I'm not quite sure where to start. I've been a long time reader of the magazine, and I often check in on the board when when I have a specific question. I've always been able to find someone else asking basically what I was asking, so I never had a need to inquire much before. We've always been AP and my oldest is a teenager, so I've been reading the magazine for a great many years.
The question I have is about my just barely 10 year old daughter. She is a wonderful child, with the most amazing imagination. Anyone who works closely with her is shown the quote from Isaac Singer- "When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer." She often blurs the lines of reality and make believe. At the end of the day, she KNOWS the difference. She just doesn't appreciate the difference, so she likes to indulge her imagination. I love this about her, and have no desire to change it. We just talk about appropriate time and place. I wanted to state the positive first, but I do understand it is closely to tied with what I am struggling with.
Which brings me to, and this is where I am conflicted, the fact that she:
a) lives in the (fantastical) moment. She has mad empathy for others, but she doesn't always predict or think ahead to how her choices will effect others and
b) is guided only by her own intuitive sense of right and wrong. She' not one to follow arbitrary rules without understanding why. She's never had a defiant day in her life, she just nods and smiles and doesn't give much thought to anything that comes in verbally and then does what seems right to her: in the moment. I empathize with this, because I was very much the same as a child. And I'm a very ethical person today, so I don't think this is anything to worry about long term.
c) once she realizes that she made an ethical error, she does not take ownership because she is too embarrassed. She can take ownership of things like leaving her dishes out, putting a container in the pantry that was empty, and "mistakes" just not things that she realizes has left someone sad or hurt. Which, really, is when I'd most like to see her take ownership.
This is pretty long and complex, I know. And I'm sorry if it seems to vague. What I am seeking is ways to help her understand that she can not just help herself to whatever appeals to her in the moment. if I leave my lip liner on the counter, she can't draw a picture with it. She can use it, sure, but don't waste it. I want her to realize that she can't take things from her sister's room, even if nobody is around to see. That she can't throw a piece of paper/trash on the floor in the living room simply because it's easier in the moment and nobody is there to see her do it. If I buy 4 cupcakes at the bakery and explain that everyone can have one cupcake whenever they wish, it is not uncommon for her to take more than her share. fwiw, we do not ever have food in the house that is "off limits" except in the case of limited supply, when everyone gets one or two each. I want her to realize that if she asks to go to a friends house, and I ask if her cell phone is charged (our rule for leaving the yard) that she can't just tell me yes because it's what she knows I want to hear. It's sometimes very surface with her, what she says is what is best for that moment, not long term.
Lastly, this is the worst of the worst. I hope nobody gets the idea she is an out of control child, because she isn't. Her teachers sing her praise, she's respectful, gentle, loving, helpful, brilliantly smart, and even very responsible in a great many ways. This is just one small thing that I think could use some attention and mentoring.
Thank you so much!
I think the kind of things you mention are a matter of maturity, rather than a lesson to be taught. A gentle reminder of the impact of her actions on others will likely go farther than any discipline or lecture. She knows the rules and right from wrong; it is a perfectly normal developmental stage to be short-sighted and somewhat self-centered. My main parenting approach in these moments is the disappointed-mama look. They know what it means, and what they did to earn it! I wouldn't take this too seriously - it sounds like you are doing a great job, and you have an intelligent, independent kid who will grow into her morality.
Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)
Thank you so much for the feedback. I have been kind of baffled, because she comes to restitution/solution on her own when I state the problem. In the cupcake example, she might say "I didn't eat it, but if you give me a ride to the bakery I will buy a replacement with my own money." Which is all I'd want her to do anyway. I just wish I could get her to appreciate the value of actually taking ownership, and perhaps (ok, mostly) not being so short sighted in the first place.
Mamarhu, I really appreciate the perspective that it is not abnormal to need more time for maturation in this regard. I guess I just sort of thought that maybe, by 10, these were skills that should be developed. It is reassuring to hear that there are other kids working through this at her age as well.
Pek64, A collaborative writing project sounds wonderful. My daughter writes and writes and writes, but I don't fancy myself a writer so I never thought to do it together. I really appreciate the idea. And what you said about the crumbs and the trash can not being easiest in this moment- yes. I can definitely relate.
I love how well you articulate aspects of your daughter's personality. If I were you I, too, would be bothered by my child not wanting to take ownership in the way you are describing. I suppose I would wonder why she was so reluctant. What is your response when she does not take ownership of her actions?
My DC is 11 and about 6 months ago I struggled with some of the other things you're describing. Even now (when things are quite good) we still struggle a little with postponing and telling mom what she wants to hear. I don't think DC is lying, especially when she's just telling me she'll do something later...which she then doesn't get around to. Sigh. I'm not sure what the key is with that. Lately, we've just been experimenting with what works best -- allowing her to postpone and expect she will remember, allowing her to postpone and reminding her (makes me feel like a nag), insisting she do it right then (makes me feel like a tyrant). I don't have the answers for that. I would guess it would vary from child to child.
