Getting Each Other in Trouble | Teaching Self-Government

Getting Each Other in Trouble

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We have a problem with people getting into things in the house without asking.  For example chocolate chips, cookies in the freezer and so on.  We also have a problem with dishonesty. The consequence for these (decided by the family) Dishonesty: 30 min. of  chore.   stealing: 2 heavy maintenance chores (if self-reported then 1 heavy maintenance  chore) Our problem is that everyone seems to be looking out for something else that someone has done to get them assigned chores. Last night 11 years old came up to me and gave me a container of frosting he found in bedroom (shared with 10 year old) and said it was not him.  I called 10 year old up and asked if he had anything to tell me, he said he took the frosting.  I praised him for reporting and for being honest.  He was assigned to clean out and organized the food storage room/laundry room. It really bothers me that they are trying to find faults in each other and tell on each other.  Maybe this isn't a situation at all? 

     I understand your frustration.  Telling on another person is a form of attention seeking and destroys the feeling of love in the home.

       There are two ways to look at this.  You can recognize that your children are seeing what is right and what is wrong and appreciate that they are helping you teach to as many situations as possible so that your children don't try to play a system on you, or you can see that  you children are obsessed with shedding negative light on each other and need to learn a new way to communicate in the family to maintain a feeling of love.

        If you choose to view the situation the first way, you can immediately become proud of your children for reporting.  If a dishonest person gets away with stealing or lying even a portion of the time, they see that lying and stealing works.  The more times you can catch and correct the behavior the more your children will learn cause and effect and choose not to be dishonest.  It could be good they are telling you if you wouldn't have noticed on your own.  Maybe the thing that needs to change is the tone of the reporting, or the  way they are telling you.

       Teach them to come to you calmly, with the spirit of love for their brother and say, "Mom, I need to report something...."  Then they explain the situation.  Tell them they need to be calm and have the feeling of love for their sibling in their heart when they report or they will earn negative consequences for trying to cause bad feelings in the home.  Family first.  You may even want to ask them before they report if they feel love toward their brother or sister at the time or not.  Praise the child for reporting calmly, and with love.

     If you choose to view the situation as a completely negative behavior for the family, then you need to teach your children to gently remind each other to not steal or lie instead of tell on every thing.  Depending on how much respect exists in your home this option may or may not work.

        Another choice could be for you to tell your children they earn negative consequences for reporting on siblings negative behaviors.  This could work if you view the reporting more as tattling.  However, if you take this approach you may miss opportunities to correct negative behaviors.

       The biggest problem in the home could be that because everyone is being dishonest they are trying to divert attention to other people in the family to make themselves look good, or honest.  This is a very typical behavior for children with honesty issues.

       The feeling in the home sounds negative and selfish.  I am sure this is exactly what you are trying to fix.  To change the mood in the home, you need to love them.  Pray for more love, and have them each pray for more love for each other too.  If the feeling in the home is tense or argumentative, stop and pray before you problem solve situations.  Be sure to praise more as well.  If someone communicates honestly or resists the temptation to take things then make a big deal out of it.

       Another thing you may need to do is show your children that people who are honest get more perks than those who aren't.  Why are they stealing?  To get something they think is yummy.  I used to do the same thing when I was young.  They see things around that they never get if they ask for them, but really want.  Next time someone asks for something yummy.  Praise them for asking and tell them they can have it.  If the others ask at that point, let them have some too.  Praise them all.

       Also, be spontaneous.  All of the sudden say, "Bobby, you have been so honest these past few days I want to reward you with a cookie out of the freezer."  Show him you notice his honesty and show him honesty has rewards.  If dishonesty only has rewards, they will never see a reason to change their choices.

       The fact that the children are taking food should make you ask a few more questions.  Taking food and eating it in private is called hoarding and should be concerning.  Family members shouldn't have secret stashes.  This suggests mistrust.  If someone feels mistrusted then they will more likely act dishonest.

       Questions:

     Why does my child feel like taking food without just asking me?

     Does my child eat too much sugar?

     Does my child not get treats enough?

     Are we buying the right kind of foods?

     Are the children not getting their fair share of the "good" stuff?

     Do I say no to too many things?

     Am I honest with my children?

     Do I also hoard food?

     How does our famiy view food? The list of questions could go on and on.  Take some time to ask yourself some things and really be honest with how your family feels about certain things.  This will help you problem solve the situation best.

     A few words about honesty:   Honesty is the root of a good man's character.  Dishonesty should not be glanced over or taken lightly.  That said, all children experiment with dishonesty at one point or another.  And it is really often to experiement with dishonesty and then years later decide to experiment again.  Dishonesty is the plauge of society right now and needs to be talked about a lot.

       If caught lying or taking, practice doing the same situation honestly and help your child know how to choose honesty.  I have written other posts on honesty.  Take a look.

         One last thing.  If I have a child with honesty issues, I have regular counseling sessions with them where we talk about how they are doing with their honesty issues.  We practice being honest and review ways to keep making honest statements and choices.  I also pray with my child for my child for God's help with the honesty problem.  Dishonesty is addictive, all upon God's power to help break the habit and change the heart.  Great Question!

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