I have the cure for lying. Yep, I have it. You are probably wondering why I am not seriously rich then, because all parents want the cure for lying.
Here it is: Discipline Yourself. Wha?
99% of all child lies are caused by parenting strategies. I know you don’t want to believe that. It actually might even take a paradigm shift for you to see it.
Through my son’s door at 6:15am I ask, “Are you up?”
Rustling himself to his feet, he lies, “Yes.”
“What happened to the ten dollar bill that was on my dresser?”
My son lies, “I was getting my phone and it accidentally flew off over the back.”
“Have you been smoking?”
My son lies, “No.”
“Where have you been?”
My daughter lies, “I was just taking a walk around the block.”
“Did you do your chores?”
My children both lie, “Yes.”
There is a pattern to my parenting strategy above–the veracity test. I almost always ask questions I know the answer to. It is an habituated veracity test that my children fail every time. I am like a moth to the flame. Will I be burned this time? This time? This time. Eventually, the moth is consumed by the flame and the fire burns on. Time after time, I am burned. “See I cannot trust you.” I set the whole thing up.
Want to know something? No child can be trusted 100%. The part of the brain that governs truthful behavior doesn’t finish developing until the late 20’s. Our parenting job is to shape the learning of that part of the brain. Unfortunately most parenting strategies inadvertently activate the survival part of the brain that ultimately creates a delay in the maturity of the reason part of the brain.
My kids come from difficult beginnings. Underneath all their bravado, entitlement, and insatiable demands is deprivation, fear, and a felt sense that no one anywhere is safe. They don’t consciously know this about themselves, but I do.
That’s why the cure for lying is mine to take, not theirs. I need to discipline myself to skip the veracity tests. Why ask a fear-based, habitual liar whether they are lying or not? Why? The answer will always be a lie. It has to be. They fear being rejected, in-trouble, unlovable, wrong, deprived, or caught.
Tip: Start your investigation into problem behavior with adjusted expectations. Expect fear-based lying. Give assurance.
It would sound something like this: “I don’t want to scare you. You are deeply loved and special no matter what.” Give a hug. “You must really have wanted something badly to use money from my purse. After you think about it for awhile, I would like to brainstorm with you ways to get what you want in a more honest way.”
Do we want to punish or do we want to facilitate learning? That is the question.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT