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Melissa in Australia

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What would yo do to assist a child who lied continually. Any conversation is all lies. We cannot believe a single word he says about anything. This is new ds8. He has been in foster care for 5 years. I am suspecting that in the past it was a survival thing. I am not after discipline assistance , but rather ways to help the child realise what he is saying is untrue and makes everyone around him not believe him at all.

 

thank you 

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What would yo do to assist a child who lied continually. Any conversation is all lies. We cannot believe a single word he says about anything. This is new ds8. He has been in foster care for 5 years. I am suspecting that in the past it was a survival thing. I am not after discipline assistance , but rather ways to help the child realise what he is saying is untrue and makes everyone around him not believe him at all.

 

thank you

To be honest, this might be a question better asked of a professional, as I think the foster background makes it far more complicated than with our own kids. although you might get good advice from others here who have been through stuff. I guess one thing I'd think is if it's developed as a survival mechanism a bit part of your job is going to be making the kid feel generally safe to tell the truth.

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If he isn't praise or positive reinforcement avoident, maybe he earns a marble, penny, whatever-small-object-suits-your-fancy to fill up a jar. At first it can be as easy as you want (depending on what/how much he is lying) "look, it's raining" "Yes, it is raining". Then when he fills the jar he could earn a prize for himself or possibly something for the whole family. That way he can feel like he is contributing to his new family and kind of be like a hero to the little guys. 

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I'd approach it with books, stories, fables. If the lies are after a question, I'd start questions with a gentle reminder of just wanting to know what's the answer and let him or insist that he takes time to think before answering.

 

If lies are made up stories I'd teach him to say "just kidding", or something right after the story.

 

I'd also be hyper vigilant about lies from others in the home that need to be stopped or explained (including white lies). Teach some easy phrases to tell the truth without being hurtful. If dinner is considered gross by DS, coach him to say he doesn't like it when asked instead of lying in consideration of feelings.

 

When caught in a lie, use the example to explain how it affects others. Again, for food: if he says he likes something and then you cook it weekly for him, is that better than being truthful upfront? The pain of truthfulness at the moment is better than prolonged problems and continued lies.

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thanks for the tips everyone.

 

 he lies in every just about every sentence he says. I don't think I have met anyone who lies to this extent before. it is not just about things he feels he might get into trouble for or lies to impress. Everything that comes out of his mouth seems to be a constant lie

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thanks for the tips everyone.

 

he lies in every just about every sentence he says. I don't think I have met anyone who lies to this extent before. it is not just about things he feels he might get into trouble for or lies to impress. Everything that comes out of his mouth seems to be a constant lie

I guess maybe life has been so overall difficult that maybe making up an alternative reality seems preferable? Maybe some work on fact versus fiction - like it's ok to tell stories but you have to tell people it's a story. I imagine having positive role models is going to help too. It sounds like you may have to teach the basic concept of telling the truth to him from the ground up.

 

Hugs to you. And thanks for being one of the people out there caring for kids who need it so much. I have so much respect for people that do this and do it well.

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A few years ago I tagged all the threads I could find on lying. If you click on the gear next to the search bar and type in "lying" into the "Find tags" search area and then click "Search Now" you will find those threads. Hopefully some of those old threads can be helpful to you.

 

Please also add the "lying" tag to this thread to assist future posters.

 

I wish you the best in dealing with this extremely difficult issue.

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First thing we try is:

 

"Wow, we both know that ......Isn't true but it is fun to think about.". Using a phrase like that acknowledges that you realize it is a lie and don't believe it but also takes you out of the power struggle of the child trying to convince you that what they are saying is true.

 

Never ask did you........ Or why did you..... Type questions when you know the child is guilty of something. Just say " you did......Therefore ....... Will happen"

 

Third idea here, is he really in touch with reality or is he in his own world/the world according to him? One close friend of mine had a foster like this and he really believed his perceptions of the world/situations, etc. He ended up being diagnosed with a low level of psychosis and put on an antipsychotic medication which really helped him...Along with a certain type of special therapy.

