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Living with Children: Moderate consequences might squelch lying

| Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, 9:32 p.m.

Question: Our 7-year-old has always been a great, respectful, funny little kid. Recently he started lying and became a little sneaky.

We punished him by taking his television privilege away and making him write apology letters and apologizing over the phone to everyone he has lied to. We have explained to him that he is losing our trust and that we do not want to see this kind of behavior continue.

Is this “typical” behavior for a 7-year-old boy? What is an appropriate punishment and, more importantly, how can we get him to stop?

Answer: You're doing the right thing, as in having him apologize to those he's lied to and suffer other moderate consequences.

It is not unusual for children to experiment with lying, usually in the form of fabricating stories that haven't happened. More often than not, the child in question is otherwise well-adjusted, like your son. Children do odd things, some more than others.

It's the nature of the species. This is most likely just a passing phase, something he's experimenting with, seeing if he can fool people, and what sort of reaction he gets when the lie is discovered.

Along those lines, it may be that he has discovered that this gets a rise out of you. In that event, this little glitch might continue for a while no matter what you do.

The bigger a deal you make of it, the worse it's likely to get. The important thing is to be nonchalant about this as opposed to bent out of shape. Attitude is everything.

Q: We have an adult child who doesn't want to grow up. She quit college after two years and moved across the country.

As we anticipated, she's having difficulty supporting herself. In fact, she doesn't have a job and seems to have no real motivation to get one. Her mother, my husband's ex-wife, thinks we should be sending her a monthly allowance to help with rent and food.

We have kept her on our health insurance, but feel that sending her money would equate to approving her poor choices and unacceptable lifestyle. What would you do?

A: I'd do what you're doing. Legally, you are under no obligation to support an adult child, and supporting an irresponsible adult child will only further delay her maturity. It may be what she wants, and it is surely going to make her life temporarily more comfortable, but it is not what she needs, not in the long run. Her mother is obviously addicted to enabling, and the girl is obviously addicted to entitlements. This is a toxic arrangement, one that you should not participate in. She isn't going to learn how to deal with life's realities if you make it possible for her to be both irresponsible and care-free.

Decisions of this sort are riddled with guilt and self-doubt. They are the toughest of parental decisions, in fact. Hang tough, and remember that life's most valuable lessons are learned the hard way.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions on his web site at www.rosemond.com.

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