My son recently lied about his marks on a qualifier for sports captain. I reprimanded him, but am not sure what led to it, since we don’t lay much emphasis on marks. What am I doing wrong?
Children use lies to avoid unpleasant consequences, to cover up for an inadequacy or to build or maintain an image that seems beneficial. These need not necessarily arise from the parenting, as many of these values can be imbibed from a society which glorifies the values he has tried to match up to. Since you have already reprimanded him, please do not bring up the issue repeatedly with him as that will only make him suffer for a deed that he may have indulged in without much thought.
The better way to handle this is to establish a simple ‘connection ritual’ with your son. A regular time everyday or several times a week when both of you can choose to do something enjoyable together, including going for a walk or playing a sport or making time for a hobby. Create this space for two-way communication where his voice is heard, and he also experiences the security to share any challenges that he may need to vent out or need support for. When you have made the effort to create this space over time, your son will feel more confident to discuss solutions and the number of teachable moments increase greatly.
The issue here is not the marks or the fact that he used lies. Becoming a captain was probably a bigger goal for him, that he was unable to reflect deeper on the means to achieve it. Once you have your communication ritual established, ensure that you share experiences from your own life too, where you had complicated decisions to make and how you struggled to arrive at the options. This will lead up to healthier interactions, where he will be able to make decisions based on values and not so much dictated by external needs for recognition, power or validation. Please remember that learning is experience, and as parents when we are empathetic and responsive, we can convert these challenging moments into teachable moments.
Aarti C Rajaratnam is a Salem-based consultant psychologist at Million Smiles, and is specialised in childhood and adolescent mental health, with close to two decades of experience, working closely with parents, teachers and students
Nothing in this column is intended to be, and is not, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please seek independent advice from a licensed practitioner if you have any questions regarding a medical condition. Email us at email@example.com