It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “How do I get my 10-year-old to stop lying?” Listen in for Dr. Leman’s advice on how to deal with your kid’s compulsive lying on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.
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Doug: No, I didn’t eat that cookie. Nope. I didn’t take that piece of pie. I don’t know where your five bucks that was in your wallet, Mom. No idea. Do you have a liar on your hands and you don’t know what to do about it? Well, that’s the question that Britta asked Dr. Leman that we get to ask for you today. How do I deal with a liar? Hi, I’m Doug Trepaning.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are really glad we’re here, and I’m not lying about that. I am telling the truth. I am really glad that you’re here. And welcome. If this happens to be your first time, I want to let you know, this is for your education and entertainment purposes only, and the subject matter raise any concerns for you or your child. So Dr. Leman, Andrea is always angry. She’s always breaking things. She’s always spending money frivolously. She just doesn’t care about anybody’s heart. So I’m just telling you, that’s the way she is.
Dr. Leman: You just want me to reaffirm that you married way up and you have a lovely wife.
Doug: No, I’m just giving you an example of a liar.
Dr. Leman: Well, I’m quoting myself from my own marriage seminars, where I’m talking about the wonderful Mrs. Uppington, who I’ve been married to forever, and I’ll tell people straight out, she lies.
Dr. Leman: She lies all the time. Well, I’ll just be a few minutes. That’s a lie. She’s never been just a few minutes. She’s running into a store, “Oh I’ll just be a second.” Oh yeah. Right. An hour later, she comes out. That’s not the kind of lie we’re talking about today, are we?
Doug: No, we’re not. I will hit this button and you will all hear Britta’s question about her 10 year old and lie. Here we go, Dr. Leman.
Britta: Hello. I’m new to the podcast and new to the parenting method. I’ve just read the How to Have a New Child by Friday book. And I have a question about this podcast, which was about lying and stealing. I have a 10 year old son who tells little lies and it’s really easy to tell when he’s lying, because he looks terrified while he’s doing it, [inaudible] . So he has an easy tell. In the past I’ve said calmly, “I can tell that you’re lying to me right now. Would you like to tell me the truth?” And he will always tell me the truth and it’s usually about something silly. I’m just not sure how to help him stop the behavior, because this is not setting him up for a good life. A little bit about [inaudible] he was adopted at five years old from China. So he was definitely in a situation where he needed to lie to survive. He is no longer in that situation. It’s been five years at home with us and I’m just not sure how to help him be successful without telling lies.
Dr. Leman: Wow. Well, let me say two things. I want to go back to your introduction, Doug, where you say, “We really are glad to be here.” People should know that we started our podcast today at 6:00 AM. So we’re getting Doug and Andrea out of bed at 6:00 AM. We’re now on the same time zone. So we get up early in the morning to deliver these to you. So when he says we’re really happy to be here, he ain’t lying is what I’m telling you. He’s telling the truth. We’re trying to make sense out of life in a way that sometimes puts a smile on your face and it does make the medicine go down a little easier. So thank you, Britta, for your good question. And let me start by saying, I believe this was the first time on all of our podcasts, where I’ve heard the mom give the golden answer in her question.
Dr. Leman: I say the golden answer. Here’s a guy, 10 years old, that lies like a trooper. Okay. And it’s obviously learned behavior, but mom is so smart because she comes around and says, do you want to tell me the truth? And then of course, you’ll see some drama and [inaudible] will owe to it. I mean, in many ways, that is the golden answer. That’s the best thing that she can do when he lies. She understands, and let me just reinforce it that he learned in China, all kinds of adaptive behavior that got him through life as miserable as it was there.
Dr. Leman: Now here’s the part that I need to underscore. And I want everybody to understand this. By age five or six, a child’s personality is formed. I’ve said for years, that children are like wet cement. What do I mean by that? Well, you ever see anybody work on a sidewalk or lay cement? It moves, it’s thick, but it moves, it’s fluid, but it doesn’t take that long for that cement to what? Harden up. And so it is with personality development. You’ve got a two year old, about 40% of their personality is already formed. A three year old, 60%. A four year old, 80%. Here we are at five. So basically this guy’s personality was formed before he ever laid eyes on his mom who loves him. That’s what we’re dealing with here. It’s sort of like growing up right handed and someone says, “All right, now you’re left handed. You’re going to eat left-handed, you’re going to do everything left-handed.” Now, can you imagine how difficult that would be? This is even more difficult than that.
