Please Just Lie Smarter.

I firmly believe this is one of those posts that will make all of you other parents feel so much better about the job you’re doing.

You know, I typed that and then I struggled to think about reading something similar to that thought. I read a LOT of “mommyblogs” – I’m so sorry for typing that – but I very rarely read a post where I just blatantly disagree with some of the points posted there. I did read one yesterday, and it kind of had to do with this same topic.

Okay, if I was aiming to write vague and unrelated paragraphs for this post, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Anyway. So. This is Jack.

I think y’all have met.

Jack is now eleven and it’s been a hard year. That’s an understatement. Since Jack is my stepson, I really don’t delve into his stuff here – I kind of feel like it’s someone else’s story to tell, you know? But, in short, it’s been a difficult year.

And cue the caveats: Jack is a GREAT kid. As you can see, he is Opie incarnate. He’s got a heart bigger ‘n Texas, as we say, and a wild imagination. He is an amazing big brother, and Tony adores him. Also? Jack is smart as a whip. He’s got his father’s gift for trivia and he loves to read and he would sit in front of the History channel all day if we let him.

All of these things add up to WHY the transition to middle school has been so frustrating.

A large issue we’ve been having is that Jack is in the phase of growing up where lying seems like a viable option. We noticed it when he was in elementary school, if we were honest with ourselves. He would come home and spin wonderous stories about ninja-like feats performed in dodgeball. Of course they were SO outlandish that we knew they weren’t true – dude, you trip while walking, so don’t try and convince me you expertly performed parkour – but we listened and cheered him on. (I don’t know if I count this as a mistake. At the time, we were encouraging him to talk about his school day, and we were happy to hear ANYTHING about his day.)

But since then, the lies have gotten more devious, but just as unbelievable. To the point that his dad and I pretty much discredit anything that leaves his mouth. And I totally get that it’s a phase – Bryan and I both discussed that we did the same thing, in a way – but he is KILLING OUR SOULS WITH THE LYING.

Mostly it’s homework based now. “The teacher didn’t give us any.” So Bryan instituted the homework notebook, which required him to have a teacher sign off, every day, what the homework assignment was. “Oh, they told me they didn’t have time to sign it today.” So Bryan started talking with the teachers directly. “I left it in my locker.” or “I can’t find it.” or “I let a friend borrow it.” Lies, lies, lies. All lies, all the time.

THESE ARE ALL STUPID LIES. I CANNOT DEAL WITH STUPID LIES.

And so we sat Jack down and told him this. We told him that lying is wrong. Fundamentally, black and white, WRONG. Don’t do it.

.. but if you’re going to do it, can you please be SMARTER about it?

(If you’ve been reading along, waiting for the Audience Superiority portion of this post, NOW’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE!)

After discussing it between ourselves, we’ve decided that our job as parents is to prepare our children for the world at large. And .. maybe .. maybe the world at large is not such an honest place, you know? So we’ve decided that our job for middle and high school is to teach our kids how to work the system.

(Wooooboy, I just saw some heads spin on that one.)

I think of it like this. All through middle and high school, I had teachers that made us turn in assignments the hard way. Right? We all had those teachers. And it’s good to have those basics learned. You NEED basics. You need study habits and organizational skills and time management and all that. But beyond that? I distinctly remember my high school senior AP English teacher showing us how to do a research paper .. the smart way. It wasn’t exactly cheating, but it was being more efficient. It meant cutting some corners, but figuring out which corners were safest to cut. It meant learning how to manage your time SMARTLY.

So we’re kind of steering Jack in that direction, be it right or wrong. Look, we can’t STOP him from lying. We CAN encourage him to fix the lie before he gets caught. Lie about homework being assigned? Fine, but STILL DO IT AND TURN IT IN. Otherwise, we get a progress report that has Ds all over it because you DIDN’T FINISH THE LIE OUT. Lie about a teacher making you stand in a corner for two hours for talking just because you were bored at the grocery store? Fine, but MAYBE DON’T MAKE IT A CORPORAL PUNISHMENT OFFENSE. TEACHERS GET FIRED FOR THAT.

Just .. be .. smarter. That’s all we’re asking here.

And while I’m totally open to suggestions from y’all about how to work through this, I’m inclined to remind everyone that .. um .. my personal reach on this problem is severely limited. And we’ve already encountered several obstacles that have made me want to pull my hair out. So there’s that, as vague and open-ended as that is.

