The Hindu

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?

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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 mp_health@thehindu.co.in

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