|Subject: 9-year-old lies
I have a 9-year-old daughter who would rather call
her Dad and me liars than to tell the truth. We have caught her in a lie
and she will look us in the eyes and say she isn't lying. We will say,
"Well, one of us is lying then...who is it?" And she will say it
is us. It is so frustrating, when we catch her doing something and then
she will sit there and lie. It doesn't even bother her at all. I am at my
wits end and would appreciate any advice on how to correct and discipline
Thanks for writing and for visiting my site.
Has your daughter been punished, and if so, in what
ways? (Many children begin lying to avoid punishment.) If so, I urge you
to read some of my articles on this topic.
Punishment creates fear of more punishment, bringing about an environment
conducive to lying.
Are the false statements important ones? If not, and
they are about trivial matters, have you tried just ignoring them? Have
you considered acting classes (society's "permissible" lying).
Whatever needs the lying is meeting may be met in a harmless - and even
positive way through acting. Age 9 is a particularly imaginative age.
Acting, writing, storytelling, and the like may be the best avenue to try
- not grimly as a way out of lying, but lightheartedly as a positive
response to her needs.
Has she observed adults lying? Is it possible that
she is simply experimenting? Has she herself given any explanations?
In general, try to relate to her as you like to be
related to. The one thing to avoid completely is threatening her in any
way. The more sure she is that you love her unconditionally, and that she
is safe from harm, the less she will feel a need to lie.
All good wishes,
Hans Ehrbar adds:
My seven-year-old daughter Rachel lives with her
mother but she regularly visits me. Since I know how hard she is trying to
do the right thing and how much she loves those who care for her, I have
tried from the beginning never to punish her or to yell at her, but
to works things through with her so that she understands better what to
do. Her mother has similar sentiments. The results are rewarding. She is
very good in school, very courageous, can express her feelings well, and
is also popular with her friends.
Nevertheless it is quite a challenge to stick to the
principle of no punishment. It takes lots of time and energy to work out
conflicts. Even if I don't raise my voice but the tone of my voice reveals
that I am angry she experiences this as yelling. First I tried to suppress
my anger, but the better solution seems to be to say: everyone is entitled
to their feelings, and since I am angry now we should better stop and
continue the discussion when I am no longer angry.
Recently I also had problems with her lying. One of
her explanations was that I was lying too and that adults lie much more
than children. She certainly is right about adults in general; there are
lots of lies in advertising, politics, etc., and her mother often points
out the lies and manipulation in advertising to her. But I personally had
tried to be honest with her.
Later I discovered that a few months ago I had
written approximately the following entry into my diary: "The
pressures at work are so great and I am so stressed out that I don't even
enjoy it any more when Rachel comes to visit. I am pretending I enjoy it,
but I really don't - i.e., I am doing the same thing to her that my
parents did to me when they pretended to love me but they did not."
I am convinced now that this is what Rachel picked
up. If I were to ask her to identify situations where I had been lying to
her she would never be able to say: "you pretended to love me when
you didn't." For her self-protection, she never would admit such a
threatening thought to herself. But she noticed that something about me
was dishonest, and her own lies were a complaint about my dishonesty and
my abandonment of her.
I can therefore only second Jan's advice: be very
gentle and fully accepting to the child. I think if I stop re-enacting my
own childhood traumas and start being more honest with her, she will
understand better that I still love her even when I am under stress, and
then the lies will no longer be a problem.