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Dishonesty issues, at home and at school, plus other issues


I need advice once again from this wonderful group of real-life experts.

My son (ADD, dyspraxia, written expression disorder), 11, is having definite effort issues at school. He is in a charter Montessori, which is great in some ways, but not so great because of the self-motivational nature of Montessori schools. He isn’t making nearly enough effort to get his work done on a daily basis, so, of course, the teachers are not thrilled with having to prompt him to stay on task.  They have to though because this is a public charter Montessori and not private.

In any case, the ongoing battles with them and trying to get them to honor my son’s 504 is one thing, but he has started being dishonest with the teachers, which is another thing entirely.  They will ask him what he has gotten accomplished in terms of his daily lesson load (it’s up to the students to decide the order in which to do their work, and then they must actually get it done), and he will tell them that he just finished an assignment.  When they ask to see it, he hems and haws until they finally discover that he did NOT, in fact, do the work. 

He has been completing less work than the other kids because of his ADD, but also because of the total lack of drive/effort on his part.  And now to find out that he’s lying to them about getting work done is certainly not putting him in a favorable light in their estimation, and I can’t blame them for being upset about this.

They told me about it today, but they didn’t offer any suggestions as far as what they plan to do about it from their end.  They basically asked me what I was going to do about it.  I told them that I will enforce proper behavior on my end, but I need some daily feedback from them on what he is and is not getting accomplished, which I have NOT been getting despite multiple requests, and that they also need to tackle this issue on their end since he is in school with them when this is happening. 

How would you all handle this?  What would you do at home to make sure your child discontinues the dishonesty?  I have tried to talk to my son to figure out why he might be doing this, but it all just points to laziness, to be honest, and the fact that he’d rather NOT do some of the work.  He used to be a straight A student, and he is very bright, but he just doesn’t try at all anymore.  It’s almost like he just thought he’d try to do as little as possible to see if he could get away with it. 

He has absolutely NO self-motivation, despite his enjoyment of many subjects when we work on things together and when I help him do special projects.  He just won’t do the work unless someone forces him to do so.  This lack of effort is probably going to eventually get him kicked out of this particular school, and he LOVES it there and doesn’t want to leave.  He knows they are less than thrilled with him, and he says he’ll turn it around, but he doesn’t.

So, what would you do at home to help this situation, and what would you say to the teachers?  What can be done to motivate an otherwise highly intelligent kid who refuses to make any effort at all?

Replies

Man.. your son reminds me of myself when I was at school.
I can tell you the reason behind my lying was that I wanted to avoid any kind of conflict at all costs.
I found some of the subjects (like phyisics) really interesting, but failed misserably at them because I hated/couldn’t do some parts (math equations in physics). Math was incredibly frustrating for me. I understood most of the lessons really quick, but just couldn’t apply them to solve the assignments. When taking exams I would always loose several points because of small details that I just didn’t notice.

Things like that became habit. I stopped doublechecking assignments and exams because, what was the point? I always missed something.
With every failure I got more frustrated and less motivated.
I got branded as lazy and I just accepted it, though I knew it wasn’t entirely true.  I came to believe it in the end.

I didn’t know I had ADHD at the time… I just got diagnosed this year, 4 years after I finished school.

Perhaps the best advice I could give is to make sure your son truly understands what having ADHD means.
When I started reading about it, and understanding how it works, I got motivated to fight it, since now I knew what to be aware of.

As for the lying, I can tell you this with certainty: rewards for honesty work A LOT more than punishments for lying.
Your son has to understand that honesty is always better than lying, but not because lying will get you punished and honesty won’t. THAT will only make him try harder when lying.

Posted by Nacho on Nov 16, 2013 at 1:36am

Thanks, Nacho. I appreciate all that!  I’m going to share your response with my son in the morning, too. 

Did you ever get your motivation back? If you are encouraged with praise and you know you’re capable, despite “missing things” frequently, does it make you want to try?  Even a little?  I don’t put my son down EVER. I always tell him when he’s done a good job at something, and I tell him how impressive it is that he’s good at math and good at designing things to build, because tasks ARE much harder with ADD. So, I try to encourage him a lot. 

