Question: We are very concerned about our 8-year-old grandson’s lying. He always pleads innocence and wonders plaintively why no one ever believes him. When someone confronts him with some misdeed they saw him do (example: poking holes in the back door screen), he merely shrugs his shoulders and grins. His parents have punished him repeatedly by taking away screen privileges, but to no avail. They’ve also told him the story of the boy who cried wolf to explain why no one believes him. This has been going on since he was a small child. We are all concerned about what is looming down the road.
Answer: Lying is one of the most difficult of problems to solve. It quickly become habit and turns into a major parent-child power struggle, both of which are obviously the case here. We psychologists are trained to think that habitual lying is an expression of deep-seated dysfunction in the family, but I have not found that to be always, or even usually, the case. Sometimes the answer to “why?” is obvious; sometimes, it seems as if the problem developed quite “by accident.”
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