My 8 year old lied to me this morning. Then I heard him repeat the same lie to his dad on the way out the door. Hmmm…
First step: coach myself. Remember, circumstances are neutral, so Oliver lying is a neutral circumstance. It doesn’t mean anything by itself. It doesn’t have to mean a single thing about him as a kid or me as a parent. I get to decide what I think about it, which will determine how I feel and then act. This is so freeing! I noticed a lot of thoughts that didn’t make me feel good at all. I watched those ones, but didn’t attach to any of them. I decided that I liked the thought “This is an opportunity to parent him.” That gave me a feeling of confidence and I was able to come up with a plan I liked.
After school I sat him down and told him I knew about his lie. I asked him how he felt when he lied and showed him how those feelings disconnect him from his dad and me which isn’t what he wants. I taught him that the feeling he is trying to avoid by telling us the truth–fear of disappointing us– is a feeling he can allow. And if he knows he can feel a feeling he can do the hard thing. Lying feels like the easy way out, but ultimately it’s harder. He said that all made sense. Then, I told him he had to be the one to tell his dad about his lie. He was SO upset. Much crying and gnashing of teeth. Suddenly the hard thing felt VERY hard to him. As these things do for all of us! When he calmed down, we named his big feelings, fear, anger (at me) and shame. I told him that’s as bad as it would get, feeling those feelings. The rest was up to him.
As soon as his dad was home, he came in from outside, apologized and told the truth. He was straightforward, owned up, connected with Dad and moved on. He made it look so easy. Like he believed me! Ha!
This is not a parenting how to post. If you have kids, you might handle something like this differently. The point is, it was all handled with conscious choice. No reactivity. Because I did my own thought work, I wasn’t reactive and was able to show up in a way I chose. We were able to turn something that could so easily be construed as negative into a positive and help Oliver develop some new skill and character along the way. All from the ability to see a circumstance for what it was, choose thoughts and allow negative emotion.