Why do they keep lying?
If you are in our book club you will know we are now in Chapter Two of my book, The Call to Love. In this chapter I share about what it was like the first year that we began our modern family. One of the issues that I bring up briefly is stealing. It seems that for many foster & adoptive kids stealing is an issue so I thought it might be a good one to address in this week's blog.
It is aggravating. There is no reason to lie, cheat and steal anymore. They are in a safe home with everything they could want or need! Maybe you even picked them up from the hospital and they have seemingly always had everything they could want or need. And yet, they continue to break your trust, and your heart.
I'm going to challenge you to try to take a deep breath and a step back and instead of taking this personally, to attempt to see these actions as survival strategies. These are ways to meet needs. All day long you and I behave in certain ways to meet our needs. You keep your mouth shut at work, because you need your paycheck. You stop at the red light because you don't want an accident or ticket. You do the dishes because you want a clean house tomorrow.
In the same way your child has needs. They feel very real in the moment. He didn't wake up in the morning and think, "How can I get in trouble today?" She is most likely tired of getting in trouble for the same things over and over. And yet, they are still doing it? Why?
Your child has a voice in their head saying, I have to meet this need, and this is the only way to do it. I have to have this money because I need cash to get food or toys. I have to steal this bag of chips because it would taste so good. For some children, offering them consequences as a result of their choices will eventually decrease this behavior. They may in fact stop manipulating and lying as a way to avoid the pain that comes from consequences. But will they have learned how to meet their needs? Will their relationship with you be stronger? Will they learn to love and trust others?
So, if grounding or getting arrested are not working at decreasing the behavior (or creating loving and trusting adults). You may need to look deeper than the stealing and lying and look at the hole they are trying to fill. What is going on in their heart? You may be able to do this work yourself, but more likely, you may need the help of a trained therapist.
Consider that although their are physically safe and provided for... their body may not feel it. They may still feel the desperate need for protection and safety, for food and clothing, for acceptance and love. They may still have fears below the surface that your won't meet all their needs and they have to care for themselves - so stealing is safer. They may still have fears that if they told you the truth, it would make you angry - so lying is safer. Their impulses may be so strong in the moment they are not able to control them, and they need to learn some skills to better help manage their thoughts and behaviors.
It may take years of therapeutic parenting for them to truly feel attached and at home with you; so that they can begin to trust that you have their best interest at heart. That you will give them everything they need, but not everything they want. And that is love.
If you have further questions about how to help your child who is lying, stealing or manipulating, feel free to schedule a session and we can dive into it a little deeper.