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To feel out of my depth with ds

(48 Posts)
Hoo Mon 20-Jan-14 11:39:32

Am a regular but have name changed as I don't want people in RL to know about this.

ds (9) has always been prone to telling small lies to make him look better. I would say he has low self-esteem and always appears desperate to be loved (and he is, very much). We have always dealt with this by telling him not to and that we love him just as he is.

He was caught out in a biggish lie just before Christmas and, after a long chat, promised never to lie again.

Over the last two weeks, this has resulted in a littany of confessions about things he has done wrong over the last couple of years. I have asked him to stop this but he won't and keeps getting up in the middle of the night to confess more.

The things he has confessed to include tall tales, stealing from my purse, cheating at school, stealing at school, trying to look at sex on the internet and out right lies.

I am at a loss - I had no idea about anything other than the tendancy to fib. I don't know what to do. Ds appears distraught (but is also prone to histrionics, so I am not sure how much of this is real).

This is not the child I thought I knew.

Ds is promising that this is all in the past and so far dh and I have held to the line that we accept this and, as ds has learned from his mistakes, we will all move forward but I am really not sure what we should be doing. I cannot really believe any of this - feeling slightly stunned.

AIBU to feel out of my depth and what would you do?

TheGreatHunt Mon 20-Jan-14 11:43:33

It sounds like attention seeking. How much time do you spent with him, just him?

And not just praising him because he's done something or telling him you love him after he's done something?

Maybe make some time, some special time for him which is regardless of what he has or hasn't done.

Hoo Mon 20-Jan-14 11:44:48

Maybe not enough. We spend time together as a family but not so much one on one time. I know he would enjoy that so will think of something.

mrsjay Mon 20-Jan-14 11:46:25

you por thing first of all most children lie about things they make up stories to impress friends or get themselves out of trouble etc your son isn't rare I know it is upsetting for you but to know he ins't unusual is a start i think , what i would do is speak to the school about his behaviour especially if he is stealing as well, most school has some sort of homelink worker you can speak to, I know you dont want anybody to know but I do think you need help with him

mrsjay Mon 20-Jan-14 11:46:55


Hoo Mon 20-Jan-14 11:52:48

I am kind of wondering if we need help too. This does not seem entirely normal to me.

He is at an independent school though, so I am reluctant to tell the school any of this as I don't know how far they would want to work with me (they are very nurturing) as opposed to just waving bye bye. I have talked to them before about his lack of confidence and they have been very helpful but this is not quite the same.

mrsjay Mon 20-Jan-14 11:56:12

I am not saying it is normal that isn't what i m ean i just meant children will do it but i think your sons lying has escalated, I think it might tie in with his confidence and he maybe feeding off the negative attention too do you think the school will think badly of him

Thetallesttower Mon 20-Jan-14 11:57:14

Some of the things he's confessing to may not be that bad really- my children have typed naughty words into google because my searches revealed this, I wouldn't be surprised to find a child typing in 'sex' or 'boobs' into a search engine. Cheating at school- it depends what it was, did he sneak a look at someone else's spelling test, I know I did at that age. Stealing 10p a couple of years ago out of your purse is wrong, but one of mine steals sweets/cakes even though she has confessed now- again, I think it depends on the context.

In other words, I think seeing him as a 'different child' is perhaps a bit overdramatic and playing into his upset and distress. He is not a different child, children do tell tall tales, steal things and do wrong things, often in very minor ways and I think the fact that he feels bad and knows it was wrong is age-appropriate- I've found that these minor infractions have started to die off with both mine around 8, so by 10 they wouldn't tell lies or take things (or would really know it was very wrong).

I think that the problem here is that it's all a bit black and white, for both him and you. He's a human with shades of grey and shades of behaviour- he hasn't done anything so terrible that no other child has done it and I think you need to turn this around, praise him for telling you, listen very carefully to the confessions, and let him know that we all do little things which are wrong (have you never told a lie to get out of a social event, taken something from the stationary cupboard etc?) but that we can still be essentially good people who can correct our mistakes. It sounds like he thought he needed to be all good for you, and now he's going 'all bad'- this needs to stop and he needs reassurance I think.

greeneyes1978 Mon 20-Jan-14 11:57:46

I was this child, not the lying but being very anxious and needing to 'confess' to things I thought I had done wrong. It made me very stressed and I have had periods of being like this as an adult too.

