When your kid forges your signature

This OP reminded me of a funny story I wanted to share.

I went to a small catholic grade school and my seventh grade teacher, Mrs. F, had a daughter enrolled who was three grades below me. My mother was the eighth grade teacher, so I usually was “in the know” when it came to the minor scrapes and scandals of the other students. One time, Mrs. F came into my mom’s room after school waving around a paper all red in the face. Apparently, her youngest daughter (she was in second or third grade at the time IIRC) had gotten in trouble for something that required a note sent home for a signature. The daughter turned the paper back in the next day to her teacher who then immediately turned it over to Mrs. F. Why? Because on the signature line Mrs. F’s daughter signed “Katie’s Mom”! :smiley:

She was furious at the time, but eventually it became one of the family’s favorite “Katie Stories”. It just goes to show that what seems like a huge deal at the time can often end up being small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.

I think you’re kinda making a big deal out of this. I mean, I forged my dad’s signature almost routinely by the end of high school (since they wouldn’t have had a copy to compare it to.) Why? I tended to forget to get things signed. Didn’t lead me down a road to moral perdition. And don’t forget the irony of forcing your daughter to lie - writing an essay explaining why she shouldn’t lie, when she obviously doesn’t feel that way.

Forged my mom’s sig on a deficiency slip in eighth grade. Got away with it for weeks, until the teacher informed my mom at the end of the year that she was recommending that I repeat algebra in ninth grade. My mom asked why, and the teacher responded “Because he’s flunking it in eighth grade”. Mom: “I didn’t know he was flunking it this year.” Teacher: “That’s funny; I have a signed deficiency slip here dated several weeks ago that says you do.”

My mom confronted me when I got home. Had no option really than to admit it, though I suspect if I could have found a way to try to worm out of it I would’ve. My mom had no idea what to do with me. My dad and I had planned to go fishing that afternoon, at a lake a half-hour’s drive away. In one of the most brilliant things she ever did, my mom left it up to me to tell my dad. I agonized over it all the way out to the lake, the whole time we were fishing, and almost the whole way back before I finally told him. He blew up, as expected, and I know he came up with some sort of punishment, but I’ve forgotten what it was. What has stayed with me for 26 years is the feeling of embarassment, shame, and regret at having so profoundly disappointed my parents, and the living hell of having to tell my dad what I’d done.

In Jewish ethics, it’s important not just to admit when you’ve done something wrong, but to ask forgiveness of the persons who’ve been harmed by your actions, and to make restitution wherever possible. In this case, that would mean apologizing to you and your wife (for forging the signature and lying to you) as well as the teacher, to whom she also lied (by presenting her signature as your wife’s). I think losing credit for the assignment would also be entirely appropriate, since it was credit for the assignment that she obtained as a result of the forgery in the first place.

I think you’re probably on the right track, however, in emphasizing the lies to cover her tracks rather than the forgery itself. It sounds as though your daughter signed your wife’s name on the assignment not from any desire to avoid showing the assignment to her or to deceive her, but as a result of simply having forgotten to get her signature (your message implies that she had discussed the assignment with your wife, but just didn’t get her to sign off on the finished version). At that point, a responsible course of action would have been to explain this to the teacher, offering to obtain the signature later if that’s acceptable. If not, she takes her lumps and performs the assignment as described next time. Nevertheless, once the forgery was discovered, the only reason to lie to your wife about it was to avoid responsibility for it, and that’s unacceptable.

Treat this as an opportunity to emphasize how you expect her to behave in the future. Let her know that you’d have done what you could to help with the problem if she’d let you know about it up front, or at least as soon as possible. Explain clearly what you’d have wanted her to do differently. Talk it through, go ahead with your idea of having her write the essay, make sure she understands what you expect, and then don’t dwell on it. She screwed up and should know that by now. Don’t shield her from the consequences, but don’t harp on what she did either. Once she’s accepted responsibility and is taking steps to make what restitution she can, it ceases to become a topic of conversation. Certainly, if someone who doesn’t know what’s up asks why she can’t watch TV, you can briefly explain the facts; say “She forged my wife’s signature and lied about it, so she’s not allow TV for [period of time}” and then drop it. As much as you want her to appreciate the consequences of her actions, you also want her to understand that once that’s done, it becomes a thing that happened in the past, not something that’ll be thrown in her face every time you don’t like the clothes she’s wearing or the music she’s listening to or whatever.

I wouldn’t involve the school.

