Lying does serve a purpose

Ann,

You won’t believe this one. After this incident with the shoplifting this past weekend, Chelsea was also recognized at school for the 8th Grade Awards – she was honored for Honor Roll for all year; Presidents Fitness (only 15 kids got this from the 8th grade); PAL (Peer Advisory League) – which is a role model organization that leads at school, etc, etc.

All in all, she received 5 different awards for Leadership, Academics and Physical Fitness. We told her how much we were proud of her and really made a big deal about her decision to succeed in these areas. Because of it she was given the opportunity to go to the 8th Grade Dance next week. But, I still wanted her to do the Community Service.

Yesterday, she called me from school and said she and a friend called the Library and was going to start her community service right after school. She got out at 3:20 and I called her at 4:30 to see how things were going at the library. I was on my way to bring Luke to his baseball game and was driving by the library and decided to stop in to see.

I ask her where she was and she said at the library. I asked where and what they had her doing. She said putting books on the shelf in the back room. Well, this library does not have a back room. I told her I WAS in the library and I didn’t see her. She was lying and was at school messing around with her friends.

I was furious. I didn’t say anything other than she was lying and this was not a good choice on her part and that there would be consequences for her actions. All afternoon and evening Chelsea was acting as if nothing was wrong (probably because I was not yelling at her !) She called me at the game to tell me that she was calling other libraries (turned out they never called the libraries either) and that she would follow up on it today, etc.

After talking to Donna about it, we decided (based on your note earlier in the day) that she should NOT be able to go to the dance. Chelsea was acting like lying was not a big deal. I think she has lied so much that she is immune to it. Donna and I feel helpless that no matter what we do it is not going to change anything in her behavior.

We have thought of sending her to a private high school or a boarding school. So, we are out of things to take away from her and summer hasn’t even begun and high school hasn’t even started. What do you suggest ?

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor Advice

I do agree with you that Chelsea does not understand the difference between lying and telling the truth in terms of her communication with the two of you. Remember that kids want to communicate with their parents any way they can, so if ‘lying’ gets them time and attention from their parents, then they will continue to use that form of communication.

Remember too, that it is not so much what you “take away” from children that changes their behavior, but what you teach them to do instead and how to make telling the truth more rewarding than the lying cycle of communication. So when your kids tell you the truth about literally anything, be sure to look at them, touch them and tell them you love the “true” story they just told you.

When your instincts tell you that your kids are not telling the truth, just define for them, without sounding judgmental or punitive that you know their ‘story’ is not really the way it happened, but you still like the fact that they want to talk to you about something they ‘wish’ would of happened, but didn’t! Hope this helps? Dr. Ann