Help! SS keeps telling lies (Maybe OT, maybe not)

mattie_gtJuly 22, 2010

Hi everyone, I'm so hoping that some of the experienced parents/step-parents can give me some advice. SS8 is, overall, a really good kid but in the last few months he has started not doing things and then lying about it. For example, he has repeatedly skipped brushing his teeth, but when asked he will say that he did; he'll say he washed his hair in the shower but his hair (like his toothbrush) will be bone-dry, and last night after he said he had eaten his dinner I found that he had thrown it into the garbage (I didn't think my cooking was that bad!)

It's not that what he is lying about is such a big deal; but DH and I are concerned because, for one thing, they all seem to be regressive behavior, if that makes sense. Brushing teeth, washing hair, etc. were all things that he had been doing on his own (and should, at age eight). And the lying is completely new and is really troublesome. When confronted that he lied, he doesn't deny that he did; when asked why, he'll say that he didn't think he'd get caught!

This seems to have started at the beginning of the summer, during which three different things happened - First, I am working from home so that he didn't have to go to day care. I set aside break times during the day to do things with him, and we do special things one day each week. His friends are mostly home in the neighborhood so he's not sitting in his room alone or anything, but it is something different. Secondly, he is now on the every third weekend visitation - BM has been keeping this up so far and it's been miserable because he comes home in tears complaining about it each weekend. BM is a complete liar and has lied to SS repeatedly (and to everyone else). The last thing is an issue with one of his friends - the friend used to be a good kid but is rapidly going downhill fast. Friend's parents either ignore/spoil him, he is totally undisciplined and disrespectful, and wouldn't know the truth if it bit him in the nose. And there are never any consequences to his friend for his lying - in fact, his mother has been known to call adults liars for saying that her son did something! (It's very sad.)

So we don't know if any/all of those things are contributing to SS' behavior. DH and I are at our wit's end. SS started with timeouts for lying but it had progressed to day-long "groundings"; last night DH decided that SS was not going to be allowed to attend a sleepover this weekend because of the latest. SS seems to weigh the punishment vs. the crime, so to speak, and decide whether he wants to risk it. But he doesn't seem to really understand that lying is wrong for its own sake.

The thing that really worries me is that I'm starting to wonder if it's intentional - that he thinks he's a bad kid and deserves to be punished or something. We keep telling him that he is good but this behavior is not acceptable, but this is negated by BM telling him every third weekend that he is a troublesome, spoiled brat. Sorry for the long post, but any advice would be appreciated.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I think it may be an age thing.

My DD is 8 and my SS is also 8.

We have experienced this kind of lying mildly with my SS. We'll remind him to brush his teeth, throw his dirty clothes in the hamper, etc. and then when asked if he did it, his initial answer is "yes."

In his case, I think it is more of a forgetfulness/lack of focus. SS doesn't focus all that well and we just cannot give him a list of things to do because he won't remember.

For example:

I cannot say, "SS, please go put on your pajamas, brush your teeth, and go through your room and pick up your dirty clothes and put them in the hamper."

He just won't remember that all---he might do ONE of those things but not all three.

THESE are the cases in which he would then lie.

"Did you brush your teeth?"


"Hmmm, I didn't hear you in the bathroom..."

"Oh yeah...ooops!"

SS does SO much better if we give him one task at a time.

"Please go brush your teeth."

Then when that's done, "Please go get in your pajamas."


"Please make sure you have put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket."


I don't know if it's a boy thing or a mild ADD thing, or what...

My daughter is much more able to follow more complicated instructions. Or basiclaly, we can just tell her to "get ready for bed" and she knows what all to do. But with SS, we have to be extremely specific and extremely step-by-step oriented.

I am wondering if there is some of this going on with your SS-in regards to lying--which makes me think maybe it's an 8 year old boy thing!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 12:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks lovehadley. Last year we had issues with things being forgotten or mad rushes in the morning so we wrote up his "tasks" and posted them on his door. That worked well - but now it is just plain lying. We'll say "Go brush your teeth now" and then ask five minutes later and he'll say it's done. Worse yet he's been known to tell us he's going to brush his teeth, then come downstairs and say he's done but he didn't do it. He says he just doesn't like doing it, and thought we wouldn't know. So unfortunately I think it is often deliberate. I fear sometimes that he has little grasp of or not belief in cause and effect - poor kid, it must seem like random things just happen to him for no reason so it's kind of understandable why he would feel that way.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 1:47PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

SS11 has gone through several stages like that. He's in one now, actually.

Our approach has been multipronged:

- We remind him that he wants privileges (such as being allowed to go to the store alone) but that privileges come with showing maturity and responsibility.
Lying doesn't show those things and makes it hard for us to believe he is ready for the things he would like to do or have.

- We've had him write apology letters or write a list of 5 reasons that lying is wrong. None of the reasons can relate to getting caught or being punished.

- We've explained to him that we greatly prefer to trust him. It's easier and happier for everyone if we don't have to police his every move.
We've presented it like this: "A__, you don't like when we nag you and check on your every move, right? You like when we trust you and give you your own space. Well, when you lie to us about simple things, like brushing your teeth, it shows us that we NEED to be nagging you and checking on your every move. If we could trust that you'd brush your teeth when asked to, we wouldn't have to pester you about and it wouldn't turn into a fight. If there's no fight, then everybody is happier."
Then he sees that our actions (nagging him) are a direct result of his actions (lying to us) and is more willing to change his actions.

