What do you do when your child starts lying, and the lies begin to get harmful? I’ve never had a five year old before, and I’m at an utter loss.
We were dealing with this off and on for the past year. We just tried to repeat that the natural consequence of lying is that people lose trust in you, and may not believe you when you’re telling the truth. Our daughter had specific things she would lie about, and it was usually about trying to avoid getting into trouble. So every time she got into trouble, we tried to be very clear that the original action wasn’t nearly as serious as the lie. We had one big consequence for the big lie she told last year (we took her off her soccer team for the spring season), and explained that if we lose trust in her, then semi-independent activities like soccer would have to go. And then we had sort of a natural consequence, where another girl accused her of biting, and at first we didn’t believe her side of the story. I think that last episode was the last time she’s lied about anything, because I think it hit her how important being believed and trusted is.
Some of our difficulty seemed to be attached to behaviour that she was seeing in some of the kids she interacted with at school every day, some of whom had some significant issues. Pointing out that just because somebody else did something,didn’t make it right or okay, was a pretty constant theme last year.
And I think it’s totally a part of the age. Truth is SUCH a malleable and arbitrary concept, and I think it’s around this age that they begin to realize that in a hazy way. Anyway, for us I think the first step was to sort out what her triggers were for lying. What was she trying to accomplish, or avoid, with the lies? What was the common context?
Good luck with it. I found last year (6, grade one) to be totally nerve-wracking, because suddenly she was spending such a huge amount of every day among people we didn’t know, forces we couldn’t control, a culture we didn’t necessarily like much or feel connected to. All the sudden obsession with Hannah Montana, knowledge of Guitar Hero songs, gender funneling behaviour, desire for a handheld video game… sigh.
It was at age 4-5 that my daughter began lying about sneaking out of the yard down the street to play on an unsupervised trampoline designed for teenagers. She’d literally disappear from the yard 30 seconds after I’d looked out the door at her. The only solution was to either keep her in or sit guard on her — no washing dishes, etc. She lied up and down when caught in the act.
I’m not going to be much help because I can’t remember how we finally dealt with the problem. Maybe she just grew out of it. I know we tried everything, including shit I wouldn’t do now (like screaming at her that she was going to die and nobody would find her body until hours later). But I was out of my mind about it, eventually.
She began lying again when she was 16, and I again eventually reached the end of my rope. That time I just burst into tears and let her see how freaked out I was, which pretty much worked. Turns out, she was taking drugs. Once she was clean and sober, the lying ended again.
So…it may be developmentally related but it’s also a sign that the structures of mutual consideration and responsibility have taken a hit. When I became a born-again at age 10, the hellfire and damnation talk drove me deep underground. Christians really fuck kids up; the consequences for mistakes are so dire with those folks. I’d ask her some questions along those lines. I mean, unless I’m completely off track, which is always possible.
Thank you both for your input. we’re working on it, and every parental experience helps!
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