Even with encouragement, he doesn’t try, and maybe it’s for the reasons you listed.  So how do I help him past that?  More of your insight and advice would be much appreciated!  Thanks.

Posted by JAMurphy on Nov 16, 2013 at 1:52am

Well, as I said, truly understanding what having ADHD means, how it works, is what has motivated me the most.
I know what to be aware of, for example, I can better recognize when I’m getting distracted and put a stop to it.
Now, it’s always encouraging to hear nice things about one-self, thought it can also lead to me overcomitting, or taking on too many things at once. I believe that also has to do with the impulsive nature of ADHDers.
For example, I know I’m good at baking cheescakes, and people tell me they are the best cheesecakes the’ve ever eaten. Just last month I comitted to baking 3 chessecakes for 3 different people on the same week/day. I ended up making only one. They’re not hard to bake, but couldn’t get organized in time.
Which reminds me of something.
I often try to please everyone, not to fit in, or to recieve praise, just for the fact of doing something good for people I care about.
So I try hard on the things I’m asked to do, or the things I offer to do. Often I’ll take on too many things at once, or on something that’s particularily difficult for me, and I’ll end up crumbling under pressure.
I’ll even lie when asked how things are going, since I don’t want to let people down. And I know it’s comnpletely unnecessary for me to lie, but I still do it, sometimes without thinking,
I became really good at lying during school. There are a couple of lies that no one ever discovered. And I lied a lot. And I hated it most of the time. I despise, loathe, hate, hate, hate lying now, but it became a habit, and I’m still struggling against it since it came so naturaly to me.
And the main reason for lying was always to avoid conflict, to avoid bad situations.

So, to recap: Yes, I’m now more motivated than ever.
Praise does make me wan’t to try, sometimes a bit too much, and that leads me to not trying at all, since I think I won’t be able to meet the expectations (even if it’s not true, or people wouldn’t care).

I’ll try to think of some more advice, some other stuff that has helped, etc. I’ll come back to you later, I’m off to work now, but there’s alwasy some downtime and I’ll see if I can write something then.

Hang in there and from what I can see you are doing a good job, and have hope. You and your son know he has ADHD. My parents and I didn’t until I was 21. Sooo many things would’ve been different had we know earlier. So don’t be discouraged by failures, or if it seems your son is not making progress, there’s time for him to do better, step by step.

Posted by Nacho on Nov 16, 2013 at 2:07pm

I would recommend that you get the book “Smart but Scattered - Strengthening executive skills in children and adolescents” by Peg Dawson.  Read it.  Get your son to read it too.  Get the TEACHERS to read it.  Then you can all work together to help him strengthen the Executive Skills that he is struggling with that would cause this kind of behaviour.

Yes, absolutely, the dishonesty is more about not wanting someone he cares about to be angry.  I emphasize with my daughter (for the last 3-4 years) how lying will only make me MORE disappointed than the original issue.  She’s finally getting it.  It takes a LONG time to get that concept.  Repeat… repeat…. repeat….

Hang in there.  He needs to be reminded constantly - and the teachers will have to comply too (whether they like it or not).  Also, a Montessori-type school may not be the best fit for your son - especially if the teachers aren’t keen on helping him learn how to do that by reminding him what he’s supposed to be doing, etc.  Kids with ADHD often struggle with task initiation and sustaining effort.  I find with my daughter that she thrives when there are definite rules and a solid routine.  If she has to start something on her own… not a chance yet.  She’s 10. 

Also, instead of the teachers asking him where he is on his work, they should just be asking to see it.  Asking him where it is will signal danger to your son as he knows he’s not where he’s supposed to be and his anxiety levels will rocket up prompting him to lie so that he feels better momentarily.  Think about times when you feel high levels of stress - nothing feels better than when you do something that takes that stress away.  It’s human nature.

Posted by Wynka on Nov 16, 2013 at 2:49pm

Great advice. Thanks for all the input so far.

