In the first part of our discussion of how parents can best deal with their child's half-truths or lies, we spoke about the varied and complicated reasons many kids attempt to hide or misrepresent the truth. We also spoke about how, from a parenting standpoint, trying to impose severe consequences on them for lying may actually encourage more lying, or worse.
We then spoke about the need to start a dialog and speak to them about how their lying or covering up affected you, thus turning this moment into an opportunity to teach them the value of honesty in building trust, and how trust builds lasting relationships. All that acknowledged, it is still time for...
A Little Reality Check
Should your child tell a lie or half-truth -- and all but a very few will -- he or she will, most likely, do it again, despite your best efforts to really listen, to set aside your own hurt and understand their point of view, to share how you feel openly and honestly, and to seemingly have arrived at an emotionally bonding moment wherein both you and your child tearfully agree to be completely truthful from now on.
Only then they lie to you again. Not fun, to say the least -- but not a crisis either, even though it can make your dander rise even more and your heart sink even lower. At moments like this, it's useful to remember how many of life's lessons we all have had to repeat, smacking into the same "brick wall" repeatedly, before we finally "got" them. The same is true for your kid.
Learning is a process of repetition for us all, not one-stop shopping for programmable androids. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off and begin again at the top. In time, it will work. And what can grow from it in terms of strengthening your long-term relationship with your child will be well worth it. And lastly, consider this: from a child's point of view, keeping some secrets, such as calling a boy or perusing a Playboy, can be a path toward individuation. It can assist them in feeling separate and distinct from their parent(s) in some way because they have something that's all their own.
What secrets did you keep growing up that made you feel independent? That's why it's so very important for Mom and Dad to try to understand what their child's true intention is: are they lying out of loyalty to their friends, or are they simply trying to avoid doing their homework?
The distinction is vital, and not often easy to ferret out, so asking questions is the only way. So ask questions. But then listen, listen, listen -- both to what they say and to what they don't say. But do listen.
Cultivating a Zen attitude or a this-too-shall-pass frame of heart and mind throughout this bumpy process can help.
A parting note: should the lying be more chronic and calculated than the kind we are addressing here, consulting a mental health professional may be very useful, even necessary.
As always, we welcome your comments, here or on our website, TheDancingParent.com. You can visit the website for more information on parenting topics and useful links. Until next time, keep dancing!
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