You’ve tried praising honesty and even rewarded the truth, but most of the time, your child still isn’t honest.
Chances are, this will happen. Are lying and manipulation frustrating? Absolutely, and we get it. But telling the truth is scary for many kids, and the best thing you can do is not react. As the late Dr. Karyn Purvis once said, “You don’t go after a mosquito with an elephant gun,” meaning our response should be at the level of the behavior.
So, what does that look like? Avoid lectures or long-term consequences, as they’re not going to change the behavior, no matter how much we want them to. Instead, our best response is short and calm. Try, “That makes me sad that you are choosing to lie, and we will have to lose the iPad until the end of the day. You can try again tomorrow.” Then leave it at that. No more and no less. Could a meltdown happen? Yes. Learning structure is hard.
So how do we respond to the meltdown?
Firstly, remain calm. If you become escalated, chances are your child will escalate too. Secondly, don’t engage in an argument. Your word matters, and you mean what you say. You don’t have to argue for your word to mean something. During meltdowns, I often say, “I know that decision frustrates you, and I am sorry. However, I will not be changing my mind. If you would like to use your time to be mad and share your thoughts, you can do so respectfully, but know that my answer will be the same.”
As yelling and screaming continues, remain present and limit your words. That level of response is your first sign they are operating in their downstairs brain, meaning they are in survival mode and everything you are saying is going in one ear and out the other.
In these moments, the best thing you can do is remain near and give them time. Once they are calm, then you can go in and process but not until they are calm. And since large outbursts expend large amounts of energy that leave kids exhausted, I recommend getting them a snack and some water to empower their bodies before processing challenging behaviors.
My encouragement to you is to not give up. Surround yourself with a village of like-minded people who will support you in frustrating moments. Lying and manipulation are frustrating behaviors, AND there is hope. Hope to change how their brain is wired. Hope for a better tomorrow.