Dr. Leman: All his behavior is automatic. It’s automatic. He’s not thinking I’m going to lie. He just lies. And again, lying is one of the toughest things to deal with behaviorally, with a kid who comes from normal circumstances. Now, again, I certainly don’t want to step on Britta’s toes here at all, because people who adopt children are marvelous, heart-filled, caring people. My daughter, Hannah Eloge, E-L-O-G-E. It looks like elog pronounced elo. Hannah has a company in Chicago, Illinois called Kindred and Company. K-I-N-D-R-E-D. And she helps adoptive parents. And she’s got an organization that’s awesome. By the way, if ever thinking of adopting, she is somebody to be in contact with. She can help you. But this is what I have to say this, because there’s people who are thinking of adopting, Britta, right now. And my advice to you is to adopt infants.
Dr. Leman: That’s number one, priority. Number two, adopt a child as young as possible. And the reason for that is right back to what I said about that wet cement and how it hardens and personality forms. So when you guys opened your heart and your home to this little five-year-old in all honesty, you probably didn’t know exactly what you were getting yourself into. That’d be my guess. Maybe you did, maybe you were well-informed and realize that when you reach out to love this little guy, he’s going to bite you. That is the best prediction that I can give you about a kid in this situation. You reach out to love him and he bites you. Why would that be? Because he doesn’t see himself as loving. So he creates situations in his life where people will not like him. Does that make sense? And then when you follow through in an inappropriate way and call him names or degrade him or anything else, he just tells himself, “See, I was right. They don’t really love me”.
Dr. Leman: So when we talk about the effort that you and your husband have to give toward this kid, I mean, we’re talking Herculean type of effort on your part because your flesh, your carnal self there’s part of you that will respond in a negative way is naturally is he will respond in his natural learned behavior ways, behavioral ways. You see what I’m saying? It’s really a tough … I told Doug just before I said, what’s our next question. He told me. And I said, “Wow, this is a tough one. This is extremely tough.” But it seems to me though, like I say, you came up with a golden answer right off the bat. You know he’s going to lie. You’re learning about his personality. He needs to lie. That’s a need he has, he lies. And then he starts feeling bad about it because of the environment. And this is what you have to hear in spades, that you created for him, because he’s beginning to feel loved and accepted. It’s just that it runs against his foundation.
Doug: How do you help somebody who says it’s against my foundation? My identity of myself, that I’m not a bad person, but I can be loved. How does Britta do that? How does she break that?
Dr. Leman: Well, she’s not going to completely break that. This is something this kid’s going to struggle with for a long time. Like I said, the best thing she can do behaviorally is she recognized it’s a lie. Okay. She realizes why he lies. And she says, very pragmatically, very matter of factly, “Honey, you want to tell me the truth about that?” It’s a choice. I think you’d tell a kid straight out, “Hey, you have my permission to lie. I understand it. It’s just not good for you. It’s not healthy for you. It’s not good for us. But if you want to continue lying, we can do that. But honey, I think you’re going to be a lot better off by telling the truth. So when you lie, just realize that mama bear knows you’re lying. And there’s always an open invitation for you to tell me the truth. Because if you tell me the truth, I’m always going to be warm. I’m always going to be receptive. I’m going to be understanding and together we’ll get through this.” So now you’re sort of forming a team. The team is against lying, but we understand the lying. We have the diagnosis, we know the problem. So I think Britta is really handling this very well, much better than most parents would.
Doug: So this is surprising to me that you are, you are actually saying the problem is that this kid doesn’t feel loved and you’re not using reality discipline for them. You’re actually saying, “No, the best thing we can do is get this kid to feel loved.” Is that what you’re saying?
Dr. Leman: Yeah. It’s inconsistent. That’s why a kid who was adopted at a later age will almost always strike out. There was a kid, I’ll never forget the kid as long as I live, she was 10 years old. Okay. Adopted at age 10 from China who came with cigarette burns on her forearms. Okay. I mean, she drove … This is a couple that was extremely, I’m going to say religious. Okay. Religious doesn’t mean in a Christian faith, a Christian but they were very religious. Let’s just let it go at that. They were your stereotypical go to Sunday services, go to midweek service, very devoted people to their faith. Well, that 10 year old was the key to them separating and then getting a divorce that 10 year old destroyed that marriage.
Dr. Leman: It created so much stress on everybody in the family. But do you understand what a child’s view of life could be if they grew up abused for the first 10 years of their life? I mean, let’s use this example. Here’s a kid that’s brought up in a, we’ll just call it Evil Land, and everything around them is evil and everything around them is destructive and they’re abused. And then you send them to the happiest place on earth and they get to live in Disneyland. They get to watch the Disney parade every day. They have unlimited first priority seating on any ride.
