Hey, thank you for asking your question here at Parent Guidance. I'm Dr. Kevin Skinner. Your question "My husband, the father of my children, passed in 2009. I noticed some time after that my son was lying a lot. My son is now 18. The lying hasn't stopped. He lies about everything. The other day when I got home, one of the kids had done the dishes and I asked my son who did the dishes. He said his sister did and when I said something to her about the dishes turns out he lied he had done the dishes. Now, I don't understand why anyone would lie like this. I taught my children the importance of being honest and trustworthy and have done my best to lead by example, which makes this extremely frustrating. Please help me fix this or help him fix this."
Well, first of all, I want to address your ability to influence your son. There's a reason why he lies and we don't know what that reason is. But let's just talk about the dishes for a second. That seems strange that he would say, he wouldn't say, "Well, I did it, Mom." Because most children might want the praise, but he didn't.
I wonder what that's about?
You're going to notice that I ask questions here because the more we ask questions, we stop and realize that maybe the meaning that we make of things might not be where they're actually coming from. Turns out that he lied about doing something positive. Why did he do the dishes? To help? How could you turn that experience into a positive one and reward the positive and not focus on the LIE? In fact, I might turn that around to the point to say "You are a silly boy. You actually did the dishes. Thank you. I appreciate that."
Now notice, I'm not focusing on the LIE. I want to teach a principle of you did something positive, you're going to get a reward of kindness of validation of love. That's the first thing I would be going for.
In a calm moment, in a time when maybe you are connecting, maybe you're feeling close to him, it's in those moments that I might ask a question. I might identify two or three experiences where he has not told the truth and say, "You know, I'm curious. When I ask you XYZ and you don't tell me the truth, you ever wonder why you do that?" Now, notice the question. I'm not giving an accusation. I'm coming at it from a question. I wonder why, a curiosity? If he doesn't feel attacked, you're much more likely to have influence. So, the concept here that we're starting with, is we don't want him to feel attacked. We want curiosity. We want questions. We want, in a playful way, and when he does something positive, "I love it when you do that son. Thank you. Thank you for doing the dishes. Now, you're kind of silly, why didn't you take the
credit for that? Just curious."
Maybe he doesn't want attention. Maybe he's angry. Maybe he's hurting. Maybe he doesn't want closeness right now for those reasons. These are questions that I have that are kind of mowing in my mind when I see these types of behaviors. I see it kind of is a puzzle like, what's happening?
And, the more we ask the questions the more we begin to make sense of why they're doing what they're doing. So, at this point that's where I would start with your son.
The concept of helping him fix this, I would completely take that term out. I'm not trying to fix it. I'm trying to help him have the understanding of what's driving it so it can be changed. But I wouldn't want to use the concept of fix it. I would want to use a concept of awareness, so it can be altered and changed to the point where he feels like he is person of integrity, he is a person who also values honesty and being trustworthy.
So, I would want to give him the attention of positive things, have the conversation with him with curiosity, and that's kind of where I would start with him and the situation. Most important, as I always say, most important part is connection because without connection you can't have influence. So focus on connection. Then see what kind of influence you can have.
Thanks for your question. I wish you the best and maybe try this and ask a question later on and let us know how it's going. Thank you very much for taking time to ask your question here on Parent Guidance.