Posted by JAMurphy on Nov 16, 2013 at 3:43pm

Wynka gave really great adivce there.
Yes, having your kid understand the value of truth over lies is a long and difficult process. Me not lying anymore has been my mother’s (and mine) white whale. Only now I’m doing great progress, only lying as an impulse, though I’m controling that as well.
Had we known I had ADHD it would deffinitley have been easier, took over 15 years for me to finally start changing, and being diagnosed helped tremendously.

Listen to Wynka, and to both I’d tell you to never lose hope. It may take 10 years or more, but they will eventualy learn and start controling the lies.

On to another point, always keep an eye on your kid’s selfesteeme. I grew up having an incredibly negative self-view. And that haunted me up until last year. It was caused by being repeatedly told how lazy I was, how innactive I was, being laughed at in school because of it. Teachers said I was brilliant, but was lazy. My parents told me the same (they didn’t know better at the time, they regret it now, but it wasn’t their fault). And I ended up believing all of it, even though I always felt like there was something different about me. Your kids know they have ADHD, so the most important thing is that they understand it, so they can learn to live with it.

Key to the above: It’s not about blaming your mistakes or missteps on the condition, but about finding ways to prevent those from happening.

Posted by Nacho on Nov 16, 2013 at 6:04pm

If there is no one for your son to tell how frustrated he is, someone who won’t judge him or say something stupid like “just apply yourself” which only makes people with ADD revolt, then of course the behavior will continue.  If you can afford it get a tutor who’s only purpose is to help your SON, not the teachers, not you to feel better about his progress and his future, but someone only to help him understand what is bogling him at the moment.

Posted by YellaRyan on Nov 18, 2013 at 7:05pm

Oh Jody, again, I say we live parallel lives! grin

We just had a MAJOR blowout with school over lying (accusing teachers of bad things to try to keep me from making him go to school). He even went to school and told two administrators and his classroom teacher had to point out to me that he was lying. I was mortified. And I cried.

School is so tough for our kids that they try every means possible to appear that all is ok. My son says he lies a lot (it’s a new thing) now because he is afraid of getting in “more” trouble. He feels like he’s always in trouble and doesn’t want more of that.

I made him stay at school that day last week, despite having a full-blown meltdown in the guidance office and screaming and crying and begging me not to leave him. We have not had a problem since. He goes to school willingly and without complaint for a full week now (a miracle in and of itself). The lying has reduced a good bit. And he’s even offering to be helpful and saying he wants to be a “good person and do better.”

My child wants to please people—all kids do good if they can. The montossori atmosphere is pretty loose but most kids with ADHD need extra structure, just the opposite. It sounds to me like the student and school match aren’t ideal. I’m sure he wants to do well and wants to stay there, but it just may not help him with his deficits.

My take-away from our recent experience is to not give in. I asked him that evening if he had made up the story and he got very upset but admitted it. He said, “the first part about being picked on was true, but I just made a better story and added all the rest of it.” {sigh} We talk each day about being sure you let someone know if you are adding your creativity to what you are telling them. I didn’t punish him, but we made a plan for the consequence for future lying, and I praise him more when he’s being honest. So far, it’s a vast improvement.

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Nov 18, 2013 at 10:15pm

Oh Jody, again, I say we live parallel lives! grin

We just had a MAJOR blowout with school over lying (accusing teachers of bad things to try to keep me from making him go to school). He even went to school and told two administrators and his classroom teacher had to point out to me that he was lying. I was mortified. And I cried.

School is so tough for our kids that they try every means possible to appear that all is ok. My son says he lies a lot (it’s a new thing) now because he is afraid of getting in “more” trouble. He feels like he’s always in trouble and doesn’t want more of that.

I made him stay at school that day last week, despite having a full-blown meltdown in the guidance office and screaming and crying and begging me not to leave him. We have not had a problem since. He goes to school willingly and without complaint for a full week now (a miracle in and of itself). The lying has reduced a good bit. And he’s even offering to be helpful and saying he wants to be a “good person and do better.”

My child wants to please people—all kids do good if they can. The montossori atmosphere is pretty loose but most kids with ADHD need extra structure, just the opposite. It sounds to me like the student and school match aren’t ideal. I’m sure he wants to do well and wants to stay there, but it just may not help him with his deficits.

