This month our focus is on four of the root causes behind why children lie. I was asked to do this first blog about the fact that children may lie when they are experiencing lack of success which often leads to low self-esteem. This is a painful subject for me. I can remember living out this scenario personally. For years I have tried to forget this part of my childhood. I can actually feel the anxiety and adrenaline surging through my brain and body at the thought of appearing less than perfect or flawed.
From a very young age, what people thought of me was very important. It felt like the end of the world if I made a mistake. I lived in fear that I didn't measure up to what I thought others expected of me. It was frightening when my best efforts didn't come close to the work of my peers. Often when children have low self-esteem, they may seek a boost from the approval of others.
I could not let others realize or suspect I was less than perfect. This may seem like a ridiculous notion but it was a big deal to me, as a child. I would not admit that it was me that spilled the juice; it was not me that knocked over the plant... I had to hide any and all mistakes.
At Breakthroughs in Learning, we have several computer programs that work on developing specific brain skills: memory, focus, comprehension etc. Some clients are able to do these programs on their own for a few minutes at a time. For one of these programs, each client has a sheet where we log their progress. I have one client that clicks forward to the next screen before I am able to see the score. He does not want me to see when or if he makes any mistakes. He, too, feels the need to hide his mistakes. Coping with the thought that he is imperfect is worse than the consequence of lying. In this boy’s case, if I do not see the score, we do the activity again. It is not an easy task and yet he would still choose to do it over rather than look at a score that is less than perfect.
Many children with learning challenges are very bright and can easily read people and situations. These children may give more or less information in a story depending on who they are sharing the story with. Maybe they know accuracy is important to mom, so they keep a story very simple but Nana on the other hand loves the telling of the story, so they become a little more “flowery” in the telling.
The Breakthroughs team is just that, a team. When one member is sick, another staff member will fill in for them. When this happens, we are able to see the client through a different set of eyes. In some cases we are given the 'Babysitter Treatment'. We see the client being on their absolute best behaviour for the interim therapist. Similar to when a babysitter is present; our little angels tend to shine up their halos for their new therapist.
We have all heard (or maybe even told) many excuses for why homework is incomplete. What if their homework was finished but they simply were not confident in the quality of their work? It would not be a hit on their self-esteem if they simply said they didn't do the work. It would, however, hurt them if they saw a big F on the page. In this case they are using a coping skill (lying) to overcome their discomfort (low self-esteem). In the future this may lead to not wanting to learn new things. They may not be able to tolerate the initial discomfort of failing or making mistakes as they learn.
Lying is never a behaviour we want to endorse. It is when we see a pattern of lying that we may want to take a step back and ask ourselves why this individual is making these choices. Stay tuned for more of the root causes that may be the reason someone you know is lying.