I have a problem that has been ongoing for about 5 or 6 years now. My 12 year old son lies. Sometimes over little, unimportant things. Usually, though, it is to keep himself out of trouble. My husband and I are at our wits end and don't know what to do. Some background on my son. He is our first-born child. He was always a handful from the day he was born. Cried constantly, slept little, etc. We had trouble potty training him and he suffered from bedwetting until age 8 and from encopresis until about age 8 as well. He is a kind, loving, gentle, sweet, compassionate, outgoing and funny child. He has been bullied severly at school since 1st grade and it was at it's worst in grade 3 and grade 5 - he is now in grade 6 and things seem to have improved somewhat. At least, that is what he tells us. I don't know if it is true or not. The school did nothing about the bullying, saying, "boys will be boys". He now has 3 good friends and 1 very close best friend. He is in Scouts and helps with the physically and mentally challenged kids at his school at lunchtime. He is a straight A student. As well he is in tae kwan do. Everyday, though, it is always something with him. He lies at school and lies at home and he's not very good at it. These lies are sometimes VERY elaborate and usually don't make sense, which is why I know he is lying. We have told him about the boy who cried wolf. We have tried time-outs, removal of privileges, taking things away, grounding. Nothing is working. At school and at home he very rarely takes responsibility for his actions. He gets upset when he DOES tell the truth and nobody believes him. We have tried to explain to him that if he does a misdeed and admits to it, his consequences will be much less than if he lies about it. But he doesn't seem to believe us or "get it". Even when confronted with evidence that he is lying, he will STICK with his lie or change his lie in some way or another. Please help me I am so scared.
There are obviously many reasons to be pleased about how your son is developing - he certainly has many strengths. In addition, though, this chronic pattern of lying merits some evaluation. I suggest yuo arrange an evaluation with a pediatric mental health professional to examine the situation.
Thank you Dr. Kennedy. I failed to mention something to you about this. There are many times when he DOES admit to what he has done and I think, "oh, we're making progress" and he will take responsibility when he loses something, etc. but it is almost as if he is afraid to tell the truth. I am blaming myself for this as over the years, out of frustration with this child, I have often yelled at the poor little thing and lectured him at length (sometimes for as long as 1 hour) or ranted for a long time. He has ALWAYS required a lot of attention and has been a high-needs child. He was always a bit of a mama's boy and has been ultra-sensitive his entire life. Sometimes, if you just look at him the wrong way, he will cry. My husband has yelled at him over this too, but he is much more patient than am I. I love my son so. I doubt myself over him all the time and I blame myself constantly, thinking this is MY fault as I was a very stressed-out new, first-time mom and he seemed to cry only around me. My mom (who is such a wise lady) told me my son cried all the time as a baby because he could feel my stress and insecurity. I feel like a very bad mother. Am I a bad mother? Have I warped my child in some way? Have I committed emotional abuse on this sweet, gentle boy?
You are in no way a bad parent, but it can happen that we 'discourage' our children from being truthful if they come to expect that their misdeeds will be met with an excessively harsh reaction from parents.
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