My take-away from our recent experience is to not give in. I asked him that evening if he had made up the story and he got very upset but admitted it. He said, “the first part about being picked on was true, but I just made a better story and added all the rest of it.” {sigh} We talk each day about being sure you let someone know if you are adding your creativity to what you are telling them. I didn’t punish him, but we made a plan for the consequence for future lying, and I praise him more when he’s being honest. So far, it’s a vast improvement.

Penny
ADDconnect Moderator & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Nov 18, 2013 at 10:15pm

Ah, yes, Penny. I can relate to your post, once again.  I’m trying to do more praising for the honesty, too, and putting less focus on the negatives (lying), although we’ve talked a few times lately (and many times in the past) about how wrong lying is and how it just makes matters worse. He insists he didn’t lie lately about getting work done that he really didn’t get done, but the teacher says she has caught him a few times being less than honest.  What a position to be in, eh? Caught between your child and his teacher?

The big difficulty is getting feedback from school.  I requested a piece of paper be put in my son’s pocket each day with a number indicating the percentage of work he got done, because they said he had dropped down at one point to only doing a little over 50% of the day’s work, including all requirements and bonuses. 

I also told them they could just blast me a quick email with just a number in the subject line.  Instead, they made HIM write a list of everything he did each day and bring it home to me. That didn’t help because it didn’t tell me what he failed to do or what the percentage was.  So, I have spoken with them again.  Now I have asked for a number, from 1 to 4, indicating how may of the REQUIRED lessons were completed that day.  I don’t care about bonus stuff or follow-ups at this point, because they said he avoids some of the requirements if he doesn’t like the subject matter.  I have not yet gotten my piece of paper with the number on it.  Today my son says he did all four requirements and that his teacher signed off on everything.  He SWEARS he’s not lying today, but I have no corroboration on that from the teacher.

Without cooperation from the school, it’s impossible to know what’s really going on on any given day.  I hear you on the Montessori issue, and this was really just a temporary thing. If it worked, that would have been great, but I’m going to put him back in regular public school next year for middle school because the one in our district is actually the best in town. They have advanced classes AND special ed/OT/remedial classes, so he can get a combination of things to suit his diverse needs.

We had a horrible elementary school, and that’s what made him drop from a straight A student to being all over the place, and he lost his love of school in 4th grade at the old school.  The Montessori is charter, so it’s not full-blown Montessori like the private ones.  I must say that the atmosphere is FAR superior to regular public school, and that part of it DID suit him. He also did well at choosing the order in which he did his studies, except for when it was something that didn’t interest him, at which time it would be an issue getting him to do that lesson.  And, since the teachers don’t want to have to remind students to stay on task, it’s a big problem.

Also on the positive side, they are very environmentally focused and do lots of outdoor activities and gardening projects, and that also worked very well for him. The atmosphere is calm and quiet, NOT chaotic like the public schools, so that, too, worked for him. 

So, about 75% of it DID work for him, but the fact that they refuse to provide extra assistance to a child with A.D.D. is what is making it NOT work.  By law, they have to, because they are charter and not private, but I’m not going to fight them because I think the middle school I mentioned will be better for him academically.

I do NOT look forward to the crowded halls, the commotion and some of the social issues, however.  The kids at the charter Montessori are very close-knit, and bullying is not an issue.  That won’t be the case going back into a large public school.

So, you see, there are pros and cons to both, but this school wants to pretend that it’s a private Montessori, and this is not the first ADHD child they’ve driven out. I’ve been working with a parent advocate, and she says this is their m.o., unfortunately.  She agrees that it’s better to just go since we do have a good middle school to move to. 

It’s sad, because he LOVES this school and can’t wait to get there every day.  When I pick him up, he’s never in a hurry to leave. We will have battles over going to school in the future with the return to “regular” school, and we will have battles over homework, which we don’t have now, for the most part, because most of the homework is online and not handwritten in workbooks, which also works extremely well for him.

So, I dread the battles that will be occurring once again.  It’s been so much more peaceful with him attending a school he really loves, but the teachers at this school don’t love the extra work required to teach an ADHD/dyspraxic child, and they are driving us out.  And that sucks. :(

I’m glad your situation is improving.  I hope it continues to do so. Your son sounds like a good kid, and it sounds like you have a great relationship.  That makes such a huge difference!  I wish you continued movement in that direction. smile

Thanks for your reply, Penny.