Dr. Leman: My question to you is, does the kid’s negative behavior that he learned in Evil Land change when he goes to Disneyland? No, it doesn’t. When someone’s nice to him, he’s going to think, “I wonder what they’re up to. This is a setup. What are they after?” He or she is not going to be able to grasp the reality of loving hands around them because they’ve never had loving hands around them. So to quote a book I did on early childhood memories years ago, the little boy or little girl you once were, guess what? You still are. You’re curious about somebody in just conversation over coffee, say to your girlfriend or whoever you’re having lunch with. “Hey, I’m just curious. What kind of a little kid were you?” “What do you mean?” “Well, like between the ages of five and 12, what words would you use to describe your personality?” Sit back and listen. Because whatever those words are, you’re hearing a description, a fairly accurate description of who they are as an adult.
Doug: So we got to take a turn here. I think in the lying section, I want to come back to the line, but for all of us that are listening to this, that grew up under those circumstances that were terrible. What hope do we have to change? Right? If we grew up in those abusive settings and whatnot, give me how do I not, how do I not reproduce it?
Andrea: Is there any hope?
Dr. Leman: If you really believe that God is who he said he is and you can have a relationship with your maker in a personal way where you learn to trust in God in all things, you have a chance of turning that around. Now there’s a caution there, there’s a footnote there. That carnal self will always be a part of your life. There’ll always be that tendency to go back to that earlier learned behavior. But if you want change for you, there it is. Now let’s say you’re married to one of these people. You married this woman, Doug. She is delightful. She’s this she’s that. But she came from H-E double hockey sticks. Her family was as bad as they come. Well, you’ve married that family, right?
Doug: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Leman: So you’re starry eyed. You’re in love. She had kisses sweeter than wine to name an old song. You’re in love. Well, I got news for you. You’re going to be tested because as you reach out to love that woman, she’s going to reject your love in many ways. It might be a failure of her to be intimate with you in the bedroom. She might do things that are counterproductive to a good, healthy person. She might, for example, gain excessive weight as a way of keeping people away from her. I mean, there’s all kinds of ways that people can go here, but I’m just telling you that when you marry someone that comes out of a really tough environment, you’re going to pay for that to a certain degree. How much you pay for it depends upon what kind of honest communication that you and your mate are able to do. I wrote that book, The Intimate Connection, any of you who have suffered through bad families, that’s a good book for you to read The Intimate Connection, puts a great challenge to all of us. So again, there’s a lot of appendages to this topic we’re talking about today.
Doug: Yeah. And it’s not usually lighthearted. This one’s pretty heavy and serious about the realities of looking at what we came from. Yeah.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Well, I love the word indelible, Doug, indelible. And you’ve heard me say the indelible imprint, a parent puts on a kid. Well, I choose the word indelible because it doesn’t go away.
Doug: Wouldn’t you also agree though, that part of the reason we do these podcasts and these books is even though that indelible print is there, the more that you get, new ways of thinking and actually beginning to live those out, you begin to start to change that story a little bit about who you are as a little kid that you begin to say, “Oh wait, I loved. And I got love back. Okay. It’s a little safe. Oops. I got hurt. I got to go back.” But the more that you can get those positive things, you begin to step out or not? Or is that just me hopefully hoping.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. And I’d agree with you. And the reason I agree with you is because that self concept that you had from that terrible environment you grew up in was based not upon truth, but upon lies. So you’ve learned to be the person you are. So the question is, can you learn your way into a new behavior? In one of my books, I talked about thinking your way to behavioral change. And you can think your way to behavioral change. Is it easy? No, because your first inclination is to do what you’ve mastered in your early years and that is develop maladaptive behavior for yourself.
Doug: Wow. Well, this is a nice light topic today for all of you out there. So yeah, I have one more question about lying when we come back. The thing I want to make sure I get to is that again, our friends over at Baker Ravel have offered us a great ebook Under The Sheets for a $1.99, between now and the end of August of 2020. So Under The Sheets for $1.99, I know last time you talked about what’s in the book, but the question I had for you on this one was is this just for healthy relationships? Or is this for people who are in struggling relationships?
Dr. Leman: No, it’s for everybody really. I mean, most people are ill informed when it comes to sex. More people have sexual hang ups than any other type of hang-ups in my biased opinion. So this is a fun book to read. You can’t read a few pages without getting frisky. I mean, since it’s August, we’re talking about those hot nights, where you just have a sheet on, let me suggest it’s going to get hotter if you read this book, this book tells it like it is. You’ll like it. A buck 99, download it today.
Doug: Alrighty. So there you go. That’s who this book is for. So Dr. Leman, we should go back to lying, huh, Andrea, is that where we should go back to?
Andrea: I was just thinking, so what is Britta’s approach now? Is there anything she needs to do differently or is her asking? All right, can you tell me the truth? Do you want to tell me the truth? Is that doing that, or is there something more?
