How to correct lying behavior? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 07-30-2012, 11:54 AM - Thread Starter
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OK, here is what is going on:

My 7.5 year old daughter has a chore list she completes.  Most of this is just to help keep her on track with daily activities (brushing teeth, pick up toys, etc.) and a few "actual" chores- feed the lizard (her bearded dragon) and feed/water to dog.  Lately I have caught her lying about doing things on her list- brushing teeth, and feeding the lizard usually.  We had a big discussion about why lying about feeding the lizard was very very serious (lizard could die), and she was told that if it happened again the lizard would find a new home.  Needless to say, it happened again today (so now of course we must follow through and find a new home for the lizard).

Here are my concerns:

She lies to me unblinking, looking directly into my eyes.

She lies repeatedly and convincingly.

She doesn't seem to understand the seriousness of the situation.


When I was a kid, my butt would have been blistered for lying to my parents- I don't parent that way, but of course it's my first instinct.  Do you all think that finding a new home for the lizard is the appropriate response, and do you think it will have any effect?



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#2 of 7 Old 07-30-2012, 06:17 PM
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If you don't want her to lie, do not punish her for telling you the truth. For example if you ask her did you feed the lizard and she says "no" and you go on and on about how irresponsible it is, then she's not going to want to tell you the truth. She's going to say whatever will keep you happy, not thinking about the consequences of lying. If you ask her if she fed the lizard and she says "no" then you should thank her for telling you the truth and do not punish her for forgetting to feed the lizard. That will reinforce truth telling.

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#3 of 7 Old 07-30-2012, 06:30 PM
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hmmm... i still struggle to have my almost year old clean the litter box regularly. so feeding the lizard daily might be a little too much for her perhaps. if its a life and death matter and she is in charge that might be too much for her. even for a 7.5 year old.


is she lying only on those two occasions?


i bet she is tired of the lizard and doesnt really care if you rehome it or not. at that age dd couldnt take care of our fish as much as she can now.


i am not sure if my method would work for you - perhaps your child's personality requires a firmer hand. i dont believe there is a one answer fixit to this situation.


even at almost 10 i dont hold dd to do her chores EVERY SINGLE time. somedays she forgets.


i would have a heart to heart talk with your dd and find out how she feels about the chores list. i would check with your own self  if you have a reasonable chores list. for instance at that age adn even now, dd is expected to brush her teeth but some nights she is too tired and i let it pass. 


i think 7.5 is still pretty young to be responsible for feeding the pet without skipping and making a mistake. 


the issue though here is - she is lying because she is afraid of what would happen otherwise. to me it sounds like a sit down and talk moment. 


summer time, esp. vacation time is a bad time for chores. 

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#4 of 7 Old 08-05-2012, 05:32 PM
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I'm interested in this because my 7 year old has been telling more lies lately and I feel torn as to how to view it and how to handle it.


My son has such a vivid imagination. He will often begin by telling me something I know is truthful but it quickly escalates into an exaggerated and obviously fantasy based story. The thing is I'm not even sure my son knows where or when it crosses from reality into fantasy. I can tell he's seeing it all in his head as if it's real. If I ask him if it's real he will say it is. Is this lying? I've started to talk to him about his 'imagination world' and rather than accuse him of lying I'll say, 'is this from your imagination world?'


However, he also does the more obvious kind of lying that you're talking about where I'll directly ask him if he's done something and he will lie. He'll even continue to lie if I ask him several more times. I did take away his pocket money recently because I was so exasperated by it!


The reason I mentioned the imagination stuff is because it links to something I remember reading once about children and lies. It said that a child's truth is often what they wholeheartedly want the truth to be rather than our very fixed notion of the truth. So when we ask a child if they have done something which they know they should have done or that we would want them to have done, their 'truth' in that moment is that they wish they had done it. It said that the line between fantasy and reality is so much thinner for children that things don't always look the same way to them. I suppose that looked at in the most positive light, they wish so much it was different that they make it so in their mind. I think it also said that children will always strive for things to feel good and right and joyful, and I guess admitting that you've messed up and maybe getting in trouble doesn't lead to any of those feelings!


Personally I think that losing a pet over a lie would be too harsh. If I feel I've made a wrong decision in the heat of the moment I don't mind admitting that and explaining that I wasn't thinking clearly because I was upset and angry. (In the toddler years I have retrieved and washed things from the bin that I threw away in a less than perfect parenting moment and returned them with an apology!) Personally I think this is a more useful message than blanket consistency. I agree with meemee that a talk about the lizard is probably a good idea. Does she still want the lizard? Is the responsibility feeling too much? My 7 year old feeds the cats most days but I don't think I'd want him to feel a life or death responsibility for them. 