Posted by JAMurphy on Nov 19, 2013 at 12:58am

The biggest mistake you can make here is encouraging the teachers to have a negative attitude toward your son.  You need to educate them about ADD ASAP, and intensively, so that they understand the importance of being patient, having your son work in small, structured steps, and to be highly communicative.  Set up a schedule with them and him for his work, and ask them to confirm the receipt.  At home, have a two folder system, one for work to do and one for work done, two different bright colors.  Have him check off what he has done, and you are going to have to check it, as well.  The next hurdle is assuring that he turns it in. 

You wouldn’t be angry or call a blind person lazy for not seeing as you do.  Don’t be angry or impatient with your child.  Invisible disabilities are an anguishing thing.  He needs positive reinforcement, not more shaming.  We lie out of fear and shame.  This is a critical time in your son’s life.  You can advocate for him and help him learn how to manage in small steps, or you can doom him.  I would strongly encourage you to seek an ADD counselor to help you navigate the middle and high school years.  It gets more challenging, not less, when he hits high school, and the more knowledgeable the help he receives, the better off he and you will be. We need to learn how to treat this as a real disability, not some superficial idea that one has to get better habits.  ADD manifests as memory problems, among other things, and all the systems and scoldings in the world can’t change that, nor can they affect the mind that cannot process text efficiently, particularly under pressure.

Posted by Valerie Christine on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:31pm

I have found that with my 12 year old, he says he finishes something when he hasn’t, and I almost think that he manages to convince himself that it was actually done.  It makes for a long evening, but now I check where he is when he begins his homework and check back every 15 minutes or so to see progress.  If he is working on a computer, I try to position him where I can see his screen so he doesn’t get distracted and do other things.  He is in the gifted program and does outstanding work - it just takes him three times as long.  I have had mixed results educating teachers. I think that they mean well, but most believe that they understand ADHD because they usually have an ADHD kid in their class.  I think that they narrow it down to the potential behavioral aspects and ignore the executive function issues.  I have gotten further with teachers in the last few years putting the executive function issues in basic terms.  I emphasize that his brain can’t process multiple steps and I acknowledge that it is hard to believe that he can be so bright but not able to understand the five steps to retake a test - but that is reality.  I also give them real classroom examples: “I know that you have the assignment and due date written on the board, but for whatever reason, he can’t process it.  He said it would really help him if you would talk about it too.”  I also put things in terms they can understand - “when he is in class, it is as if he is listening to a conference call with lots of static.  He is working hard to compensate for that, but he needs your help.”  Most importantly, I have found that they - and my son - benefit most from emphasizing that it is a shared responsibility.  I ask them to understand and be there for back-up, but I also let him know that everyone has challenges and this is just his thing, so he needs to learn what works for him to overcome it.  He uses a planner, and now we are exploring using the camera on his computer to take pictures of the assignment on the board.  He is experimenting with how sticky note reminders can help and we are probably going to try a watch with an alarm to remind him to turn things in, because that is one of the biggest issues.  Unfortunately, I will still probably need to monitor homework carefully because his focus/medicine diminishes at night, but we are working on it.  Structure is critical, I wonder if the Montessori would facilitate having your son create a schedule for the day or week and then help him follow it?  He would still be making the decisions, but then he would have a schedule that he needs to stick to throughout a certain time period.  That could give him structure in that great environment.  Good luck!

Posted by HeartMom on Nov 19, 2013 at 1:55pm

Like I was told, 9 out of 10 kids have problems with executive function. This means that the motor that propels most non ADHD people forward is missing. So YES they will have to continue with the prompting! It’s like asking a kid that can’t see to just try harder! If you can’t see, you can’t see!!!
These teachers need info on executive function and what it really means. I know that there are many other issues to address in your letter, but the sooner they get this point the less frustrated everyone will be.

YOU CANT CAJOLE THE BLIND INTO SEEING!in return, your son will be less frustrated and my lessen or stop the lying. He must be very frustrated too.