Dr. Leman: No, basically that’s what she needs to do, but I would suggest to her there’s times where he says something and she might just say, “Well, I’m disappointed to hear that, but you know what the rules are. I’m always willing and able to hear the real truth if you’re interested,” and walk away. So you opened the door, you said you’re disappointed. And you are. You’re just telling them the truth because that battle gets won not by mom. That battle gets won by a 10 year old beginning to realize that his life has been built upon lies and untruth. He was, he learned that he wasn’t worth anything in China. He was valueless. And now he’s come to a home where he’s loved and it’s foreign. It’s going to take a while. These aren’t things that you read Dr. Leman’s book and you got a new kid by Friday. That’s not the case with these kids. This is a long term investment. And hopefully that relationship will continue to get better. And if that relationship continues to get better every year, you need to be real happy.
Andrea: I thought that was interesting that you advised her to even say, “You have permission to lie, but I know you’re lying.” And it reminds me of your pocket phrase about taking your wind out of their sales or whatever, your sail out of their wind. Because now there’s no point, but he also realizes that she’s on his side.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Removing your sails from a child’s wind. So you’re not going to get sucked into it. Okay. Parent, you know it’s a lie. I always tell parents, if you see a kid do something, you see him steal something, you see him hit his sister. You don’t go in there and act like you’re dumb. You said, you say, “I saw you steal that candy bar. I saw you hit your sister. We need to talk about that.” You don’t walk in there and say, “Did you hit your sister?” “No, I didn’t hit my sister.” Well, what did you just do? You set the kid up a lie. You saw him hit him. So I asked the question, did you?
Doug: And then to wrap things up, Dr. Leman, what hope can we give those who went down the path of from zero to five, the wet cement got set and they were in a traumatic, terrible upbringing situations. What would you say to someone like that to say, “Oh yeah, I do see how I’ve reproduced what I was from my childhood.” What would you give them as action steps and hope for them to be able to change.
Dr. Leman: Well, I think the best tip I could give that person is just to be mindful of self-talk, talk to yourself. The movie, one of my all time favorite movies, What About Bob, baby steps. The great bestselling book by the fictional Dr. Leo, Marvin Baby Steps. I laugh every time I say that. This isn’t funny. I shouldn’t be laughing, but to try to get people to see that they’re going to progress in not lightning-like manner, they’re going to progress three steps forward two back. They are going to be baby steps, but with a strong faith in God and supportive people around you, you can make it.
Dr. Leman: But for that person that’s struggling, this is the person that’s been hurt. You come to a situation. You’re asked a question. Your first response is what? To tell a lie. That’s the old self. Now there has to be a commitment and a goal that’s driven internally by you. You who’ve been hurt by life. Okay. Do I really want to just keep playing that game or do I want to do something brave? Do I want to do something different? So, okay. Here’s a situation I’m asked something and this time I say well to the person that’s asking the question, “Just give me a few. I just want to think about this for a minute.” If it does that find, do that, think it through and then come back and tell the truth.
Dr. Leman: And it becomes self-motivating behavior when you show yourself you’re capable of telling the truth. You’re capable of exhibiting adaptive, positive behavior, as opposed to negative behavior. It’s yours. It’s on you. It’s not magic dust that gets sprinkled over your head. It’s a tough decision.
Dr. Leman: For the woman who grew up, not feeling good about herself for a lot of different reasons, I wrote a book once called Smart Women Know When to Say No, and it encourages women to stand up and start telling the people that are in their life the truth about how they really feel, because some of them are what I call negative pleasers. So they go through life, just trying to please everybody else. And after a while, that gets really old. And so I talk in that book about developing no power where a woman says, “No, I don’t feel like doing that. I don’t want to do that.” And bit by bit, it builds a woman’s self-esteem to where she can start feeling healthy about who she is. But it always gets back to baby steps, little bit at a time. Huge gigantic 180 degree turnarounds are very, very rare when it comes to people who have learned to be one person. And then someone’s asking them to be a different type of personality.
Doug: Thank you, Dr. Leman, we well, and I would just say, I grew up in a great home. Sure we had our issues here and there. But when you talk about being able to connect to your creator, I would say the most transformative parts of my life is realizing that my creator loves me, has done more for me than I ever would have dreamed it did for me. So, and that’s a really cool thing.
Doug: For the rest, for Britta, thank you for your honest question about your 10 year old and our hearts ache with you. And we say kudos to you for adopting that beautiful kid and loving on him and giving him a chance. So thank you a ton. And thank you for your question. Those that are also hearing all this, I hope you hear Dr. Leman’s encouragement that you can change. It’s going to be slow, so don’t beat yourself up, but you can, you can do it. Get that group around you that will help and support you as well. So thank you for that. Again, if you want to get Under the Sheets, you can get it now between now and the end of August of 2020 for a buck 99. And as always, we love your questions. We love trying to help add to that parenting toolbox that you can love those kids more and more and more.
Andrea: Thanks Dr. Leman for tackling this question and have a good week, everyone.
Doug: Take care. Bye-bye.