- We issue rewards for completed tasks. If he wants to watch a show that will be end a bit later than his usual bedtime, so we say "If you are ALL ready for bed BEFORE the show starts, then yes, you can stay up late to watch it. So that means you have to have your backpack ready for tomorrow, be showered with your teeth brushed, and in your pajamas. If ANY of those things aren't done by the time the show starts, then no show. Deal?"
He knows that we mean it. If he skips something, he won't be watching and it will be his own fault.

- This one is underhanded and a bit manipulative. We don't use it regularly. SS is always really worried about what other people think - he doesn't do well in social situations or make friends very easily, which is too bad because he's a nice boy and I've seen that he is a loyal friend. So we've reminded him that people don't like liars. We've said "People don't want to be friends with someone who lies to them. No one wants a friend they can't trust; they want a friend who will be truthful."
For this case, we thought a little peer pressure might be a good thing, although it isn't a technique I'd usually advocate.

- For personal hygiene issues, we've shown him pictures of gum disease and so on. He also doesn't like to brush his teeth or bathe. We explained that we don't tell him to do these tasks to spite him, but so that he is healthy and well. "Yup, brushing your teeth is a pain in the butt. But we don't make you do it to be mean to you or to think up clever ways to torment you. We make you brush your teeth because it's important for your health. ~Insert explanation of gum disease, complete with photos, here~. Now do you understand why it's important for you to brush your teeth?"
We've had to do this roughly once a year since he was about 8.

- And, of course, we try to praise and be positive for the things he does when asked and for telling the truth. To be honest, I get a bit frustrated with having to tell an 11yo that he did a good job because he put his dirty clothes in the laundry basket, or praise what a very good choice it was that he told us the truth about something... But he needs it, so I do it.

I think it will continue to be an ongoing battle for us, for the same reason you just mentioned. SS doesn't really understand cause and effect or that actions cause reactions.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 9:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you ceph. It's funny because we've done every one of those things that you mentioned! So I guess we are doing the right things, anyway, and must just keep at them. I just didn't know if it's a typical phase or a sign of something worse; we'll have to talk to his counselor about it.

One of the other problems that we were having was coming up with a suitable penalty. He is stubborn and bull-headed (just like DH!) and can have incredible patience and stamina for an 8 year old. So he can calmly sit through a time out, for "groundings" he'll just play in his room (and we don't want to ground an 8 year old in the summer for more than a day anyway), he doesn't really often watch TV or play video games anyway so taking them away is not going to work, and even if we were going to have a financial penalty (which we wouldn't) he saves most of his allowance anyway! So we're going old-school on him - yesterday he lied again and was set to copying a selected story from the children's bible. He disliked this about as much as anyone else would and doesn't want to do it again.

DH and I both noticed as well that it's almost like he wants us to catch him, as if he's testing us to see if we're paying attention. The teeth brushing one is a perfect example; he'd been doing really well with it until this every third weekend started. DH had explained the problem to BM and asked that she make sure his teeth were brushed. Well, this hasn't been done - every time he comes back he hasn't brushed his teeth all weekend (how can she not notice? His breath STINKS!) And so for days afterward he skips it, lies about it, "forgets" to do it... And whatever his punishment is, he accepts with perfect equanimity. It's all outside of any experience that I have.

We want to try to help him understand longer term cause and effect. It's hard because I think about three days is his limit; shorter than that he understands and longer I think is just going to be too much for him to really understand at this point. I need to find some craft projects that kids can do with Dad or SM's help that will take about that long.

Thanks for the reassurance that it's fairly common - I was feeling like a complete failure as a SM, and thinking that we must have done something horribly wrong.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 9:18AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"DH and I both noticed as well that it's almost like he wants us to catch him, as if he's testing us to see if we're paying attention."

That may be exactly the case.
If the attention he's receiving at his mom's is bordering on abusive (eg - telling him that he's a troublesome, spoiled brat), then he may be trying to get see if he can get some attention that shows that someone actually cares about him. Sort of a test of your dedication to him and his well-being?
If some people in my life were continually showing me that they didn't give a rat's behind about me, it might cross my mind to "test" the other people around me to see if they really cared about me or not. That's a pretty normal human reaction to mistreatment... But I would probably approach it differently, LOL.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 9:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

ceph, that's something to think about. We are always so careful to tell him how much we love him, that he is a good boy but his behavior was wrong, why it was wrong, what expected behavior is, etc. before any punishment is issued. Maybe this is the wrong approach with him, and it should be discussed beforehand, but not at that time, if that makes sense.

Maybe DH should just agree to BM's EOW with no cancellation notification or penalty demand and then we'd just go back to SS only going up there six or seven times a year. I'm starting to think we'd be better off with that - but what if she actually saw him that every other weekend?!

Actually I was thinking of having a life sized SS doll made and just sending it up - it could say "I love you Mommy!" and "I miss you Mommy!" and "You're the best Mommy ever!" when you pulled a string, and just sit silent in the corner the rest of the time. It wouldn't need feeding, supervision, attention - it would be perfect for her!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 1:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hmmm. Me thinks it's a boy thing. When they get to be 16-17 you'll have kick them out of the shower & beg them not to use 15 towels a day!
Sadly, their dirty clothes still won't hit the hamper. I think the lying thing is laziness. Let's face it, young boys are too busy playing to stop & brush their teeth :0)

Frustrating. Glad these battles are behind me but oh how I miss those stinky little boy days with DS.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 2:58PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Too much?? advice please
Hi. I am a Mum of 2- one being a step child, I am 27...
Step Son Help
Hi, Im Rowdy and have been married for 11 years now....
Venting and disengaging
Since the horrible experience of my step daughter's...
how much child support do you pay?
Hi everyone. I have been a non-custodial stepmom for...
To visit or not to visit
About three years ago, after many instances of being...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™