Friday, May 21, 2010

Let's Just Be Honest

{Background: For those of you who don't know me IRL, I work with teens. The goal of my job is for these teens to become responsible, reliable members of on to the story.}

So the other day one of my kids came in to his appointment. 45 minutes late. He did call me 5 minutes before his appointment was scheduled and tell me that he was just leaving school and was walking to my office, so he would be late.

50 minutes later, he arrived. And he REALLY REEKED of cigarette smoke. I told him that he should not be smoking at all, and that it is particularly a bad idea to smoke just before an appointment with me. It is, after all, against the law, and if I caught him with cigarettes, I would be calling the police.

This is what he told me. "Well, my mom smokes, so I always smell like smoke." He is 17 years old. ANd he actually expected me to believe that this is why he smelled VERY strongly of cigarette smoke. When he has been at school since 8am. And it is now 4:15pm. And he just spent 45 minutes walking, outside, in lots of fresh air to get to my office. I stared at him in disbelief for a second.

DO you REALLY expect me to believe that your mom is why you smell so strongly of smoke right now?! I am betting that he was probably smoking right outside my building!

What I told him was that he doesn't have to admit to anything to me. That is, after all his right. However, it would be a whole lot better if he simply said nothing rather than flat out lying to me and expecting me to believe him. That he completely destroys any credibility with me when he lies to me. And that he should really be careful of destroying all credibility with me.

He just looked at me. Which I understand. After all, he really couldn't say anything else at that point without incriminating himself. But I also wonder if I got through to him even a little bit. I hope so.

That is, after all, why I have this job. But I'm not holding my breath. Because I have learned that holding my breath while waiting for a change can be dangerous to my well-being. I can offer reasons to change. I can offer ways to change. But ultimately, each kid has to make their own decision to change. And it often takes a very long time for them to come to that decision.