My partner and kids have had issues in the past with previous partners/father figures, being abusive, selfish etc., which has left a mental scar on the 3 of them. I have not pried into it yet, as they prefer to keep it in the past and deal with it together (without me) to avoid dredging up too much - they can deal with the problem without dredging it all up and having to explain it all just to deal with the current issue.
The current issue that has been brought up occurred last night; it started with simply saying goodnight. He is 8, and very much ruled by his emotions, and spends little time/effort thinking. Mum had asked if he had said goodnight - he said yes (which he hadn't). I then came in to talk to him about it (about 5 minutes later) and his immediate response to seeing me, before I even said anything was to say goodnight.
The issue here that I was attempting to address is "thinking before speaking". He often immediately gives an answer without any thought, and it is often wrong, so I decided to just work through it with him. The conversation went a little like this:
- Me: I pointed out that he had told mum he had said goodnight, but then realised he hadn't when he saw me - why was that?
- Son: I don't know.
- Me: Well, spend a bit of time - think it through
- Son: [thinking] ...
- Me: What are you doing right now?
- Son: [Getting upset] I don't know!
- Me: You're thinking aren't you, trying to think about why he had given mum an answer straight away.
- Son: [Look of frustration and agitation]
- Me: It's ok, I'm just trying to help. Let's take a breath and try and relax.
- Son: I'd just like to be left alone.
At that point I decided to leave it, he was getting frustrated and confused which was only going to make him less cooperative. I then spoke to mum about it in hopes of getting her help to sort it out. After 15 minutes of letting him calm down, we came in and spoke to him again.
After some calm discussion, he admitted that he preferred to lie to tell us what he thought we wanted to hear (I'm a good boy, I've done all my jobs, I've made an effort like you asked) so that we wouldn't get upset. We then reminded him that we prefer the truth, we prefer he ask for help, rather than being lied to (we have spoken about this before).
Eventually the conversation came back around to the previous interaction about the "thinking", and why that was making him upset - he admitted that I reminded him of the previous father figure because of the "yelling" (which we have all spoken about and have made efforts to overcome through "taking 10", or coming back and talking about why we yelled, and I hadn't yelled or got upset all week), and because I "looked like him".
At this point mum had to leave the conversation, because she had spoken to him about this previously at which point he admitted hew did like me very much, certainly compared to previous father figures.
I'm at a loss of what to believe, I don't know what the truth is, and I don't know how to find out in order to address/fix any issues that are there.