Jul 10, 2009

Lying, Hiding Feelings

Some children learn early in life that if they lie they can avoid a great deal of punishment. On occasion lying can even bring them rewards. Children invariably begin to earn their parents' values--they get to know accurately what their parents will approve or disapprove of. Without exception, every child I have seen in therapy whose parents used a heavy dose of rewards and punishment, revealed how much they lied to their parents. One adolescent girl told me:

"My mother won't let me go out with this one guy, so I have my girlfriend pick me up and tell Mom we're going to the moview or something. Then I go meet my boyfriend."

Another said:

"My mother won't let me wear low-cut shirts, so I wear another shirt over the low-cut one, and when I leave the house, I take it off a few blocks away and then put it back on before I come home."

While children lie a lot because so many parente rely hevaily on rewards and punishment, I firmly believe that the tendency to lie is not natural in youngsters. It is a learned response--a coping mechanism to handle the parents' attempts to control by manipulation of rewards and punishment. Children are not likely to lie in families where they are accepted and their freedom is respected.

Parents who complain that their children do not share their problems or talk about what is going on in their lives are also generally parents who have used a lot of punishment. Children learn how to play the game, and one way is to keep quiet.

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