Does your child do a lot of activities? I'm noticing that 10 is the time when major interests are popping up so it's hard to find time...
... I am seeking is ways to help her understand that she can not just help herself to whatever appeals to her in the moment. if I leave my lip liner on the counter, she can't draw a picture with it. She can use it, sure, but don't waste it.
I want her to realize that she can't take things from her sister's room, even if nobody is around to see.
That she can't throw a piece of paper/trash on the floor in the living room simply because it's easier in the moment and nobody is there to see her do it.
If I buy 4 cupcakes at the bakery and explain that everyone can have one cupcake whenever they wish, it is not uncommon for her to take more than her share. fwiw, we do not ever have food in the house that is "off limits" except in the case of limited supply, when everyone gets one or two each
I want her to realize that if she asks to go to a friends house, and I ask if her cell phone is charged (our rule for leaving the yard) that she can't just tell me yes because it's what she knows I want to hear. It's sometimes very surface with her, what she says is what is best for that moment, not long term.
I suggest that you create more clear cut rules and expectations and let her know that if she does not follow the rules, there will be consequences.
1. Other people's things BELONG to them.
Taking and using things without permission is often viewed as "theft". In the future this sort of behavior can make her unpopular (e.g. using a roommate's toiletries without permission) or get her in legal trouble.
A) Mama's lip liner belongs to Mama. Don't use it without permission. If you ask, Mama will usually say "yes" but you have to ask.
B) Sister's things belong to sister. You cannot go into her room and take them without permission.
2) Clean Up After Yourself
Throwing things on the floor and not tidying up after yourself is inconsiderate to the people you live with. If you do it outside the home, it is called "littering" or "environmental pollution" and can be illegal.
3) Tell the Truth
If she throws it on the floor and doesn't clean up after herself and then denies it or blames someone else, this is not being imaginative, it is "lying". You can be sympathetic (a bit), understanding that maybe she wishes she hadn't done it, etc. But the fact is that she DID do it and she's trying to evade the consuences of her actions. I think you can have a productive conversation on the different levels of truthfulness.
A) "Social lie" - (like answering "How are you?" from an acquaintance with "Fine" instead of a more accurate, "Kind of tired and hungry" or "Itchy!, I have a nasty rash")
B) Embellishment or exaggeration for rhetorical effect ("It was so crowded in the store, there must have been hundreds on people!" "It was raining cats and dogs" )
C) Story - completely made up fiction (Once upon a time...)
D) Lie - an untruth told to avoid the consequences of your actions or to take advantage of someone.
So, by those definitions, what she said about the cell phone being charged was a lie. One consequence could be, for the next few months when you ask her that question, after she answers "Yes", she must pull out her phone and show you that it is charged. If it is not, she cannot go out and... (needs to put the charger in immediately? Not go over to a friend's house for 2 days?... write a 50 word essay on why she should not lie about the true situation of her phone charge?...)
4) Sharing is Caring & don't take more than your share
Taking more than your share is unfair to others. Many people consider this to be a behavior called "Greedy", which is not generally considerd a positive quality. She should try and work on this. If she continues with it, then you can start calling her on it.
[It's something I still have to remind my kids of at the table, with food OTHER than green vegetables. Somehow they never seem to be greedy with that]
On the other hand, if she knows that there are 4 cupcakes and 4 people and each can have one, and she takes two, she has taken something that belongs to another person (see rule 1). It's theft.
My son (now 14) had some problems with truth telling when he was younger. He too is imaginative, tends to live in the moment, etc. He would make things up because of how he wished things had been, or because he was ashamed, or to try and evade trouble or hassle. But, with persistence, reminding him of the need to be honest and reliable, and checking on him and catching him in his lies and letting him understand that the consequences of whatever he had done + A Lie was worse than just the consequence of telling the truth. So, he has improved.
I could be wrong but from your examples it sounds more like impulse control and lack of planning ahead that might be the issue, and then maybe some embarrassment around what she perceives as her lack of skill in those areas, than a moral issue. With the cupcakes, were they on the counter in plain sight, or did she have to deliberately search through the cupboards to get one? Sounds like with the lipstick if it hadn't been on the counter, she wouldn't have gone through your makeup box to find it and draw with it, is that right?
If this sounds right, then it might be worth it to address executive function in the brain, rather than focus on taking ownership and responsiblity (not that that isn't important, just that I'm wondering if the moral aspects of her decisions would fall into place if she felt she had more control over her impulses, as she sounds like a wonderful, caring, eager-to-please little girl who does think about and feel others' emotions, and is probably naturally empathic already).