 

Is this new behavior for him? Did previous home see this? Any chance he is trying every known tactic to go back to previous home? Obviously kids with attachment issues are masters at lying.

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I'm wondering if you need to start more basic. Books about what a lie is (preschool aged concepts). Depending on who raised him he may not truly know or understand what it is. Even basics like the sky is yellow... no, the sky is blue (or grey or whatever color it is ATM). When your senses give you information and you claim something different, we call it a lie. When we state something in alignment with our senses, it's called the truth.

 

If you do not feel understanding is an issue, also consider there are psychological issues too that cause lying (as a PP suggested it may need an expert to evaluate what is happening).

 

You can play a game called truth or lie just to help him get basics of the definition down. You take turns saying a truth or lie. Obvious/silly/goofy things like I'm standing in a tree, or my eyes are orange. You can say it's either a truth or lie, and then move on to correcting the lie - it's a lie, your eyes are X!

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Because this is a distinct situation of trauma, I think the lies are an important coping mechanism for him. They probably feel protective, and he hasn't felt safe in a long time. I think it's likely to fade as he becomes more fully settled and safe... But, you know, probably that process will take years.

 

I'm going to say that you need to "get used to it" -- you need to interpret his words correctly (as having little connection to facts) and rely on your own confidence, observations and supervision for the information you need to parent him well. Do this calmly, and without blaming him for not being a source of accurate verbal information. If he came to you unable to speak at all (because of trauma) you could still parent him well without any verbal responses from him at all. Use that idea to draw on those skills.

 

I don't mean that you should pretend to believe him. Just calmly adopt the demeanor of, 'that's nice dear, but I'm going to use my own good judgement thank you very much.' Communicate that you know (or have confidently concluded) that he isn't being factual, and that you do wish he was being truthful, but that you aren't terribly bothered, and you don't be distracted from good choices by bad data.

 

Once you detach from strongly wishing you could get 'the truth' (facts) out of him, your emotionality will decrease and there will be less focus on his words. That will make them easier for him to change towards more truthfulness when he can.

 

It will also free up your ability to interpret his "lies" as information about his internal realities; his feelings, perceptions, values, wants, needs, and self-image. (Example: if he claims he can lift the fridge, and did so yesterday: your interpretation could be that he values physical strength and wishes he could view himself as a strong person. That might lead you to find a way to help him become physically stronger, or to feel strong.)

 

In 6 months to a year (if his transition into your family is otherwise smooth) that will be the time to actually make an open parenting goal out of getting him to speak more truthfully more often. I'd skip the conventional techniques until then. (Edited to add: it should be fine to play 'what is a lie' and do educational things on being able to tell the difference, as long as it is done in a warm and informational way that doesn't yet press him to change what he is doing. That 'conventional technique' is a good fit for these early days.)

 

For now: consider the lies a symptom; consider his words to be 'no data'; and focus on unconditionally loving your little son (who happens to have excellent-but-dysfunctional self-defense armour). It will be ok.

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While definitely an issue I'd be discussing with others to get ideas from, I also want to let you know that youngsters lying is now starting to be considered a trait of high intelligence.  They are able to come up with different possibilities when many their age are not.

 

I wish I could remember where I read the summary of that to link it here, but we're about ready to take off for the day and I don't have time to search for it.

 

It's just one thing that comes to mind that might at least look positive from the situation while you work to correct it.  If he has high intelligence, can you see if you can redirect it by giving him opportunities to engage his brain in other things he likes via toys or projects or art or something?  He can create stories to go with those while learning to keep the truth for everyday things.

 

Just a thought from something I read from this past spring or summer. 

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All of my kids have gone through a lying stage somewhere around ages 4-6. This won't work for telling stories, but for other types of lies I taught my kids to say, "I have something to tell you that you aren't going to like." This allows me to take a deep breath and address the issue without over reacting.

 

While in this stage I would rather they trust me enough to tell the truth than worry about consequences for something they did wrong. That doesn't mean they never get consequences, but learning to tell the truth takes priority. It is really difficult for a child to admit to doing something wrong.

