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How to Handle Lying Incident

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: We have a wonderful 13-year-old son. He is on the honor roll in all honors courses. He is well-liked by friends, family, other parents, coaches, and teachers. He's also very stubborn and used to lie about the smallest things. Today, during soccer practice he yelled "you suck" to a fellow player. His father heard him loud and clear, but when my husband questioned him on this, my son denied saying it. My husband, with my support, told our son that until his memory returns he will not return to the soccer field. My son did not take responsibility and has now missed a soccer practice. Help! How should we be handling this "lying" phase?

A: I like the way you handled this problem except for "until his memory returns." The consequence was immediate and logical. I would suggest though that the punishment be tied to the rude language rather than not admitting to it. It's very difficult for any of us, especially an adolescent, to admit we were wrong. At this point, I suggest your husband tell your son in calm manner something like this: "You were grounded from soccer for your rude language. Although I was disappointed at your rudeness, I was much more disappointed that you didn't accept responsibility. You may return to soccer in _____. If you choose to either put down another person or lie, I will have no choice but to _______________ " (e.g. withdraw you from the team, ground you for three weeks). Refuse to argue with your son about whether he did or didn't lie. He will probably say that you're unfair. Let him. Teens -- all of them -- have the task of trying to outwit and outthink everyone and distract the adults from the main issue!

So often we (and I mean me, too) back children into a corner by asking "did you do this?" when we know very well what they did. I've learned to say things like, "I heard you yell 'you suck,' on the field today. That kind of language is not acceptable. You have the choice of apologizing to ________ or missing the next two games. What's your choice?" Then stick to it.

Sometimes we have to go on circumstantial evidence. I generally believe the child unless the evidence or my own ears and eyes tell me differently.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.

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