that she needed to be talked to, and told she is loved.  The idea of doing that made me angry.  The kid lied to me yet again (this is NOT the first time) and I’m supposed to coddle her? 

When I was a kid, if I lied I got grounded.  Though memory is failing me at present, I may have even gotten spanked over it.  But grounding or taking things away as punishment only works if they child has something (like friends) to be grounded from.  How could it be effective, however, when you get the child at 5:00 on Friday and return her between 5-7 on Sunday?  So she goes without t.v. for a few days…in my experience, having something taken away (unless you use it constantly) doesn’t really bother you when it only happens for a day or two.  Both her father and I have talked and lectured until we’re blue in the face.  Nothing stops it. 

I spent my day Friday looking up what to do with children who lie.  And of course there are all these “Do’s and Don’ts” and what you’re supposed to say and not say and of course, they’re all in agreement.  NOT.  I had no idea what I was going to do when I woke up Saturday morning.  But…I think I went a little off the deep end.

I threatened to send her to Military School.

I spent the day enforcing her punishment, only to have her sit down at dinnertime and say that she didn't understand what she was supposed to be learning.  Fail.  And I admit, I kind of gave up after that point.  She got a lecture from me and then I checked out because I was exhausted, out of ideas, and no longer possessed the motivation to keep punishing her when she clearly wasn't getting any lesson from it.

I don’t know what can be done.   I’m starting to believe what Judge Judy says…. "Do you know how to tell if a teenager is lying to you? Her mouth moves!" applies to all children, not just teens.  I’m afraid that if we don’t do anything then we are failing her.  All of the websites I read on Friday just keep saying the same things…don’t take it personally.  How the hell can I not take it personally?  Isn't the fact that the kid is a liar kind of a reflection on “the village” raising her? And, by the way, according to the Internet (and you can't put stuff that isn't true on the Internet) I’m also not supposed to label her a liar but isn't there a limit to how many times she can lie before I can call her one?  Should I not be terrified that every other weekend, I live with a liar who could tell stories about ME?  Do I need to be concerned that the lying will escalate to something like stealing? And while we are riding that train, do I need to be concerned after she asked me what happens to my jewelry when I die on her last visit?

Ok.  That last one was a joke…mostly.  But I'm so confused as to how I am supposed to help this kid.  I'm terrified that something could happen and because she "cried wolf" so many times before that she'd be left without someone to help because no one believes her.  I hate feeling like I'm being put into a position where I can't help her.  I can't possibly "jump" to her every accusation and story; I don't want to falsely accuse people of things or be some kind of suspicious helicopter non-parental adult figure because let's be honest, the only thing worse than a helicopter parent is a helicopter stepmother that isn't.  

Ok, that's it.  I'm spent.  I've got nothing more to say on the issue.  I got it out and I feel better.  But on a serious note..."real" parents out there: how do you deal with this?

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