Home truths about lying – in kids and adults.
There’s no doubt about it. Lockdown 3 is piling the pressures on in the home. We’re all feeling cornered – quite literally. And no doubt about it, in my work as a coach for parents and teens, the rise in tension in the home is clear. Older children and teens are cornered. Quite literally. By the weather, tethered to computers and remote-learning, by the law, by the restrictions and tensions at home with parents struggling to keep it all together. For all of us, it is chilling to see fines issued for non-local outdoor walks and coffees. It is very hard for parents to police teens when they may be determined to break the rules and meet up with friends anyway. Clandestine meetings in parks, in gardens, behind the bins, smuggling friends in the house behind parents backs, it’s all going on – and more. It is very hard for parents to get a teen to adopt more healthy work routines when they are manifestly acting in a way that is avoidant of real engagement, WFB (working from bed), camera off, muted, screening lessons on one device – not even literally ‘virtually’ present. And the vigorous assurances that all tasks are ‘done’ are revealed as flagrant lies when the school eventually gets in touch with the news that half a term’s work is missing in X, Y, Z subject. The sense of outrage and betrayal we all feel when lied to by someone we want to love and trust can feel like a real deal-breaker relationally. Now, more than ever, we need to keep our eyes on the prize – to keep our stuff together for ourselves, and stay connected as a family. ESPECIALLY where we hit the rocks like this with our kids.
Here’s what I hope is some fresh and helpful thinking on the subject of the sort of SASSITUDE that is crying out to add more conflict and unproductive negative energy on top of the bleak shitstorm that is part of keeping our heads above water at the outset of a year that seems to promise to get worse before it gets better.
Home Truths about Lies
- The intent to deceive and get someone to believe that it is true. Lying is a SOCIAL behaviour, even though it is obviously quite destructive to relationship and trust. There’s PURPOSE to lying:
• To make the present easier
• To avoid confrontation
• To side-step accountability
The price for lying is paid later – so child / teen impulsivity and reactive ness definitely plays a part. Because there’s so much red mist surrounding the act of lying it may help to outline the different types of ordinary spectrum lying. Types of lying:
• Lies of omission
• Shading the truth (rounding the facts up or down)
• Standing on technicalities
• Lies of the moment
• False agreements
• Ticking time-bombs – ongoing lies.
There is a relational context to lying. Because lying is wrong – in every sense, an ethical and moral breach, we tend to think in black and white terms, victim, perpetrator, crime and punishment terms. All of which up the ante relationally when what we want to do is reconnect, repair, and rebuild. Rather than look at a lying child or teen as a miniature anti-Christ, it is important to remember that we’re not helpless in this dynamic. BOTH sides have the power to make lying more likely OR less likely. We need to look to the context and pattern. One reality is that kids who have a big track record of getting things wrong tend to have used up their ‘benefit of the doubt’ tokens. They are more likely to feel cornered and therefore be avoidant of further disapproval. The more a kid receives criticisms and corrections, the more it impacts how they are seen by others and how they see themselves. Their back catalogue of misdemeanours can set the tune for the dance of their future behaviour, ADHD can specifically create stronger emotional reactions that in turn drive impulsivity. BUT teens under pressure are also going to have more impulsive tendencies when life feels overwhelming and where there seem to be no good options. Bad situations make bad choices more likely. And the downward spiral comes when we have bad reactions to those bad choices.
Are YOU an inadvertant LIE INVITER? It sounds provocative – but it’s definitely worth considering this point if you are locked into a negative dynamic with your kid / teen. Lies cast long shadows, if you are not trustworthy. Bad reactions call long shadows if you over-react and under-repair. And as the adults in the room, we are responsible NOT for punishing the breach of honesty, but for scaffolding the pathway to meaningful repair. This is not done through the red mist of feeling wronged. You can’t punish honesty and expect the truth. In the same way you can’t lie about one thing and expect to be believed for the rest. BAD REACTIONS include: blaming, trapping, threats, shaming, guilt-tripping, character attacks, falling apart, playing the martyr, the silent treatment (the latter possibly being one of the most corrosive as it offers the young person no bridge of response). “WHAT IS IT THAT YOU ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THE DYNAMIC.” are you piling fuel on the fire in your relationship? Does your response to bad news open up or shut down honesty and discussion? It’s not about being right, it’s about enabling both of you to DO right with the next moves you make on the relational chess board.
Parent anxiety can be a core driver of deceitful behaviour patterns. When we demand an answer (but not bad news) – we set ourselves up for ‘yessing’, Look out for problem dynamics: Micromanagement Fact checker, Catcher-out in chief (the Poirot parent)Under and over-controller – whiplash parenting. Avoider and chaserExploder and ‘tiptoer’Recognise any of these? If so: Check in with yourself. Challenge the value and impact of what’s actually going on. Champion what it is you really want instead in your dynamic. CHANGE – what you bring to the party. Work on recreating the cycle of trust and break the negative power-cycle. This starts with accepting, and owning your part in it – not only within yourself – but with your kid. Then you can start talking about what you both aspire to and create a deal about how each of you will show up in the future. Unresolved disagreements may make giving – and believing or accepting lies – the path of least resistance, better than another fight when your reserves are low. It is very hard to break out of this dynamic. The truth is hard. And these situations don’t come out of thin air – they are often the result of subtly changing dynamics over time. Kids don’t suddenly wake up and decide to be lying little shits. Parents don’t suddenly decide to be micro-managers who won’t trust their kids and inch and believe the worst. I hope that this starting point to stimulating some fresh thinking is a help. If you feel stuck in this, and want to work through your particular circumstances in a non-judgmental and confidential space, get in touch. In my 22 years of working in schools as a pastoral leader and consultant, believe me I may not have seen it all – but I have seen A LOT! If you know someone else who is enmeshed in the trenches of provocative, difficult, and escalating patterns of conflict and disengagement in their relationship, pass on this newsletter and my details. I can offer one off consultations that may or may not lead to ongoing coaching, I can also offer small parent group webinars if you have others in your parenting tribe who are also mired in the trenches of this right now. Between 5 families, a session can be both highly personalised and affordable. email@example.com
With love and gratitude,