Do Lies Make You See Red?

August 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

seeredMany times a year parents come to me for guidance about dealing with their child’s lying.  Usually the situation is that the child has been involved in some activity that she knows her parents disapprove of.  It could be sampling the frosting on a birthday cake before the occasion, or talking to strangers on line or downloading songs on iTunes without permission to use the parents’ credit card.  Parents are very upset about the problem behavior and about the lie.  Often they are somewhat surprised when I recommend that they focus on the behavior the lie was covering up rather than the lie.  I sound like one of those touchy feely psychologists who lets anything go.  Well, not really.  Here are parents’ worries and my responses.  And let me clarify that I’m talking about grade school age children here.

“I told him that if he would just tell me these things, I wouldn’t be so angry.  It’s the lie that makes me mad.”  Really?  You wouldn’t be mad to find out that your child was disobeying you?  We can’t know for sure because you can’t go back and have your child do it differently. I think that the problem started when your child decided or got tempted into engaging in forbidden behavior.  From that point on she had a secret to keep and the lie was a given.

“Why does she do this?  Is she going to be a criminal?”  I encourage parents not to  “jump into the future” about these lies.  In this situation a lie is really what we call “denial.”  Psychologists say that adults use denial when they do things like keep smoking even when they have heart disease.  Part of them is pretending there’s no problem.  Your child’s mind is essentially saying to her, “Let’s pretend this never happened.”  It’s an immature response, but what do we expect from a child?  In addition, when tempers run high, children are more likely to fall back on immature strategies.

In fact, I find more lying in families where parents are likely to fly into a rage about misbehavior and to punish harshly.  In those situations children become more angry and sneaky and they try mightily to avoid being found out.  Hence, they lie.

The lies I worry about happen with older children who might make detailed fabrications to cover up behavior that is planned, not impulsive.  Younger children who are caught in the act, or who are tempted by very attractive online options are in a different situation.

“So do I just let this go? That doesn’t seem right. I’ll always be worrying that she’s lying.”  Well, no, you can’t just let it go.  It’s very important to emphasize that you need everyone to be truthful in your family.  Just don’t make it the main issue.  Focus more on the behavior that your child is trying to hide.  Find out why this behavior was so appealing (not too difficult with the cake).  Explain what your concern is and come up with some ways to deal with it in the future.  Maybe you need better internet controls to protect your child.  Maybe you just need to get your child to help you patch up the frosting or apologize for spoiling the cake.  Those are the real problems.

I’m very interested to hear responses to this piece as I expect that some will disagree.  Let me know what your experiences are with lying in your household.

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Photo credit:  Visual Artist Frank Bonilla on Flickr

Still Time for Summer Fun, But It’s Running Out!

August 13, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

fatherandsonIt’s almost the middle of August, and in my part of the country school will start in three weeks.  I know that in many areas school is already underway, and you have my sympathy (or congratulations, depending on how your summer has gone).  Here in the Northeast we are having perfect summer weather.  It’s a good time to think about what you wanted to do his summer and what you can still fit in.

I know that it’s also time to prepare for the school year—shopping for clothes and supplies and anticipating the demands of school with your children, especially with your special needs children.  I’ll cover that last in my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, next week.  Right now let’s think about fitting in the best of summer fun.

Does your family have particular summer outings that you all anticipate every year?  You probably have to consider what kinds and how much fun (stimulation) your children can enjoy.  Check in with the kids to find out what they thought they’d get to do this summer.  Have a discussion about what’s realistic in the family budget and what isn’t.  Consider what’s realistic for your kids to enjoy as well.  Here are some that have been big in my family and others that I know.

  1. A trip to a favorite ice cream shop.
  2. A day at an amusement park.
  3. A day (or many) at the beach.
  4. A camping trip.
  5. Lobster (or fried clams) on the shore (I’m in New England, after all—plan to cover this one this weekend).
  6. Camping in the back yard.
  7. A trip to the mountains.
  8. Here in New England a trip to Storyland and Clarks Trading Post in the White Mountains.
  9. Canoeing or kayaking on a local lake, river or bay.
  10. Miniature golf.
  11. An afternoon on a local bike trail.

I like the fact that so many of the pleasures of summer cost so little. What are your family favorites?  Let me know.  And plan some relaxed summertime with your kids before we all get back into the rush and crush of the school year.


Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report, “Living With and Loving Your Disorganized, Impulsive, Forgetful, Yet Delightful, Funny Child.”

Photo Credit: Lisa Jacobs on Flickr

Getting Through the Dog Days of Summer

August 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

dogWe’re at least halfway through summer, more than half in many parts of the country.  For many families I know it is a daily challenge to keep their children engaged in activities other than electronics.  If your child is not signed up for a camp for the whole summer, you and your child need to work out how to spend time.  Earlier this week I posted a link on my Facebook page to a study that showed that children with autism spectrum or  ADHD tend to spend more time playing video games than other children.  If you are one of those parents, know that you are in good company.

Here are some strategies that families I know have found helpful.

  1. Make a schedule that you can use most days.  Kids are more cooperative when they know what to expect.  Get your child’s suggestions for what should be on the schedule.  Be sure to include video games or whatever electronic past time your child enjoys.
  2. Plan some activities that get you and your children out of the house.  This could be as simple as going to a local park to kick a ball around, a trip to the (air conditioned) public library, or it could be a trip to a science museum.  Getting out of the house for part of the day offers a change of scene and guarantees that your child won’t be using electronics for that time.
  3. Arrange play dates.  In fact, see whether you can swap off with another parent.  Your child comes here one day and mine goes to your place another day.
  4. Have some new games or materials at home that you can pull out  when it’s a long rainy day or a play date falls through.  Novelty can generate a lot of interest.
  5. Rent movies that you would like to watch with your child.  I know this involves a screen, but family movie watching can be a pleasant activity.

That’s all that I have in my bag of tricks today. I know these aren’t rocket science.  Sometimes we just need a reminder to get out of our routine.  What else have you found to help your children pass the summer with enjoyment and without excessive reliance on electronics?


Click here to sign up for my newsletter, Parents’ Corner, and receive my free report, “Living With and Loving Your Disorganized, Impulsive, Forgetful, Yet Delightful, Funny Child.”


Photo Credit:  Sandor Volenszky on Flickr