I think you need to listen to him and not brush it aside. Have you thought about a worry box where he can put these thoughts before bed then every 2-3 days you can look at them together?

If it continues I would think about getting some help, perhaps from the GP or a book. I wouldn't say it is the lies so much - most children will lie to an extent, it is the fact he is punishing himself for them.

MaidOfStars Mon 20-Jan-14 12:00:19

Is it possible that this is actually an extension of the issue? Especially if he feels he gets positive attention from it? I'm not sure if he's lying about lying (IYSWIM) but he may be dragging up minor issues that you usually wouldn't hear about (and probably have no need to hear about - everyone has cheated at school at some point, taken a quick look at someone else's work) in order to "be good" and "be praised for honesty"?

Hoo Mon 20-Jan-14 12:01:29

Not sure what the school would think. It is fabulously supportive (which is why we put him there) but I am not sure how they would react, or even what they could do.

On the cheating - it is this that gets me the most. Ds has, in the past, struggled at lot at school but we thought he was doing so much better lately and he has moved into top groups for everything. However, I cannot be sure whether this is because he is understanding more or because he has just been cheating effectively and I really feel that I need to know where he actually is (mainly so he can access the level of education appropriate for him).

Thetallesttower Mon 20-Jan-14 12:02:25

Why would the school turn their back on him? Is the lying or the stealing really that dramatic or monumental?

I can't get a sense here of how bad things are, if he's stealing all the time, or constantly lying, or whether he's actually exaggerating these things and now 'confessing' because he's in 'bad child' mode.

Surely it would be more worrying if he was lying and stealing and thought it was ok. I would respond differently if he was 14, but at 9, boys are very little and some experimental 'bad' behaviour is normal amongst even the best behaved children in my experience. My brother shoplifted aged 12, was mortified and is the most honest person I know. I think you are putting two and two together here and making 5.

I would thank him for coming clean, and that you hope you can carry on being honest and open, and take him for some fun activities and boost his confidence. All this introspection and crying isn't helping anyone.

Could you try drawing a line under it with him. So you say something like "the past is the past what we are focusing on his behaviour from now onwards. There will be no action or consequences for past lies."

I would also take time to have a chat with him everyday on his own. DS1 is 10 and its surprising what I've found out if we sit and chat after DS2 has gone to bed. Sometimes we sit down together and read or even play games on my phone and then stuff gets mentioned in passing that is surprisingly important.

mrsjay Mon 20-Jan-14 12:03:52

you need to speak to the school imo I don't think you can sort some of this out yourself or with him, could you cut him some slack on the lying and ignore some of it even if you know he is telling a whopper

Thetallesttower Mon 20-Jan-14 12:05:12

Hoo again, I think this is an overdramatic response, he is unlikely to be able to have cheated so effectively he's in the wrong group. The most he could have done is copied a homework or something. He's in classes, the teachers see him writing and watch him doing maths.

I think you are in danger of believing his tall tales a little too much and encouraging a little too much self-flagellation. He can't have cheated his way into the wrong group aged 9 (at uni if they bought an essay off the internet perhaps!)

Hoo Mon 20-Jan-14 12:06:55

Thetallesttower - you are right, I think I am seeing it as more black and white than it is. It is how I feel, but I know I need to see things more from his perspective. We have said that telling us was a good thing (but that he does not need to confess everything he has done wrong ever).

greeneyes1978 - interesting suggestion. I am in the car with him on our own for about half an hour every week. I was thinking about telling him he can tell me things in this half hour - whatever he wants - but not for the rest of the week. Thanks for your perspective - he is an anxious soul and I do not want to make things worse.

Maid - I had wondered about that too but I seem to be becomming so mired in ds's confessions of dishonesty that I can't work out what is true and what is not.

Thetallesttower Mon 20-Jan-14 12:09:13

In terms of good books for this age group- LoveBombing by Oliver James is a good idea, bit whacky but the idea is to reconnect with your child the way they really are and start to have fun together- might a weekend of lovebombing work for you or your husband with him? 'How to talk so kids will listen' is also a classic about listening to your child properly.

Might just give you some ideas.

If you do go to the school, just lay out the facts very barely, if you go in exclaiming he's lying, cheating and telling tall tales, they will start to think there's a problem whereas he may be just doing things similar to lots of the other children, especially in a school where he has worried about his attainment.

