Thursday, March 24, 2011

How Do You Know When Your Kids Are Faking Or Lying?

If you are up-to-date on my posts, you'll know that my daughter has been sick this past week.  Yesterday, she didn't want to go to day care and she said she wasn't feeling well.  She had no temperature, she seemed perky enough (I had to chase her around the house to get her dressed) and there was just the leftover cough.  Usually the leftover cough can last for quite some time so I usually discount this.  So I was torn, do I send her or keep her home?  I decided to send her and according to her teachers, she was perfectly fine all day.  This morning she once again said she didn't feel well... I went with the assumption that she was fine.  But how do you really know?

I don't think it takes long for them to figure out that faking sick means they get to stay home and watch TV and have meals served on trays in bed... well, makes me want to fake being sick too!  When they were younger toddlers, I didn't have to deal with this - it was much easier to know whether they were sick or not. 

Last week, my daughter got her arm caught in a drawer and it left a mark.  She did the whole freak out, drama queen thing and I consoled her.  When she finally calmed down, she wanted to go back upstairs and she told me she needed help and started limping.  I'm like whaaaat?  You hurt your arm, not your leg!  It was actually pretty funny. 

My son too will milk things as much as he can.  With him, however, I also sometimes question whether I am getting the truth on the accounts of his day.  He has a very active imagination.  Yesterday he told me he had a bad day because one of the friends grabbed the ball from him in gym and pushed him and that another friend hit him in the head for no reason.  I tried to get more details on exactly what happened but he was not all that forthcoming.  I find this a tricky situation... I don't want to presume he did something to elicit these actions from his friends, but at the same time, it's hard to believe that they did these things strictly out of the blue.  I'm not one of those moms who thinks their child is perfect - I know he's still a 6 year old boy and is not always innocent.  On the other hand, what if they really did do it out of the blue and I'm asking what he did to "ask for it"?  Then I'd feel absolutely horrible!

So I did a little digging... I found an article on eHow giving pretty good tips on how to know when your child is faking sick... mainly, looking for actual symptoms to some of the more subjective complaints.  For example, they say sore throat, take a flash light and check for redness or mucous in the back of their throat.  For me, another dead giveaway is if the "ailment" moves around the body i.e. one minute they have a headache, then next it's a stomach ache.  I also think their eyes are a dead giveaway - when they are ill, they are usually droopy and dull looking.  I believe this is one of those cases where you really have to know your child and trust your intuition!

As for the lying part, now that's a little harder in my opinion.  I've always told my son (my daughter is still a bit young for this) that he will be in more trouble for lying about something, than the something he feels he actually did wrong.  I guess the first thing I need to ask is why would he lie?  According to an article on, here are some possible reasons:

  • To play with you;

  • Because he thinks it is funny;

  • To gain control of you or a situation;

  • To avoid punishment;

  • To cast blame on someone else;

  • Because of fear or anxiety;

  • To avoid doing something they do not want to do; or

  • Because of jealousy.

  • OK, I get it.  But how do you know????  Sometimes my son won't make eye contact when he's talking to me, but that's usually when I'm asking the questions.  If he's telling me a story, he's definitely looking me in the eye.  He otherwise doesn't fidget or have other body language that would give him away.  But I don't think that he's lying every time he doesn't make eye contact.  So I am once again relying on my gut... but I'm not so comfortable on the old mother's intuition thing in this situation.  I know that all children lie at some point, just as we adults can often tell little white lies.  Obviously as role models, our kids see these white lies and perhaps they can't differentiate between the two?  I'm really at a loss here... despite my digging on the internet!  I guess you can't always find what you looking for on the web ;-)  So if you have any further insight, I would truly appreciate hearing from you!

    That said, there was an abundance of information on what to do if your child is lying.  I figure since I couldn't really give you much on figuring out the "if" part, I might as well give you some details on what do when you know they are lying to you. Other than be a good role model and encourage truthfulness, here are some great tips from a site called Bardos.  They say prevention is the first rule:
    • Keep your word. Kids learn integrity by seeing it. There is no such thing as inconsistent integrity. Teach and live honesty.
    • If you do lie, admit it and correct it immediately. Remember the cardinal rule of child development is “Monkey see. Monkey do.”
    • Young children can not tell the difference between “white lies” and serious lies. Maybe they are on to something we as adults could emulate.
    • Keep rules simple, reasonable and consistent. This gives them fewer reasons to feel like they “have” to lie. It also makes your parenting job easier.
    • Praise them when they tell the truth, especially when it was hard for them. Make it easy for children to be honest.
    • Assume the truth is being told first. Otherwise, 1. mistrust will be bred, 2. they will learn to become sneakier, and 3. they will learn that telling the truth does not really matter anyway.
     And then if you do catch them lying:
    • Stay calm. Do not take the lie personally. Choose to respond effectively, not angrily.
    • Seek out why your child is lying. Assume the best. Do not accuse. Instead, inquire.
    • Emphasize that the behavior was not okay, but that your child is okay. You love her, not her behavior. Thus consequences are given to discipline (e.g., teach, instruct) the child’s behavior not to punish the child. This keeps the child more open to confessing next time. Remember, punishment breeds fear and more often than not the child will be more likely to conceal faults and lies to avoid punishment.
    • Do not force a confession. Give your child a chance to tell the truth. He may need time alone to consider his choices. Let patience prevail over anger. We want to help our children to open up, not force them to. This is important because young children grow into teenagers and we will need this skill all the more then. If we do not develop it now we can not expect to wait to develop it then when it is much harder.
    • Do not call your child on a lie in front of others. Respect and discretion breeds the same.
    • Do not lecture. Ask her what her thoughts are about what impact lying has on herself and others. Share your observations with her when she is done.
    • Wonder instead of accuse. “I wonder who did this?” opens people up more to the truth since they are not put on the defensive than “Did you do this?” does.
    • Don’t play games or give your child a chance to practice further lying by asking, “Where were you just now?” If you know the truth, say it and deal with it.
    • If the lies are about getting attention let your child know that he does not need to make up stories for you to love him. Seek little and big ways to give him some extra doses of attention. Attention is a powerful medicine.
    • Share the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Again, do not lecture, but share and inquire.
    • Adolescents need a good deal of privacy. Give them what they need within reason and they willl have less to “hide” from you.

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