From a lot of things I’m hearing recently about schools and punishment, zero tolerence etc. it would have to be a serious situation to involve them IMO.

Kids will be kids. They do stupid stuff all the time. It’s called growing up.

Punish the kid and move on.

You sized the situation up well, rack. Perhaps the thing we try to teach our kids most is to make good choices. And when she was presented with the situation where she forgot to get the assignment completed and signed, she had various options available to her. Signing her mom’s name and not telling her mom about it was pretty far to one end of the continuum of available choices.

Similarly, she had a range of choices available when she go the assignment back, when she brought it home, and when her mom discovered it.

yokimb - I tend to agree with you about involving the school. Altho my preference would be that she not receive credit for this, I am not sure I wish to depend upon a teacher or the school responding reasonably…

Dinsdale, I think you must inform the teacher. This isn’t a case of popping an aspirin at school, which tends to get blown out of proportion. This is a situation of your daughter lying to both you and her teacher and trying to weasel out of it.

Actions have consequences, and since she lied to two different people, the school and you, both are entitled to impose punishment.

I would march her into class, and have her tell the teacher what she did. Then you can keep an eye on the teacher, to make sure that she doesn’t blow things out of proportion, (Forging your parent’s signature! I’m calling the police and having you arrested for fraud) or that she doesn’t blow it off. (Thank you for telling me the truth! I’ll give you 10 extra points!)

I think you are taking this stuff way too seriously. The kid did the work and forgot to get the signature. You’re already on her case about not being as perfect as her older siblings and then you catch her in another “o shit moment”. So what’s a kid to do? admit the forgery (which you say you’ll let go (she obviousely doesn’t believe for a minute this is going to happen)) or try to brazen it out and lie. I know what my choice would be, especially knowing (and she does) how you feel about her.

My kids forged my name all the time with and without my permission. I don’t think I signed my name to any school forms after my oldest got out of 2nd grade. Get a sense of humor and stop looking for a cookie cutter, stepford kid. BTW my oldest is now 1.5 years away from a phd in math and the youngest just started a phd in psychology. Kids do goofy things.

PS the forgery thing can come in handy. My youngest has been doing my bills every summer when I am on vacation. She does my signature better than I do.

My parents used to do that. They stopped, I think out of embarrassment, because my essays after a point started consisting of pointing out the number of times they’d committed the sin in question in my presence, and a discussion of how I couldn’t well be expected to not do something if it was being modelled as acceptable.

They also used to not count it as an “Acceptable copy” until it consisted of nothing but parroting exactly what they wanted to hear. That included my reasons for doing something. Funny that they demanded I lie in an essay about why I shouldn’t lie… I’d recommend not going about that method of determining what makes for an acceptable copy.

I got caught once when I was a kid, though it wasn’t for anything bad. I think it was a spelling test (I got a B on it) that was supposed to be signed for some reason, and it just slipped my mind. My mom was more amused than angry, considering my horrible handwriting looked nothing like hers. Didn’t do it again, just had a talk about remembering and such. Though that may have had more to do with the number of “Get this signed by your parents!” things dropping after I finished elementary school.

IMO, you’re the only one who can say what your child should get.

Some kids are so embarassed by being caught and lectured that they won’t do it again. My third brother was more like that.

Some kids wouldn’t be fazed in the slightest by that. It just doesn’t register as a punishment for them. My second brother was more like that.

You do what you have to to get the results you want. Part of the decision process is deciding how badly you want the results.

A few questions, Dindale. How old is she? And is this the same daughter you’ve had trouble with for lying about other things?

The actual forgery is probably pretty minor, in the grand scheme of things. It sounds like she took a conveninent short cut and got caught. Not a real biggie of itself but if it’s part of a pattern of lying, then yeah, it may be a problem. IMO there really IS a principle at stake that she needs to learn.

It’s the old Nixon Rule: a cover-up is usually way more damaging than the original flub. Making mistakes is perfectly okay; everybody makes 'em and that’s how we learn. But lying can be a dangerous pitfall because it usually IS so convenient. If you can get across to her that it’s way better to just say, “Yeah, I goofed, sorry” then the big issues of trust and the value of her word will take care of themselves.

Is this the daughter that was messing up the blanket and you cancelled the vacation for?

I kinda get the feeling that you guys almost expect her to be the “bad one”…I could be wrong, but it just seems that way.

