Posts Tagged: Alyson Schafer

Children’s Lying. Turns Out, We Teach Them How

By: Alyson Schafer

Honesty is rated as one of the most desirable qualities that parents hope to hone in their children.  Honesty stands significantly above confidence and good judgement when parents are surveyed.  You can imagine then, how upset parents get when their child lies.   I like to comfort parents by letting them know it’s not really a sign of moral bankruptcy, but rather a sign of intelligence! You have to be bright to lie.  It’s also developmental.  Most children will discover and experiment with telling a lie to avoid being punished by about age four.  ”I didn’t break the lamp” they claim.  Seems they are not very good at lying at this age though.  They’ll attempt this bald face lie even when they know you saw them knock the lamp over.

Some children will lie to gain social status.  When I was a nursery school teacher, one boy shared at carpet time that his mom was having baby.  We all got very excited for him and I congratulated his mom on her pregnancy when she arrived at pick-up time.  You should have seen the look of shock in her eyes! “Pregnant? Me? NO!”  When you are in nursery school, a lie can get you in the lime light at carpet time and make you feel like a star in the moment.  Maybe you aren’t having a baby, or going to Disney or getting a new puppy,  but who cares! Everyone is asking you questions and excited for you! Ride the high!

Children might lie in the form of cheating, claiming they rolled a five and  landed on Parking Lot so they win all the Monopoly money on the board.  If a child feels they can’t win through skill or fair means, they may learn to ensure their win by cheating.   That also gives us insight into how much they value winning and being better than others. It reveals how much they will risk to protect themselves and their egos from failing (aka losing the game).

While lying does begin around age four and will be experimented with until about age six, it seems that peers socialize children to give it up.  Once it costs them socially, children abandon it. If their friends don’t like them lying, your child will stop to keep their friendship.   However, if your child is still lying regularly by age seven, research seems to say they are hooked and these often become life long liars.

What I found so interesting about the lying research, is that it’s actually parents who teach their children to lie.   GULP!  Yes, that is right.   We teach them with “white lies”.    Let me explain.

How many of you wanted your child to be polite at Christmas by acting like they liked a gift, even if they didn’t?   We teach our children to be polite and to think of the feelings of others. We teach them to lie in order to make the other person feel emotionally okay.   The trouble is, children generalize this rule to mean they should use lying to avoid conflict and keep things smooth sailing in relationships.   When dad asks his son “Did you use your allowance to buy those yugioh cards?”  his son doesn’t want to upset his dad and so he applies the white lie rule he learned at Christmas and says “no – I found them”.   Children can’t see the nuanced difference.

Adults white lie their way out of conflict all the time and they model this to children.  Instead of saying to your mother-in-law “Our weekend is looking too busy already, I know you are disappointed but we can’t come see you this time” we say the lazy alibi  ”we can’t come because Amy has a cold”  which is less likely to get push back.   In fact, research shows that adults white lie in one out of every five social interactions, or in other measures – about once a day.

So how do we take all this information and do something useful with it?  Well, lets start by watching our own behaviour. Let’s catch ourselves in our white lies and notice them for what they are: taking the psychologically easy way out. Instead, let’s get better at saying it like it really is and handling the potential conflict, hurt or upset that may unfold.   This doesn’t mean you have to be rude. It means you have to face the music.  Change always begins with awareness.  Start there.

Next – don’t punish your children.  Find other discipline techniques for teaching such as logical consequences.   If they broke the lamp, the consequence is that they need to clean up the mess ( with your supervision if there is glass) and replace the lamp with their own money.  Perhaps you feel that they should lose their privilege of playing in that room for a day too. Or maybe you have them share with you how they plan to play in that room with breakables and not hurt your personal property.   When they have a plan in place they can use the room again.  My examples of disciplinary action focus on learning and personal responsibility, not on creating pain and shame.

Don’t set your children up for lies by asking about things you know.  Why say “did you break the lamp?” if you know they broke it? Instead, simply say “I see you broke the lamp. What do you think needs to happen now?”

If your child cheats at a board game and you notice it – call them out on it by offering to end the game, saying “I don’t enjoy games when people cheat. If people cheat, I am going to stop playing.” If it happens a second time, quietly remove your game piece from the board and say ” I am not interested in this game.  Let try again another time”.   Too often parents let a cheat slide, thinking “whatever, they need the advantage, or I don’t want to be mean. Some parents think it’s even cute. It’s not.  If they experience success with their lying they will continue using lying as a strategy.

And here is the last piece of advice.  Research shows that it is more effective in changing children’s behaviour if you discuss the merits and benefits of being trustworthy rather than if you talk about why lying is bad.   If you are reading books with your children or watching TV or movies where someone is being truthful and honest – point out how helpful and honourable that is.  Discuss how much more you can trust and be safe with someone who is honest and how that leads to better relationships.   Let them know you think it is a very special quality they should be proud of! Believe me – children move in line with your expectations.  If you call them a liar you’ll create one.  If you notice them being honest and truthful, you’ll see them doing it more.