Hoo Mon 20-Jan-14 12:10:32

On the stealing - it's not that dramatic - a toy that was left abandoned in the playground and some pencils (at least so far).

He is definitely in "bad child" mode. I have explained that good people do things that are wrong all of the time, however, they learn from them and move forward. Both dh and I have tried hard to avoid saying that ds is bad.

Mrsjay - what do you think the school can do? I'm not ruling out talking to them, but at the moment, I think if ds knew I had shared this with other people it would make things much worse.

Dahlen Mon 20-Jan-14 12:10:37

To a certain extent, lying and stealing are normal phases of child development. Generally speaking, it's what happens as a result of them that determines a child's ability to form boundaries and to fit in socially.

To me, it sounds as though his overriding need to confess is indicating that he feels insecure. The fact he has committed so many misdemeanours without discovery has unsettled him, shaking his perspective on the world. He is now wondering if he's got the world all wrong and is confused as to where he fits in.

Unfortunately, as these transgressions are in the past, they require careful handling. Punishment rarely works anyway, and retrospective punishment is especially tricky. However, your DS definitely needs consequences in order to process his feelings. They can be kind an they should be non-punitive, but they should be thought-provoking, preferably in a way that gets him to open up a conversation about it with you, so that any underlying worries or concerns will come out.

There is lots of reading you can do on this. Try not to worry too much, this is incredibly common and normal. But do listen to him and act on it.

Thetallesttower Mon 20-Jan-14 12:13:09

Hoo- the toy I would leave as it's not stealing to pick up an abandoned toy (though better to leave it there for it to be found), the pencils I would make him return, perhaps to a teacher 'in' on the event. One of mine took things from school and she had to take them back in again. But hardly a life of crime, really.

Hoo Mon 20-Jan-14 12:14:38

With regard to the stealing - we have taken the things "acquired" to a charity shop (as ds does not know who they belonged to). We have also suggested that if ds come across anyone who cannot find their own things, he should offer to share his or give them one of his pencils. He liked this as it enabled him to make reparations without humilitation but I am not sure it is enough.

KatnipEvergreen Mon 20-Jan-14 12:15:52

My first reaction is that he needs to know what is normal. He seems to think people are better than him, in this particular case that they don't tell lies or do bad things, and he does. He needs to know what his qualities are and have the negative traits put into context. Definitely agree with spending more time with him on his own and also, as it comes up in conversation, talking about yours or other people's behaviour and emphasising that other people are far from perfect.

Thetallesttower Mon 20-Jan-14 12:16:59

What do you mean, not enough?

I think it's time for you all to move on from this as a family. He's paid the price for taking a few pencils, it's not a big deal in an entire 9 years. Plan some fun stuff to do with him.

I think he does feel bad and you are making him feel bad. I'm not sure any more is required if he's made reparations really.

Hoo Mon 20-Jan-14 12:17:09

It's not a life of crime, I agree. Each thing on its own would have been OK - I am sure I would have been able to keep it in perspective and deal with it. It is the volume of transgressions all at once that has left me feeling slightly bewildered. Hand-on heart, I would never, ever have thought that ds would have done these things.

When I say the toy was abandoned, I think I mean that its owner was not immediately apparent but was probably around.

spindlyspindler Mon 20-Jan-14 12:17:13

None of this sounds desperately unusual to me, to be honest.

Tall tales - any child with imagination does this, I can remember exaggerating wildly as a kid just because I got carried away with my own narrative flow.

Stealing from my purse, stealing at school - I didn't do this myself, I was too afraid of the consequences. I did steal biscuits and chocolate at home, though. But it is amazing how many adults will admit to thing like shoplifting when they were kids so I'm not sure I'd say it's abnormal, although obviously you really need to make him understand that stealing is unacceptable.

Trying to look at sex on the internet - oh, come on, of course he has. We didn't have the internet when I was a kid but I certainly flicked surreptitiously through my parents' books for dirty bits and you can bet we'd have used the internet to find out about sex f we'd had it.

And out right lies - Again, you need to make him understand that this is unacceptable, but it's really not that unusual.

If he tends towards being a drama queen, then he's probably starting to think that being the star of a massive redemption narrative might be a good way of getting attention.

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