I don't know if this would work for your daughter but when I feel there is something important which needs to change I will usually ask my son what he thinks a good solution would be. Perhaps when you're feeling calm you could talk again about the impact of lying about feeding a pet and how it makes you feel very worried about the lizard. You could say that you don't know what to do now and that is why you said you wanted the lizard to go to a new home. You could then ask your daughter whether she has any ideas about what to do in this situation. My son often comes up with solutions I wouldn't have thought of. He seems to take things more seriously when I include him in the problem solving too. Most of our household rules have been formed this way.



In a more general sense I think that experimenting with lying is probably pretty natural. Lies are one of those things that are not as black and white as they may first appear. For example we teach that 'lying is wrong' but if a child was asked 'do you think I look nice in my new dress?' and they replied honestly, 'no, I think it's ugly and doesn't suit you' we would probably tell them off for rudeness, despite the fact they would have had to lie to be polite. Or if they didn't like a present they were given and said 'I don't like it' instead of 'thank you', again the honesty would not be rewarded where as a lie would have been. Lies are a complex social issue!


Good luck with this and if you have any brainwaves please let me know!!

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#5 of 7 Old 08-06-2012, 07:12 PM
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I would start fresh and rephrase how you ask things. Knowing this is an issue for her, I would start to say things like, "Go feed the lizard right now if you haven't already." I know the frustration of still needing to help remember things like this but...I think that's just life for us parents sometimes. If you find yourself in a position where you have asked your child a question and you got a lie (and you know it) I would not engage in the situation where you are asking them to lie again. What I would do is say, "I know you have not fed the lizard yet because I see that the bowl is empty. Go feed the lizard right now."  With the teeth brushing, I think I would ask her to just brush again on occasion. I think brushing twice is a good "logical consequence" for a kid who has trouble remembering to brush teeth and does not always tell the truth when she forgets. 


A funny story...


My DC and I were in the ocean one morning this summer and I asked her if she remembered to brush her teeth that morning (she often forgets...I smell her breath if I think she's not telling me the truth - not ideal but it's what we've come up with).'s been a long while since we needed to do the whole smell breath thing because she's felt comfortable telling me if she forget for the past year or so. So, I asked her and she said, "Yes," but in this super weird way, with an odd expression on her face. I knew she was being truthful but that there was something sneaky going on. Asked her when she brushed her teeth and, with a grin she replied, "Yesterday." Ha, ha, ha!!  

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#6 of 7 Old 08-06-2012, 07:14 PM
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Also, I wanted to mention that the GD forum would be a good place to ask about this as well. Oh, and welcome to MDC!!  greet.gif

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#7 of 7 Old 08-06-2012, 08:14 PM
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I do very much the same as identitycrisismama - I'll say "Hmm. . . maybe you should go doublecheck that to really be sure you did do it".  



And I'll tell you, too, that I absolutely remember lying about these same kind of things when I was that age (my dd is 6, so same as her anyway) - whether I made my bed, or picked up stuff, whatever.  And not with any real reason to the lying.  I never really got 'in trouble' but I did eventually have to get whatever done that I was supposed to (and yes I remember my parents getting pretty tired about my doing this too at the time - and eventually I didn't anymore.  I suppose this has helped me feel it's most likely just a phase/age-appropriate exploration of life & interactions with parents).  



Because of my experiences (and my kid's personality), I suppose I've turned to not expecting specific tasks (chore-wise, at least) - but just regular times of effort.  We do timed picking up, tasks vary, I try to let her choose and try out new things as she likes as long as she throws some other ideas of mine in the mix.  I don't put dd in charge on her own of anything that would have dire consequences (like regular pet care).  At the least this keeps some things out of becoming a situation that she can lie about in the first place, since that's simply an issue with her at the moment.  





While I think it's fair to re-home the lizard (especially if part of your agreement to have it was to involve her taking care of it) - I agree with the pp's that it might simply be time to talk about whether she's bored of the lizard and that contributes to it not being taken care of.  I also think she's old enough though that you could change your mind about the lizard's fate, talk about it together, and she could understand your point of view about this without any kind of 'losing your authority as a parent' issue and you could end up keeping the lizard.  Changing your mind doesn't automatically result in your child not taking you seriously.

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