Children who lie, gaining trust while dating

Dear Mary Jo,

What do you do with an 8-year-old daughter who becomes untruthful with a teacher at school? She didn’t learn this at home.

Thank you, Joe

Dear Joe,

It may surprise you and many parents, but for six- to eight-year-olds, lying is a developmental milestone. Many kids at these ages tell or engage in a lie or two. You should be concerned if it happens more than once or twice.

There are many reasons a child may lie, including:

  1. The child wants more attention. In severe cases, it can be a cry for help. Often, children rather have negative attention than none at all.
  2. The child may feel as though he or she can’t measure up to parental expectations. When kids need to feel special, they may fabricate the truth.
  3. The child may feel embarrassed if he or she makes a mistake or messes up. 
  4. The child may do it to avoid punishment. A child may also fear you’ll be angry and withdraw your love.

Before you react to your child, focus on their motive rather than the lie. Listen to them when they tell you why they lied. For example, if she lied to make herself appear better more perfect, that’s a self-esteem issue and confidence building can help. Be sure to tell your child you’re disappointed in them and stress the importance of trust and taking responsibility for choices, even poor ones. A mistake is acceptable, but lying is not.

I advise parents to be in control of their own anger and feelings about dishonesty prior to disciplining an 8-year-old child who lied. Making fun of or shaming your child does not prevent them from lying again; in fact, it increases the likelihood that you’ll never catch them lying again. Overreacting to a child who lies or shaming them accomplishes only one thing: it creates a better liar.

Hi, Mary Jo,

I quit doing social media but currently am dating a girl who is really into social media. How can I increase my ability to trust her?

Thank you, Mario

Mario,

Social media can complicate relationships. It is difficult to establish trust in a relationship where someone can cheat with just one swipe. A portion of your anxiety is due to your experience when you were engaged with social media. Practicing healthy communication methods is key. Here are a few more suggestions:

  • Frequently have open and honest communication face-to-face
  • Shut down social media when you’re together
  • Get more in touch with your personal insecurities. Learn to let go of the things you cannot control (e.g. a relationship). 
  • If sharing or engaging in her posts is something that will make you both feel more connected in the relationship, it could help increase trust and emotional connection
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