Lying is something every parent deals with. When you are parenting a hurt child, you can bet your bottom dollar they know how to lie and manipulate. It is a survival instinct. “I must lie to keep myself safe/fed/clothed/liked/loved/happy”.
Some kids lie to “flatter” you! Some lie because they want their way. Some lie because it is what they’ve learned from bad adult role models. Some realize and feel remorse for their lies. Others, well, it becomes a pathological defense to prevent harm. They don’t usually even realize they are lying.
I thought this would be a good topic to cover because in our house we have liars! I mean big, fat, liar liar pants on fire, LIARS! No fault of their own most of the time, but inexcusable none the less.
First, let’s start with my four year old. She is your “stereotypical” child that lies. “I am dressed” while her socks lay on the dresser still. “I put it away” while her toy is lying in the floor. “Mommy I like your hair today” when mommy didn’t shower and just woke up with a big poofy mess for hair. These are normal lies that every child tells. It helps them feel they are somehow in control of their “fate”.
Yesterday, my four year old told my husband she doesn’t get to eat breakfast at school. We have to feed them at home due to the early start of the day, but then she eats a small breakfast with her class around . The TRUTH was she was still hungry. Instead of saying she was hungry though, she LIED! She said that she wouldn’t get to eat anything until lunch. Last night at dinner, I confronted her about lying, and she admitted to the truth, which was that she DOES get to eat at school too.
This morning, I explained to her that we don’t lie. When you do lie, it shows people that you don’t TRUST them. I explained she would feel very unsafe and upset if we lied to her, and we feel the SAME way if she lies to us. She got the point and we discussed that she needed to apologize to Daddy.
She begins with, “I’m sorry Daddy!” Then he asks her why. She said she doesn’t remember (another lie!). Then she slowly says…”well, I said I wasn’t gonna eat until lunch, but then I did get to eat”. So he probes around to try and get her to say “I’m sorry I lied to you”. She wasn’t going for it. So I step in and explain it to her. She responds with, “Mommy, it’s really hard to say”.
Finally, she admits to the “lie” and apologized for lying. She also stated she was still hungry. Which was fine, we explained THAT would have been the TRUTH and if she had just said she was still hungry, we would have given her more to eat.
I found it so funny that she just had a terribly hard time saying “I lied”. I also found it really encouraging that she KNEW she had “hurt” us by lying.
Moving right along to my Molly… this kid can LIE! Sometimes she is quiet convincing. What she doesn’t realize is that her mommy grew up as the oldest of 7, so I know ALL about lying.
Molly is what I call a back peddler now. She gets halfway into the lie and then tries her best to back peddle out, usually by creating more lies to try and prevent her from getting into trouble. I commend her willingness to try and “fix it” but usually it just ends with my complete and utter frustration that she CAN’T JUST TELL THE TRUTH!
Molly’s lies are all over the place. She lies to us, her friends, her sister. She says she has things she doesn’t have. She’s done things she’s never done. It’s scary!
I know that she’s had to build her life around lies though. Promises of “forever”, people promising her things and experiences that she won’t actually ever see them come through on. It’s very sad.
Molly’s remorse for a lie usually is just to cry about how AWFUL her life is, how it’s just not fair, how no one ever taught her, etc. She will use your words/adults words in her favor. If someone told her, “You’ve had a rough life”, when she tells a lie/gets into trouble she will usually just cry and say, “It’s just so hard Mommy, I’m just heart broken, I’ve had such a rough life”. Which in theory is true… but it is NOT an excuse to lie.
My typical response to this would be, “Yes Molly, YOU HAD a rough life, I realize that was hard on you, but telling a LIE and LYING to people will continue to make your life rough, and I want you to be safe, happy, trustworthy, and have an easy life”.
Some of the things she comes up with amaze me. The fact she thinks I will believe the stuff amazes me more!
So, to deal with lying in our house, we have two techniques that have proven to be beneficial in at least curbing the lies intensity and frequency.
1) Do not ASK a child if they lied if you actually know they DID lie. Give them the chance to fix the lie. An example, Molly spills nail polish on her bed…I don’t ASK her if she spilled it, of course she did, and it was probably an accident, what I do is give her the chance to fix it. So I would say, “Molly there is nail polish on your bed, go get some paper towels and clean it up”. This is usually met with “BUT I DIDN’T DO IT”! To which I respond, “I didn’t say you did it, I asked you to clean it up”.
This basically seems to disengage her. At this point she’s not thinking “I got away with it” she is thinking, “Wow that bad thing that I thought would happen didn’t so now I can feel safe if I do tell the truth”. I would say 7 out of 10 times she will then admit that she did whatever she originally would have lied about.
2) I LOVE Bryan Post’s video at http://www.postinstitute.com/ if you go there to his front page, watch the Youtube video he has posted. Basically, he states when a child lies, they are (in their mind) thinking the worst thing that has ever happened to them will happen again. This goes back to the last strategy, because I need to disengage that “fight or flight” reflex in her (and me sometimes too).
So that is all I have for today. If you want advice on anything specific let me know. I see Bryan Post’s technique working though. Slowly, but surely!