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My son (age 12; 7th grade) has had problems with lying and because of that I question his truthfulness a lot. We have told him over and again that nothing he ever does will be as bad if he tells the truth, and that nothing he ever does can change the way we feel about him. We tried a cumulative punnishment structure (for every lie; punishment doubled -- writing "Lying is wrong. I will not lie." 800 times was a killer), but he still feels the need to lie to us. How can I make him understand how harmful lying is to himeself and to make him stop? I have talked to him about (and he has seen for himself) how difficult his homelife will be if his parents don't trust him and not even that seems to be enough.


Annie Fox, M. Ed. Replied: I can understand both your frustration at your son's habitual lying and your concern about how it is impacting your ability to trust him. The parent-child bond is compromised. Not only that, if he is lying to peers, then that's got to be affecting his friendships. All of this is troubling, but you haven't given me much in the way of a profile or history of your son. You haven't, for example, told me what he is lying about or when this behavior started and if you can detect a pattern in his behavior that might give you some clues as to what's motivating him. That said, my advice is limited to this: Your punitive actions are clearly not working. You need outside support. There's something going on here that you do not yet understand. I strongly believe that you and your son would greatly benefit from working with a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist. Hopefully you can get an excellent referral from a trusted source and get right on this. Your son needs to be able to tell a counselor what's going on. He needs to understand the impact of his lying. He needs alternative ways to get what he wants (I'm assuming there's something he wants from you that he believes lying is currently providing for him.) And you and your husband need the tools to communicate more effectively with him... that includes LISTENING skills as well, so that you can provide your sone with the supportive family structure he needs to learn your values. So, find a therapist and make an appointment for your son and a separate appointment for you and your husband. I hope this helps. In friendship, Annie
Posted On 2007-04-16 19:50:59
Mark Viator Replied: While most children will lie at one time or another, the more chronic it becomes, the harder it is to stop. Your son, for whatever reason, has learned the habit of lying. It is possible that he is doing this without even noticing, however, you are putting consequences and pointing out the wrong, yet he continues. I would take the following steps. First, have one more try at the "long talk." Sit down and discuss all the implications of his lying. Re-establish the consequences if this continues. Perhaps make them really tough. Figure out his favorite priveleges and use them as consequences. Then give him a chance to redeem himself. Let him know that you do want to trust him, and above all, will always love him. If he messes up, then it is time to go on to step two. If he lies again, then instill the consequences consistenly, but also seek some outside help. If he is aware of the consequences for lying, and he continues to do so, I would suggest seeking someone for him to talk to about the "why's" of his lying. Perhaps a good adolescent counselor or his school counselor could make some headway into why he feels the need to continue this behavior. Some children are just very impulsive in nature and will say whatever seems best. The problem is that your child is doing this and then sticking to it. Do not become overalarmed at this time. Most children learn how to "undo" this behavior. Let him know the tough consequences he will face after you have talked to him one more time about this behavior. Stick to instilling those consequences if necessary and seek further outside help if this continues. If he can demonstrate that he is capable of not lying to you, reward him with verbal praise and allow him to keep his priveleges. Also let him know that your trust level for him is rising. Good Luck
Posted On 2007-04-14 11:44:48
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