Dear Dr. Meg,
I have a 9-year-old daughter who is lying about schoolwork. She is very sweet and kind to her friends and is a good student. She does not like to do “seatwork” and rushes through then lies about doing her best. She is creative by natures so I understand these types of task bore her, but we cannot tolerate lying. We have had MANY conversations about this being a sin and that the consequence is more work in the end. There seems to be a disconnect between her actions and the consequence that results. I feel like I am constantly disciplining her. Help!
One Tired Momma
You are struggling with an issue that many parents encounter. I want you to remember something; simply because you are repeating yourself does not mean that what you are doing isn’t working. You have one stubborn little girl on your hands.
Lying is a tricky issue to handle with kids (I think they know this too.) We can become afraid to discipline for it because we fear that if we do, then we will encourage kids to lie even more. But, we cannot allow lying to be accepted because every good relationship is based on honesty and good parents must establish rules about lying.
Here’s what I encourage you to do.
You have talked enough about the fact that lying is not acceptable. Your daughter knows the score. Now you simply have to reprimand her when you catch her lying. That means that you will treat lying like any other misbehavior. When she lies, something happens that will make lying not worth her while. It is important when disciplining her that you make the consequence bad enough that she doesn’t want to have to endure it. This does not mean that the consequence is cruel, painful or mean, but it does mean that she must be motivated to want to avoid it because it is not pleasurable.
Your job is to find your daughter’s Achilles heel. Does she like playing on her iPad, going to friends’ homes or going to gymnastics? Once you figure out what will really bother her if you take it away, then you have found your consequence. Lying is a serious issue; so don’t be too light on her. If she lies to you, then she must know that something very fun will be taken away for several days. Period.
I know that you feel that you are always fighting with her now. You may be fighting because she really doesn’t mind the consequences you implement when she lies. Therefore, she keeps on lying and endures the reprimand. I would up the ante. She needs motivated to avoid the consequences and this will only happen if you make them tougher.
Hang in there. I know that you feel like a mean mother but remember, mean mothers don’t care enough to work hard for their kids. You will win this and you will get to a point where your days won’t always be filled with fights. Get tougher and the fights will stop sooner. And remember, she is worth every bit of the effort that you are putting into her!