I used to forge my dad’s signature on field trip release slips and laboratory waivers all the time. Of course, that was with his official encouragement. :smiley:

I am in total agreement with Doebi and Ivylass on this one. Of course, I used to be a teacher and it was always great to have supportive parents who didn’t encourage their kids to misrepresent the truth in the classroom environment either. If you don’t come clean on this one, Dinsdale, aren’t you lying to the teacher yourself? What message does that send to your daughter about lying in general?

What about the students who forgot to get the assignment signed, but didn’t forge the parent’s signature and faced the consequences of a lower grade? Their grade point averages remain accurate. And your daughter’s?

Do you really want to work against the teacher’s standards for your daughter? Do you want your daughter to have the knowledge that she put one over on the teacher even if she couldn’t get away with it with Mom and Dad?

Please, please tell your daughter that she no longer has your permission to forge your name! I wonder how much time I’ve wasted on phone calls to parents who said that they had told their children that it was okay to do just that.

If that is really true – and I understand that for many parents, it is – then it is imperative that you place your child in the care of an educational system that you can trust. Further, isn’t there a teacher somewhere counting on you to respond reasonably?

Now! Off to your office, young man! Let’s have an essay on supporting the reasonable requests of classroom teachers who are just trying to do what they can to keep parents informed! No SDMB until you are finished!

(You are doing a good job overall, btw.)

Three year olds often don’t understand the difference in truth and fantasy. It is not necessarily “lying.” But those experiences can be used to help train a child to understand the truth.

To those who say that lying is natural when you are a teenager: It is common and understandable. It is also understandable that parents would want to develop the quality of integrity within their children. You don’t do that by ignoring lying behaviors.

Kids rebel. That’s their job. Parents mold character. That’s their job.

Correct me if I’m wrong… but she did do the assignment, right?
If she did the assignment, and just forgot to get it signed, then the real problem seems to be: “why was she so scared that you would find out?”
Perhaps instead of telling her how bad she is, and making her write essays, you could actually TALK to her, and ask her why she was scared.

I’d probably sit M down and say, “Look, your Mom and I have thought about how to punish you for this. One thing we thought about doing was making you confess to your teacher and lose the points on the assignment. We decided that would be very embarrassing and maybe too harsh. But understand this: the next time we catch you lying to us like this, we WILL punish you very harshly, and you won’t get the lenience that you’ve enjoyed this time. We hope you’re mature enough to have learned your lesson without that kind of punishment.”

That is, unless she faked the entire assignment, which, in retrospect, it sounds as if she did. Did she actually interview Mrs. D? If not, it’s a much bigger lie from the point of view of the grade she got. If she faked the whole thing, I’d probably turn her in to the teacher in the interests of teaching her the importance of academic honesty.

Since the assignment was to interview her mother, she must have actually done it.

Otherwise, she would have had to forge a lot more than a signature - she would have had to make up a bunch of fake answers to questions she didn’t ask.

If I saw a transcript of an interview with me that never happened, my first concern would be the fake interview, not the fake signature.

It looks like what happened is that she interviewed her mother, and then did the writing part of the assignment. Then she either forget to get it signed, or it was too late to get it signed (maybe she completed it the night before it was due, and didn’t see her mother in the morning).

Which brings us to the main point - if she had done the assignment, why did she feel the need to lie?

She hadn’t done anything wrong yet - so why was she so scared?

Why didn’t she tell the teacher that she forgot to get it signed?

It looks to me like she feels she is constantly being told she is bad, and as a result, in a case where she did nothing wrong, she still felt compelled to try and hide it. This resulted in a forged signature and a blatant lie.
This is something you need to talk with her about. A real conversation, not an attack.

I hope you can trust her…you don’t want her signing car loans in your name, or giving her power of attorney over your estate. :wink:

She’s offended you in kind of a fundamental way.


It’s central to every relationship. She’s proven that she will violate that trust when it suits her. Your punishment should involve lack of trust for her. This should be present in your speech, and in action for a while.

By that I mean, you should take over responsibility for certain things so that you can be sure you’re getting the truth for a while.

Normally you trust her to tell you what’s going on at school, what her grades are, homework, etc. Now you can’t be so sure that what she tells you is accurate; so check it with the source and circumvent her for a while.

You calling the teacher to tell her about the forgery would be a good thing, it would communicate that 1) you will see the right thing done (displaying your uprightness) and 2) she’s had her trust privileges partially revoked. Let the teacher decide what to do about it in terms of her grades.

Kids hate it when they don’t think you trust them. She’s earned your lack of trust for a while till she displays some rectitude.