Liar, liar

ARG! What do you do as a parent to get your child to stop lying?  I have tried every punishment between putting Tabasco in her mouth, sending to her room, grounding her from electronics etc. I have calmly explained how lying damages relationships and took a piece of paper and showed her that each lie tears a piece out of trust and it is hard to mend.  I have made it safe for her to tell the truth and told her I wouldn’t punish her if she told me the truth but she still lies.  Why?

I will not pretend to be able to see in to her 10 year-old brain.  However, I have spent the last five years reading about psychology, various disorders and emotional intelligence to try to understand other people in my life.  In particular, my mother struggles with the truth.  The funny thing is she doesn’t necessarily know she is “lying”.  I have discovered that she has a carefully constructed imaginary world inside her head that she conforms to and the real world seems to be just a stage in which she acts it out.  She sees things through this construct in a way that I don’t understand.  When she says she has no idea what happened to my Harry Potter boxset with an innocent smile, the fact is that she probably was in another world thinking she was righting a terrible wrong against dark magic when it slipped into the trash can while she was babysitting.  She doesn’t think she is lying, she is just doing the “right” thing protecting my kids from magic.

I can see this type of thinking in my daughter as well.  She runs home crying that a child at the park has been mean to her and doesn’t want to play with her.  She seems clueless as to why until I find out the whole story from a neighbor.  She is oblivious that my squirting everyone with water and not stopping when they asked her to would possibly be the reason they are upset with her.  In her imaginary world, she was just having a bit of fun.  Not even with a lot of help from me can she make the connection that her actions were the cause of the other children’s rejection of her.

Some of these issues can and should be dealt with by a psychologist who can help her see that the rest of the world does not conform to her imagination.  However, some of it, I believe, is because both my mother and my daughter are Type 6s on the Enneagram.  According to Beatrice Chestnut in “The Complete Enneagram”  Sixes struggle with both projection and splitting.

The primary defense mechanism of Type Six is projection.  As in the case of introjection, when someone engages in projection as a psychological protection, the psychological boundary between the self and the world disappears.  When Sixes “project” they unconsciously disown something originating inside themselves and “project it onto” or experience it as belonging to, someone on the outside.”  She goes on to say, “In individual psyches, and, more specifically, within the psychology of a Type Six individual, a person can use splitting to clearly demarcate who is good and who is bad as a way of feeling less fear – they locate the “badness” or the source of fear, in a clear way so as to more easily cope with it.”

Type Sixes need to feel safe and secure and it is natural for them to use their imagination to create that safety for them, especially if they are the ones who are causing the issues that make them fearful.  Both Borderline Personality Disorder and Schizophrenia are common among Sixes due to this struggle with reality.  That doesn’t mean all Type Sixes have serious issues or that all Sixes lie.  Just like there are variations within all types and all types have levels of health that fluctuate, Type Sixes just have certain struggles that are unique to them, namely fear.

So, as I march on as a mother, and a Perfectionist Type One, I work carefully with my daughter to bring her back to reality and explain how she needs to try to have empathy toward others instead of getting lost in her own world and perceptions.  However, I am careful to provide safe environments for her to tell me the truth and explore what she is thinking and why so that she allows me to work with her.  Because of my understanding of the Enneagram, I know that if I become authoritarian with her and rock her security boat she will just go deeper into her fears.  There is nothing easy about parenting, but parenting with knowledge can ensure that we are not making matters worse for ourselves or our children.

My daughter and me “a few” years ago

Hit or Miss

The funny thing about parenting, it seems, is that the less children you have the better you feel you are at parenting.  When I just had one child, I felt I was a great mom.  This was mostly because he was a very easy, compliant child.  It takes more children, or less compliant children, to really test our abilities and bring out the worst in us.  I don’t feel that I am a terrible mom, but I also see so many areas of improvement now that I have two teen-aged sons and one pre-teen daughter.

My oldest is in no way perfect, but he just has struggled less than the other two.  He has a logical mind, like myself, so there is no drama when we have to sort through things.  He is sensitive and easily offended by my overly direct way of speaking, but he forgives and reconnects well after he has mulled it over.

