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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