Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why do Children lie?

Why oh why do they lie?

My eight year old son Tyler would be classified as a compulsive liar. I am sure you have heard the saying, “ I know you are lying because your lips are moving.” I needed to find some answers and while these do not cover all of the reasons children tell lies. Some of them have lead me to discover a couple of things like why the lies started and why he holds on to them.

Tyler is adopted, he also has fetal alcohol syndrome. In the past he needed to lie to survive or at least he saw it that way. He lied to get what he needed or wanted. He lied to keep from being mistreated although I doubt this made much difference. He also learned to lie to get people's attention and keep it. The two types of lies, we deal with now is to get our attention and because it has just become a habit. I have to remind myself in all the behaviors Tyler has he thought he needed in the past to survive they then became tools and habits. He doesn't let go of his behaviors very easily and there are somethings no one will ever really know about his behaviors but we keep on working and we do see results, it is a very slow progress but progress is still progress. It helps to think back three of four years ago at where we started and then look at how far we have come.

This is a list of some of the reason children lie:

They don't know what's true.
Children who behave impulsively may not be fully aware of what they've done. Children who have trouble with language processing, many children with special needs including fetal alcohol syndrome and autism have this problem. They simply may not have understood what was asked or expected.

They can't predict cause and effect. I can remember watching Sesame street and the little girl has a balloon and she wants to pop it. She thinks it through if I pop this balloon it will wake up the baby. If I wake up the baby my Mommy will be angry with me. Some children with special needs can not connect cause and effect. This is also something toddlers have to learn which is why many of them use the word “no” how many times do they hear it in a day?

They know the truth will make you angry. If a child has done something wrong and you confront the child. Many will lie to try to avoid the consequences for the behavior. Some will lie because they do not want you to think badly of them.

They're just trying to get your attention or the attention of others. Some children will make up stories to get your attention.

They are guessing at what they think you want to hear, My son knows because he lies most of the time we probably are not going to believe what he is telling us so sometimes he will just guess at what he thinks we want to hear. Thus lying again we keep telling him we only want the truth.

They lie because it has become a habit At some time in their lives they learned lying worked for them and now it has become a habit.

They lie because they have oppositional defiant disorder - This just what is sounds like ODD another thing Tyler deals with. He does the opposite of what he knows we want him to do much of the time but not all of it. He has good days and bad days with this. I believe many of his lies come from this disorder. Another special needs.

Now what do you do when your child lies, here are a few suggestions:

Be clear and even-tempered in your expectations. Yelling will likely result in more lies.

Children who are compulsive liars need to be monitored closely so you know what they are doing. Tyler tends to steal also and has other behaviors he will lie about. He has to be supervised when he is downstairs.

Ask your child what they think you believed happened. I found this in Nancy Thomas' book, “When Love is Not Enough." I really like it and use it a lot of the time. It cuts out all the back and forth and the attention seeking also stops anymore lies.

Make sure you have your child's attention when you ask a question. My children are often slow to respond as many special needs children are. Give them some time when they are under the stress of having just been caught stealing or lying they will take longer to respond but you don't have to stand there and wait. I have gotten so I will send them to sit on the steps or to their room to think about it and then they can come and tell me when they are ready. Remember too, some children don't care about the consequences and now have your attention.

Take "I don't know" as an answer at times this is the answer, they really might not know why.

Respect your child's own reality. My youngest son tells me the bath water is too hot for him when it is warm he has to have it at room temperature to him this is his truth. My husband put him in a warm bath the other night and when I came home he told me Daddy put him in really hot water. His truth, reality was it was warm water. To him the water felt hot so this was not a lie it was his truth.

Model honesty in your household. If a child hears you lying they are going to learn to tell lies and they aren't going to understand why this behavior is unacceptable by you.

Try not to become angry and keep your tone even. I know this is not easy to do when you are stressed out from dealing with lying all day long or other behaviors since lying typically doesn't come alone.

One of the things I do also is, when the boys answer me with a lie I will tell them, let's wipe that one away and I use my hand like eraser on a chalkboard and make small circles with my hand, they will follow the motion and then I say ok let's try the truth this time. I only do this twice to give them the chance at working through it.You do have to let the lies they told first go for us we are breaking a habit and that is much more important that it took us going through two lies to get there. Deal with the thing that was lied about not the lies once the truth has been told.

Please feel free to add to my list, I read a lot on line, books on RAD, ADHD, FAS and adopting children with special needs and have take several foster parenting courses, so not all of these are my own findings as I am not an expert and I am sure I left many reason out and many ways of effectively dealing with the lying. For us I think Nancy Thomas' ask they what they think you believe happened has worked well. The other thing that has worked for me is to erase the lie and start over.

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