He’s just such an awesome kid. We’d like to let him live to see twelve.

(Jack decided he wanted to have dinner undercover on Saturday night. I couldn’t say no, seeing as how we have a framed picture of Batman visiting Santa in our house. I was amazed that he kept this persona all night – he called it The Lorax’s Evening Look.)

16 Responses to Please Just Lie Smarter.

  1. susie February 28, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Ok, 1, “The Lorax’s evening look” – oh my god. Are all eleven year olds that awesome??
    2, when I was in grad school, I was TAing a survey course in public health, and had to assign and grade some pretty dumb homework assignments. In them, the students always had to define and discuss various terms and ideas, and I know, I KNOW – that sort of things just screams wikipedia. BUT, we discussed repeatedly that everything had to be in your own words, the seriousness of plagiarism, etc.

    I had to have a come to jesus with those kids TWICE about how if they were going to plagiarize, they needed to use a website from at LEAST the second page of a google search. I finally told them, look – I don’t care, I really don’t, but if you plagiarize from wikipedia, it insults MY intelligence. LIE BETTER.
    susie wants you to read ..Eliza at 4 months

    • Sarah Lena February 28, 2012 at 11:22 am #

      YES, SUSIE. EXACTLY. When you give me some really badly constructed lie, you assume I’m dumb enough to believe it. And I firmly believe this is a life skill! No, you shouldn’t lie.. all the time. But if you DO lie, be SMART ABOUT IT.

  2. -R- February 28, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    I also think lying isn’t the worst thing in the world. I mean, there are certain things you can’t lie about, but I’m not going to freak out if my kid lies occasionally.

    Right now, Ren is three, so he is just starting to lie to get out of punishments. We’re working on it, but I’m not overly concerned. Kids lie.
    -R- wants you to read ..Until Next Year

  3. Lisa February 28, 2012 at 11:39 am #

    I like this approach, because as an adult, bad liars are very frustrating. I mean, we really don’t expect people to tell the truth all the time, but when they give you a line of utter BS like they think you’re stupid enough to believe it? PUH-LEEZ.

    I also think it’s a valid lesson for learning the other side too. Especially in the internet age, it’s probably best that kids learn people lie. Like, 80% of the internet is a lie. Keep that in mind young ones! If you learn to lie smarter, you also learn to catch the lies! Muahahahaha.

  4. LizScott February 28, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Heh. Two stories popped into my mind when I read this:

    1. Me, I think I was in college (though it seems younger), telling my mom “yeah, we’re spending the weekend at the beach but it’s like, just girls” and she started laughing and I was all “What?” and she said: “Oh, sorry. I just remember telling my mom the same lie and it made me nostalgic. Please, continue. Just girls, you say?” And I was all “…umm..yes?”

    2. My nephew, age 14, cheats on a book report by basically copying word for word out of Wikipedia. Stupid, right? Well, even worse when you realize: he copied THE WRONG BOOK. He couldn’t even CHEAT correctly! Honestly, I was more annoyed by that than I was that he was cheating. I mean, come on. At least plagiarize the right fricken book.

    oh wait, and a third: my stepdaughter (15), telling me: “yeah, there’s drinking at parties but my mom knows I don’t drink so if she smells alcohol on me it’s from someone else.” Lady. Come on. I appreciate the effort but I’m going to need a little bit MORE from you on this one. Lie better, for crying out loud.
    LizScott wants you to read ..In Which My Facebook Feed Reminds Me How Lucky I Am To Know My People

    • Sarah Lena February 28, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      Re: #2

      That SAME English teacher had us do a book report on Dostoyevsky, and a classmate got up to give his presentation and he gave a perfect reading of the Cliff’s Notes of “Brothers Karamazov”. Except our assignment was “Crime & Punishment”.

      She gave us a good lesson that day.

  5. Sarah Lena February 28, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    You are my PEOPLE.

  6. Andrea February 28, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Even though I was an excellent student, I often lied about having homework. My Mom came up with a permanent solution/consequence. I had homework every day- whether or not any was assigned. There was always something to read or study, even if nothing written was required. The amount of time required each day was adjusted as I grew older. There were times I just say there and stared at a book, but it eliminated any opportunity for me to lie. If I “forgot” my books/papers, I had to sit there anyway. Though I hated it at the time, I now appreciate my Mom’s commitment to teaching me discipline and the importance of doing my best. Just a suggestion, but may e it could work for your family too.