 

We also talk about how not telling the truth about little things means I may not believe them about big things. You are dealing with a different situation, but I thought I would share anyway in case it helps.

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Oh my Melissa, I have no advice but under the circumstances, in your shoes I'd be seeking professional assistance for a strategy to handle this.

 

You are and will be a huge blessing to this child. I can only imagine how frustrating this situation is, but you are a hero. I wish you all the best as you work through this challenge.

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thanks for the tips everyone.

 

 he lies in every just about every sentence he says. I don't think I have met anyone who lies to this extent before. it is not just about things he feels he might get into trouble for or lies to impress. Everything that comes out of his mouth seems to be a constant lie

 

Hm...maybe practice retelling stories? So you tell a very short story, then have him tell it back to you, accurately. And then have him tell it again, but make up things and change it? Be very silly. So he starts to get practice distinguishing between accurate and non accurate stuff?

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I suspect he's going to need a lot of time and patience to get past this.

 

In the mean time, when story telling occurs, my favorite response is "okay."  In other words I heard you, I'm not believing or disbelieving you, I'm not judging you.

 

To teach him what you want to hear (i.e., genuine truth no matter how boring), start asking small, non-threatening questions like:  "do you have a favorite color?"  "Do you prefer books about animals or people?"

 

Later, when he starts to trust you more, you could ask gently, "are you telling a story?"  Without punishing him if he admits or denies it.  Or if you are certain, "That's an interesting story," with humor but without judgment.

 

A book that comes to mind is Dr. Seuss's "And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street."  I am sure there are others out there, but they are not immediately coming to mind.

 

Good luck - I know this is hard to deal with.

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I would 1. work with a therapist on the best way to modify the behavior, 2. in the mean time, avoid asking him anything that requires an answer which is a potential opening to lie.  Ex: instead of asking, "Did you brush your teeth?" check and see if his toothbrush is wet. 

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First thing we try is:

 

"Wow, we both know that ......Isn't true but it is fun to think about.". Using a phrase like that acknowledges that you realize it is a lie and don't believe it but also takes you out of the power struggle of the child trying to convince you that what they are saying is true.

 

Never ask did you........ Or why did you..... Type questions when you know the child is guilty of something. Just say " you did......Therefore ....... Will happen"

 

We are doing this

 

Third idea here, is he really in touch with reality or is he in his own world/the world according to him? One close friend of mine had a foster like this and he really believed his perceptions of the world/situations, etc. He ended up being diagnosed with a low level of psychosis and put on an antipsychotic medication which really helped him...Along with a certain type of special therapy.

 

Is this new behavior for him? Did previous home see this? Any chance he is trying every known tactic to go back to previous home? Obviously kids with attachment issues are masters at lying.

 

no , old behaviour it is possible it has gone on for many years

thanks for your expert advice. greatly appreciated 

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To be honest, this might be a question better asked of a professional, as I think the foster background makes it far more complicated than with our own kids. although you might get good advice from others here who have been through stuff. I guess one thing I'd think is if it's developed as a survival mechanism a bit part of your job is going to be making the kid feel generally safe to tell the truth.

 

 

He will be seeing a psychologist in a few months.

 

 

It is not expected he will ever feel completely  secure . He has had a few moves and not likely that he will believe that he really is here forever

 

 

 

 I have yet to meet a psychologist that offers any actual helpful advice 

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I guess maybe life has been so overall difficult that maybe making up an alternative reality seems preferable? Maybe some work on fact versus fiction - like it's ok to tell stories but you have to tell people it's a story. I imagine having positive role models is going to help too. It sounds like you may have to teach the basic concept of telling the truth to him from the ground up.

 

Hugs to you. And thanks for being one of the people out there caring for kids who need it so much. I have so much respect for people that do this and do it well.

He definitely has made up a fantasy past. that is a separate issue that we are leaving alone atm. 

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Because this is a distinct situation of trauma, I think the lies are an important coping mechanism for him. They probably feel protective, and he hasn't felt safe in a long time. I think it's likely to fade as he becomes more fully settled and safe... But, you know, probably that process will take years.

