Dealing with a Devious Nature

Do you have a child that frightens you with his ability to be SNEAKY?  You, my friend, are not alone.  One of my stepchildren has impressed me (and, let’s be honest, infuriated me) with all his cunning ways to outsmart and avoid alllllllllll the rules.  Somehow, despite my best efforts, he often finds a way around the expectations we’ve set…and at times, I’ve almost felt like giving up on even trying to keep him out of trouble.

When he was younger, it was smaller things–finding ways to reach top shelves in the pantry for forbidden snacks, feeding vegetables to the dog, sneaking out of his room at bedtime to play, etc.  As he’s grown older, he has upped his creativity game.  In the preteen years, he hid wrappers from desserts he sneaked in his brother’s room and hid his laundry in the most absurd places rather than actually put it away (once I found them stuffed into a vent with the guard replaced).  Now, in his teen years, he’s figuring out how to work around parental controls on devices, sneak in Netflix time under the covers, and getting younger siblings or friends to cover for him.  It’s a constant game of mental chess.

Sigh.

The title of this post is probably misleading, because I am actually nowhere near close to figuring out how to “deal with his devious nature.”  I have listened to audiobooks on the topic (because I don’t have time to actually read), I’ve spoken to therapists, and I’ve roped in a very tech-savvy friend to help me build a parental control fortress.  There is no silver bullet that I’ve found. However, over time I have come to a few realizations that, if nothing else, have improved my mental health over the whole situation:

  1.  To some extent, it is out my control.  I take some comfort in knowing that even if I were to exhaust myself attempting to head off every possible way for him to break a rule, he would still find another.  There is no magic rule or trick to make it stop.   I can only stay vigilant and let him know that I am paying attention, and that the rules are there to keep him safe and teach him how to be a responsible adult (someday, fingers crossed).
  2. Follow your gut.  If your devious child is anything like mine, he is probably a good liar.  That is part of what makes the devious child ever-so-dangerously-devious.  Knowing that, you must trust your gut.  Even if your child makes a very convincing case that his laundry is put away or that he didn’t sneak three Klondike bars in the middle of the night, don’t give in.  Follow that mama instinct.  It may occasionally result in a consequence that was actually undeserved, which is unfortunate–but that could be a good opportunity to explain to your devious little one that sometimes, reputations are earned and must be overcome.
  3. Accountability is key.  Even though it might seem easier to let something slide, you must hold him or her accountable and let him or her know there are consequences when you can.  Without accountability, things will only deteriorate further.  Find ways to make it easier for you to hold him or her accountable.  Use checklists for daily tasks that must be completed and checked by you.  Use parental controls and use reports on all things technological.  If you can, keep that child in closer proximity at bedtime–we moved a child’s bedroom from the basement to upstairs to allow us to keep a closer eye on behaviors before they escalated.
  4. Give yourself and your child grace.  Because, after all, we’re all trying hard on this life thing.  We will get there.  Patience and grace will see us through.

How do you approach your child’s devious nature?

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