  7. shannon February 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    I’m sorry..am I getting this correct? Ya’ll are ok with the lying, just so it’s “smart” lying? I can sorta see being ok with white lies…”you look nice today Ms. Teacher” or to get out of a really bad situation .. “my parents say I have to be home at 10 (cause this is a really illegal party, but I don’t want to look like a total nerd)” ..but to be ok with lying for no really good reason? Is it going to be ok if the kid lies on a resume, as long as he doesn’t get caught cause it’s plausible?
    “Just don’t get caught” isn’t in any of the moral codes I’m aware of, save the Mafia perhaps 🙂
    Are ya’ll serious? I may be old and crotchety, but really?

    • Sarah Lena February 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

      That’s about it!

      We’re not okay with lying; let’s set that straight. He is punished if he’s caught in a lie. That has been – and will continue to be – the case. But we are trying to teach him that if he’s at least smarter in his lies .. either through taking care of whatever he lied about or just creating more feasible lies .. that life will just be easier for him in the long run.

      Again: there is no reason to really lie. We’re pretty laid back as it is, but we do have high expectations. If he needs to lie, we just really want him to lie well.

  8. Shannon Messersmith February 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    1. He’s is totally Opie and cute as pie! Like get a spoon and eat him up cute.

    2. Must be in the water with really smart 11 year olds. My daughter lies till she turns blue in the face. If she’s going to tell you a story you could pull her fingernails off with a red hot pincher and she’d still stick to it. In some sick way you have to admire that.

    Here in Florida we have something called “grade portal”. It’s an online grade book that you can check daily and it list all of their grades and assignments. The kicker is that the teachers can make a note to the grade and let you know if it was late or there was a lame a$$ excuse. This has curtailed it some…but…

    I don’t think you and Bryan have given him a free pass pres-ay. It’s more of a situation like they say in Practical Magic…”Clean up your own mess.” That’s what I’ve been doing with Erin. Hang in there. Hope it gets better.

  9. Julie February 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    We have been dealing with the lying about little things for so long now that we don’t trust anything Sean says to be the truth. He started by lying about his behavior sheet in Kindergarten because he was afraid of getting in trouble. And, even though he knows that gets him in more trouble, that behavior has persisted. It’s frustrating because we always find out. Sean is a very bad liar. I am more afraid of what sort of things he is going to lie to us about in the future when he is so quick and ready to lie to us now about things he doesn’t need to lie about. I wish there was an easy solution to this but I am definitely at a loss on this one.
    Julie wants you to read ..February Photos Week 3

  10. Jessica February 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    I can agree with this! I don’t have much to go on with a child of my own, yet, but I do remember how many time my brothers got in trouble for something because they didn’t learn how to lie well. I wasn’t a bad kid and I certainly got in trouble for lying a few times, but not like they did.
    Jessica wants you to read ..Jacob Says:

  11. Aunt Gee February 29, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    I made one of the children I used to nanny sob over a lie the way only an Italian woman can. I just told her the truth: lying is the worst thing a person can do, because it destroys trust, and once I catch you in a lie (and I always will) I won’t be able to trust your words anymore, and that’s something that can’t necessarily be fixed. Even if she thinks the truth will get her in trouble, a lie just makes it worse. Time out only lasts for maybe five minutes, and then we can move on. But a lie lasts a lot longer, and once I can’t trust her words, I won’t know that I can ever trust them again.

    I then told her that I always have and will tell her the truth, and would never lie to her because she is very important to me, and more than anything I want her to be able to trust my words, always.

    *cue sobs*

    And come to find out, she really HAD hit her brother. Surprise, surprise.

    Just being honest with him about why lying is a terrible thing and the real life consequences that it has on relationships of all kinds is an invaluable life lesson. What he chooses to do with it is his choice… and I think that will be a big deal, because at this age, you WANT choices… but you still don’t really *get* any.
    Aunt Gee wants you to read ..Thanksgiving: A tradition steeped in blood and served with a side of artery-clogging awkward family food moments. And pumpkin.

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