 

I'm going to say that you need to "get used to it" -- you need to interpret his words correctly (as having little connection to facts) and rely on your own confidence, observations and supervision for the information you need to parent him well. Do this calmly, and without blaming him for not being a source of accurate verbal information. If he came to you unable to speak at all (because of trauma) you could still parent him well without any verbal responses from him at all. Use that idea to draw on those skills.

 

I don't mean that you should pretend to believe him. Just calmly adopt the demeanor of, 'that's nice dear, but I'm going to use my own good judgement thank you very much.' Communicate that you know (or have confidently concluded) that he isn't being factual, and that you do wish he was being truthful, but that you aren't terribly bothered, and you don't be distracted from good choices by bad data.

 

Once you detach from strongly wishing you could get 'the truth' (facts) out of him, your emotionality will decrease and there will be less focus on his words. That will make them easier for him to change towards more truthfulness when he can.

 

It will also free up your ability to interpret his "lies" as information about his internal realities; his feelings, perceptions, values, wants, needs, and self-image. (Example: if he claims he can lift the fridge, and did so yesterday: your interpretation could be that he values physical strength and wishes he could view himself as a strong person. That might lead you to find a way to help him become physically stronger, or to feel strong.)

 

In 6 months to a year (if his transition into your family is otherwise smooth) that will be the time to actually make an open parenting goal out of getting him to speak more truthfully more often. I'd skip the conventional techniques until then. (Edited to add: it should be fine to play 'what is a lie' and do educational things on being able to tell the difference, as long as it is done in a warm and informational way that doesn't yet press him to change what he is doing. That 'conventional technique' is a good fit for these early days.)

 

For now: consider the lies a symptom; consider his words to be 'no data'; and focus on unconditionally loving your little son (who happens to have excellent-but-dysfunctional self-defense armour). It will be ok.

so true and thanks for the reminder.

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I suspect he's going to need a lot of time and patience to get past this.

 

In the mean time, when story telling occurs, my favorite response is "okay."  In other words I heard you, I'm not believing or disbelieving you, I'm not judging you.

 

To teach him what you want to hear (i.e., genuine truth no matter how boring), start asking small, non-threatening questions like:  "do you have a favorite color?"  "Do you prefer books about animals or people?"

 

Later, when he starts to trust you more, you could ask gently, "are you telling a story?"  Without punishing him if he admits or denies it.  Or if you are certain, "That's an interesting story," with humor but without judgment.

 

A book that comes to mind is Dr. Seuss's "And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street."  I am sure there are others out there, but they are not immediately coming to mind.

 

Good luck - I know this is hard to deal with.

fantastic idea. I discussed this with DH and we have come up with the idea of McBroom's one acre farm - 3  tall tales. then we can joke with him and say that was a great tall tale. this of course will only work with the one type of lying

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I would 1. work with a therapist on the best way to modify the behavior, 2. in the mean time, avoid asking him anything that requires an answer which is a potential opening to lie.  Ex: instead of asking, "Did you brush your teeth?" check and see if his toothbrush is wet. 

we don't tend to ask questions that may lead to a lie- he just lies about everything, even in normal conversation.

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I would make sure the lying wasn't part of RAD for a foster child. This reminds me of dh's ex. She lied about so many things when the truth would have been better, but she couldn't help lying. She also never felt bad about being caught. She always felt she could "explain away" the previous lie she had been caught in. She NEVER figured out that she lost friends and connections when she alienated people by too much lying. I believe that her RAD turned into BPD as she aged. Many experts believe that's what happens. 

 

In the case of your new addition, he simply may not *know* what is truth and it may not be anything bigger. He may have learned to use fantasy to get along in the world and no doesn't know how to discern that other people want facts. It's hard to know. 

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Oh my Melissa, I have no advice but under the circumstances, in your shoes I'd be seeking professional assistance for a strategy to handle this.