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schaffer

Alyson Schaffer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t MIsbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

Kid Faced With Distasteful Situation While At Overnight Camp? Call Mom!??

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Are you sending your kid to camp this summer? Wow – Good on you! I am a big believer in giving kids the over night camp experience if you can afford it.  Your children will leave the comforts of home and learn to rough it. Yes, they’ll learn to start a camp fire in the rain and swim in a cold lake before breakfast.  But besides developing grit from being out in mother nature, camp itself allows kids to build their psychological muscle too.  Camp’s other surprising curriculum is helping children to handle life’s “social” challenges.

You see, at camp, children are a stripped of their parent’s doting and protection. For example, they’ll be served food they don’t like without the ability to whine for mom to make them their preferred meal.  You don’t always get your way at camp.  That is the “iron clad logic of social living” as personality theorist, Alfred Adler would say.

First time campers arrive to a cabin of strangers.  Duffel bag in hand, they look around and maybe they don’t see anyone that even remotely looks likes someone they are interested in being friends with.  They are plumb smack dab in the center of life’s reality and feeling uncomfortable about it.   What does your child do when they are faced with a situation that is distasteful to them?

Do they call mom to fix things hoping she’ll right this wrong by get them moved into a cabin with friends?   That reveals a child who thinks “Other people are responsible for solving my life problems, not me”.

or

Do they refuse to stay at camp and demand to come home immediately.  That life stance shouts “In this life, its my way or the highway! If I can be successful socially, I will evade the challenge all together.”

Or

Do they mope about, bent on proving they won’t have a fun time and instead have a chip on their shoulder feeling they got the fuzzy end of the lollipop? This approach shows a child who is looking for evidence to prove a belief about themselves and life that says, “I am a victim and life is out to get me.”

None of these attitudes are very helpful in life but they sure are common approaches that people take, starting in early childhood.

Yes, “social challenges” creates tension.   It’s not the kind of tension you feel when you are being taught how to roll a kayak or do the high ropes, but I think parents should embrace it with a similar mindset!  With some encouragement camp can teach your child to learn to handle physical AND social challenges.

So, now is the time our children need to learn this good life skill:

“In life, you can’t always change your situation, but you can always change your attitude about your situation”.   Thanks for that brainy quote and wisdom Dr Adler!  And its so true.  You may not have a say on the cards you’ve been dealt in life, but you can decide how to play your hand!  That’s empowering.

Parents (and counselors) can help teach this important life lesson by sharing that quote with children and discussing it.  They can be empathetic to our children and to their struggle while sharing with the child something suggestions like this:

“Since you have to be with these cabin mates, you can decide if you want to live with them happily or grumpily.  Given you only have a few weeks of camp – why not decide to not let it get you down.  Sure, it isn’t what you expected, but knowing you, you’ll make the best of a bad situation.”

When life gives you lemons – make lemonade.

And do you know what camp miracle happens then?   Your child will discover that they CAN change their attitude and look for ways to make the situation better, and that it works! Things get better! The once bitter child starts to laugh and open up.  As they get to know the others in their cabin and begin to have shared experiences at camp, new friendships flourish.

Now that is a great life skill to learn at camp!

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schaffer

Alyson Schaffer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t MIsbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Party Invitation Etiquette

Birthdays are really supposed to be fun, but they can be fraught with issues.  One mom asks me:

My son (5 1/2) wants to invite everyone in his class to his birthday party except 2 people who he has singled out as not being his friends. This is his first ‘friends’ party.  We’ve discussed how these kids might feel (reading Junie B. Jones ‘That Meanie Jim’s Birthday’), but I haven’t (yet) made an issue of it.  However, I do feel bad.  What do I do about inviting/not inviting these 2 kids??

Here’s my take on birthdays. There are two kinds of birthday parties:

1. Small meaning a few close friends

2. Big meaning the whole class, or the whole brownie/cub scout group (ie. no exclusions)

I suggest you let the child decide on whether they prefer option 1 or 2.  The child must understand that if he goes for “big” it means including everyone in the group, even those that he doesn’t like. Explain that while it is natural to not like every person we ever meet, we have to treat all people with respect and dignity whether we like them or not.  To exclude a few from an established group is shunning and rejecting.  That is not okay.  It’s disrespectful.

If the idea of having the classmates he doesn’t like attend his party is soooo upsetting, be understanding and remind him he can always choose the other style party and invite his 5 or 6 best buddies from the “tighter” circle of friends.

I started very early talking to my children about the idea of how discouragement can make people act in ways that can look like they are “meanies” (in this case).  I explained that underneath their tough façade, those kids really want deeply to be liked and to feel accepted, but they are lashing out from feelings of hurt and rejection.  Once children understand this, they are willing to work harder to reach out and include them.

I hope that’s helpful.

Alyson

For more parenting tips visit alysonschafer.com

 

About the Author:

Alyson Schaffer

Alyson Schaffer

Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine.  Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t MIsbehavin”.  She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com.

 

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