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My eight year-old son just spent a week at cub scout day camp (home in the evenings), after which he has been lying extensively. He has had problems with extensive lying before, but had mostly gotten out of the habit. He has also backslid before after other week-long social events, such as a family reunion or when his aunt watched him during the day while his sister was in the hospital.

What causes the backsliding behavior, and how can we mitigate it?

  • The title hints that you suspect it has something to do with social events. Can you clarify? How about saying "I'm going to check that. Now before I do, do you want to change what you just said?" – Paul Johnson Jun 29 '15 at 17:42
  • I mean events where he's mostly around other kids, not his sisters, for several hours for multiple days. This question isn't about how to stop the lying. We have quite a bit of experience doing that at this point. It just takes several weeks to break the habit, then these events seem to reset him back to zero. I'd like to prevent the reset, or at least understand why it happens. – Karl Bielefeldt Jun 29 '15 at 17:58
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I think a big cause of this would be something along the lines of peer pressure, or influence in this case. Just a week of influence can take a toll for months. I think a good idea is to see who he is hanging around at school or these camps. If a few of them are known to lie then (like the sponge kids are) he too with start this habit.

If that is the case then try to talk with him about getting away from those kids. It may be hard for him to do, but make sure he knows why you want him to do it.

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Could it be that he's being picked on, bullied, or abused by someone at these events (or picking on someone else) and lying to cover it up? And then lying about everything else, because it trips him back into the habit?

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  • I doubt it in this case. I think that would make him very secretive about the whole thing, but it's a good thought. – Karl Bielefeldt Jul 2 '15 at 12:26
  • Okay, good. :-) – MissMonicaE Jul 2 '15 at 15:00
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I think a need of his is not getting met and it could be one of two things. If he is saying white lies as to not hurt yours or other people, then this may be a sign that he is becoming more empathetic this not necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, if the lies have more to do with deceiving for his own personal gain or entertainment, then it might be more about control. The underlying reason must be uncovered and then addressed in an appropriate manner.

When a child goes into a new environment, that child must negotiate a new set of rules and so it is normal for old behaviors to surface upon return if the root cause was never addressed.

Sorry can't provide more details without more information regarding the nature of the lying.

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  • It's the personal gain kind of lying. For example, he stole a stack of iron from his cousin in minecraft (which requires a significant investment of time to gather) and lied about where he got it. He knows that results in a loss of minecraft privileges, because he has done it before, but was at least honest about it last time. – Karl Bielefeldt Jul 2 '15 at 12:21
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    If the lying is about things of that nature in which he is doing something to gain advantage at some activity, then he may be feeling that he needs to be better at things. Trick is to guide him to become better in a more productive manner. Getting him to invest his time to acquire on his own and then recognizing his persistence may achieve that. – integer-j Jul 2 '15 at 15:22
  • It's broader than that; this was just one example, but that's a good insight. In fact, we are already working on it. – Karl Bielefeldt Jul 2 '15 at 15:35

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