 

You are and will be a huge blessing to this child. I can only imagine how frustrating this situation is, but you are a hero. I wish you all the best as you work through this challenge.

thank you .  comments like this help so much as most of each day we ( DH and I) just think we are completely crazy what are we doing to our family nightmare thoughts

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I would make sure the lying wasn't part of RAD for a foster child. This reminds me of dh's ex. She lied about so many things when the truth would have been better, but she couldn't help lying. She also never felt bad about being caught. She always felt she could "explain away" the previous lie she had been caught in

 

unfortunately you are most probably right

 

. She NEVER figured out that she lost friends and connections when she alienated people by too much lying.

 

I guess if you are moved around a lot to different families then you never really get to alienate people too much

 

I believe that her RAD turned into BPD as she aged. Many experts believe that's what happens. 

 

In the case of your new addition, he simply may not *know* what is truth and it may not be anything bigger. He may have learned to use fantasy to get along in the world and no doesn't know how to discern that other people want facts. It's hard to know. 

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I hate to be the non-PC one on this, but, mental illness usually has a genetic component and he was in foster care, meaning neither of his parents were able to parent him. Compulsive and/or pathological lying can be a sign of a bigger mental illness. I would be on the alert for other issues. Has he had a full psychological evaluation? You will want to keep an eye on this.

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I hate to be the non-PC one on this, but, mental illness usually has a genetic component and he was in foster care, meaning neither of his parents were able to parent him. Compulsive and/or pathological lying can be a sign of a bigger mental illness. I would be on the alert for other issues. Has he had a full psychological evaluation? You will want to keep an eye on this.

Even if there is no genetic component, I would think just going through the foster system and having to deal with broken placements and social workers would be enough to mess with anyone's head.

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Melissa, you and your husband are amazing people. Truly amazing. 

 

With all of your experience, I'm sure you probably already think of him as "younger" than his years, but given his background, he may be much "younger" emotionally than many 8 year olds. So much of his emotional energy has been spent just learning to cope with his circumstances. Do you think he realizes that he's lying? It's a strange thing, but sometimes it is actually unconscious, especially if it's been developed as a defense mechanism.

 

Sometimes psychological testing can pick this up in adults, and it's an interesting thing. When someone is presented with this, they may think it's so absurd that they actually have no problem telling other people about it: "That test said I was lying unconsciously. Can you imagine?!" Well, yes, the people around them usually aren't surprised at all. But somewhere in their backgrounds, there is almost always something that caused enough trauma to set this off as a defense/survival mechanism, even when it is clearly no longer needed. 

 

:grouphug: to you. You're doing an awesome thing. 

 

 

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Melissa, you and your husband are amazing people. Truly amazing. 

 

With all of your experience, I'm sure you probably already think of him as "younger" than his years, but given his background, he may be much "younger" emotionally than many 8 year olds. So much of his emotional energy has been spent just learning to cope with his circumstances. Do you think he realizes that he's lying? It's a strange thing, but sometimes it is actually unconscious, especially if it's been developed as a defense mechanism.

 

Sometimes psychological testing can pick this up in adults, and it's an interesting thing. When someone is presented with this, they may think it's so absurd that they actually have no problem telling other people about it: "That test said I was lying unconsciously. Can you imagine?!" Well, yes, the people around them usually aren't surprised at all. But somewhere in their backgrounds, there is almost always something that caused enough trauma to set this off as a defense/survival mechanism, even when it is clearly no longer needed. 

 

:grouphug: to you. You're doing an awesome thing. 

 

That's fascinating.  I have a relative who is a pathological liar, and she doesn't even remember having lied.  Once she started ranting about people who do xyz - apparently completely forgetting that she did xyz for years.  :P

 

This also might explain how some people can lie so convincingly.  I honestly cannot tell if my eldest is lying despite being her mom for over 9 years.

 

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SKL, I can never tell if dh's ex is lying by how she lies. Also, dsd lies so well when she wants to that I am out of my depth. I must always discern truth based on actual evidence. If actual evidence suggests differently than what they say, I cannot ever ignore it to believe them just because they sound so earnest. 

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