Posted by kareen on Nov 19, 2013 at 2:10pm

Thank you all for your input.  Just to clarify, the problem isn’t with homework.  He is ahead of schedule on homework because I monitor him and we have a homework schedule where the work is broken into manageable chunks.
The problem is that the teachers aren’t willing to stick to accommodations during the school day and aren’t giving me any feedback on what he is and isn’t getting accomplished.  I will get a blanket statement that my son “isn’t doing enough of the required work on a daily basis.”  What percentage is he doing? What is he avoiding?  Can someone work with him on these assignments to get him more comfortable and to find out if, maybe, he has questions on it?  This is why the school isn’t working because they don’t have the staff or the inclination to work one-on-one to overcome any issues he may be having.  And the classwork can’t be brought home.  That’s not how they do things.  The classwork remains in class and the homework is done at home.  It’s the classwork portion that he is struggling with.
I’ve tried to educate them.  I’ve brought in interesting articles on ADHD, executive functioning issues, dyspraxia, etc., but I get no response.  The ESE liaison tells me that her son has ADHD, too, so she “knows all about that.” I tried to give them a note from my son’s OT explaining something about dyspraxia, and the ESE liaison literally waved her hand at me and didn’t want to see it.
So, thanks for the input, but you can’t educate people who refuse to work with you.  It takes teamwork between the parent(s) and the school.

The original question was really about the dishonesty and suggestions on dealing with that. And I got some suggestions on that, so thanks!

Posted by JAMurphy on Nov 19, 2013 at 3:11pm

I am a parent of a 14 year old daughter with ADD. She was diagnosed with ADHD at age 4. Her biggest challenges have been lying and impulse control. Lying and stealing was a big problem in elementary school. Over time she outgrew the hyper part and is mostly ADD now. We found by controlling her environment, she has less incidents and more success.

My daughter still has issues with lying at home and school. We control her environment with consistent communication with her teachers. Most of her school work is done at school. If she is unable to complete the work at school, she must do it at home. This gives my daughter control and eliminates the battle. It’s a natural consequence. She tries to lie about assignments, but that’s where the communication comes into play. Her teachers and I have an agreement that when she doesn’t complete work at school, they send me a quick e-mail with a copy of the assignment if possible. this way the e-mail becomes the bad guy, not me… no battle and lying doesn’t work. Be aware that “I” generally initiate these e-mails… “How is she doing today?”. It’s also a way to get positive feedback to show my daughter, in writing, what a great job she is doing.

Work with, not against, the school and the teachers. Be creative and come up with solutions that don’t interfere with the teacher’s daily routine. Each teacher is different, there is no blanket solution to cover them all. E-mail and bugging the teachers has worked for me.

My daughter has always had an IEP and I’m surprised you are only working with 504 if his disability is interfering with his ability to learn. An IEP has a lot of power, you should look into it.

Posted by ckservices on Nov 19, 2013 at 4:50pm

Thanks, ckservices.  I have looked into it. In the past, I was told he doesn’t qualify because his grades were too good. I just recently had him tested again and I’m waiting for the results and their decision. They said they are going to make a decision, without me, and then notify me of what that decision is.  That’s not how it is supposed to work, but that is the problem I’m facing working with this school.

I’m trying to work with them, not against them, but they don’t want to make accommodations, so it’s very difficult.  Thanks for the input!

Posted by JAMurphy on Nov 19, 2013 at 5:38pm

The problem is not the lying as much as it is the relationship your son has with his teachers. If the intended result is that all of the assignments get done by a certain date, an ADD/ADHD student needs support, smaller milestones and some celebrations—the ability to showcase his/her work, for example. While I would never condone lying or any form of dishonesty, I would ask the teachers and the student to come up with a better system for academic success. Perhaps, your son needs closer supervision of these independent activities. It could be that small group instruction or more physically active activities are needed. Addressing the dishonesty is one thing, and I do not mean to imply that lying is acceptable; however, what is really of primary importance is how do we motivate this student and give him learning opportunities that can be monitored and supported by the community of learners. You have to look at the goal, not just the dishonesty.

Posted by RobertB on Nov 23, 2013 at 7:39am

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