My middle son has a sweet and easy-going personality, but he has had a lot more issues.  When he was born he developed torticollis in his neck due to a traumatic childbirth.  He spent 6 months in physical therapy to make sure he was not deformed.  Due to this therapy and over-attention to his neck, he did not go through the normal stages of development as a baby.  He went from sitting to walking and skipped the crawling stage.  Although he walked and talked on time, skipping the crawling stage was actually detrimental to him in the long term.  When he was older I noticed all kinds of issues with his auditory processing, his resistance to change, his handwriting was poor, etc.  I went to a homeschool conference and sat in a class with a lady that worked with children with development issues and was overwhelmed that all the issues I was seeing with my son could have been caused simply because he didn’t learn to crawl.   The process of movement as a baby develops the connection between the right and the left side of the brain and when that is hindered in some way, it causes a great deal of problems in growth.  So, my son went through 9 months of neuro-developmental therapy as well as participated in The Listening Program therapy to help connect the areas of his brain.  Whew!  Who knew hitting those milestones was so important?  Why aren’t parents more informed about the importance of these things beyond comparing our children to other people’s children?

That isn’t the end of it, though. I was not done realizing how hard it was to parent yet.  My baby girl has been delayed from the get-go.  She walked late, talked late and overall just didn’t develop along the same lines as everyone else.  My boys were over the 99th percentile on height and she has steadily been at the 10th percentile.  Long story short we discovered she was gluten intolerance and when we took her off gluten she made amazing progress both physically and cognitively.  However, she still struggles with being developmentally behind.  Recently we had her school evaluate her for an education plan and they determined that she has issues both emotionally and behaviorally that are not academic, but likely mental-health related.  As a perfectionistic type parent, it seems ironic for me to have children that struggle so much in just getting a good start in life.  So, over the next year we will be having her analyzed by psychologists to determine the extent of her struggles and the best plan of action.  She is only 10, so I am hopeful that she will gain tools to negotiate life early, but she will always struggle with school and with relating to people in a healthy way.

However, it isn’t about being a good parent or not.  It is about being a dedicated parent.  I have been dedicated to getting my children the help they need in whichever way they need it.  Whether it is acupuncture for my oldest for adrenal issues, a chiropractor for my middle for spine deformities, or speech therapy for my youngest so we an understand what she is saying.  We do what we have to do because we love them and because, they are ours.  They have the issues they have because we genetically and psychologically transferred our heritage down to them and we owe it to them to help them succeed and live a healthy life.  It isn’t easy, but it isn’t about fail or succeed.  It is about the long-term dedication to someone other than ourselves.  We set that example for them so they will continue that example for their own children, come what may.

Same Parents, Very Different Children

Children are like seeds.  We think we know what we’re getting when they start out but sometimes the packet we have is unlabeled and we have no idea what the final outcome will be.  Before we have children we most likely envisioned that they were going to be like.  Although we expected the terrible twos and to fight over bedtime and what clothes they wear we probably did not spend a lot of time wondering what their personalities would be like.  But it is the personality of a child that makes them special and different from everyone else.

I have three children and they could not be more different from each other. Their face structures, their body types, as well as their personalities are all very unique.

2015 Climbing Rose Photography

My oldest is a Type 1 like myself.  From the time he was born he had a sensitive nervous system and was always concerned about other people.  At birthday parties he would take his time to open each gift slowly to enjoy it and would become overwhelmed by too many people.  When he was two he would line up his matchbox cars end to end around the dining room rug in perfect lines.  As a first grader in school he was overwhelmed by tags and the lines in socks and how they irritated him so we had to remove tags and buy special socks to avoid meltdowns.  Now that he is older he can sit and work on a task that would be tedious and boring to so many other people and is very good at art and design work.  However, because anger is something Type 1s store a great deal of, he also struggles with exploding when things are not going how he wants them to.  Not all Type 1s are the same or like the same things but my son exhibits a lot of Type 1 qualities like needing order, working hard to accomplish tasks perfectly, being critical and being very particular about his surroundings.

Type 1, called the Reformer by The Enneagram Institute, wants to improve the world around them either in small ways or in great big ways.  They have a very annoying and loud inner critic that is always telling them they (or other people) could have done it better.  It is very hard for a Type 1 to receive criticism from others because they already hear it all day, every day inside themselves.  There is nothing that will bring out the hidden anger in a Type 1 like telling them they’ve done something wrong, which makes a Type 1 parenting a Type 1 a huge challenge.

My middle son has been a joy to be around since he was small.  He was affectionate and cuddly as a toddler and always very happy.  He didn’t make a big fuss or throw a lot of tantrums.  He did not concern himself with what he was wearing and was generally not sensitive about anything.  He was like a bull in a China shop stomping around because he was never very aware of his surroundings.  As he has grown it has been really hard for him to motivate himself to do something, but when he does he is fully determined and on task.  He loves to cook and when we homeschooled he would go make lunch for the rest of us.  However, his main issue is with arguing.  It is my belief that my middle son is a Type 9, but struggles with a Type 8 wing which means that although he is relaxed and wants to go with the flow of other people he also has a fire to push back against people.  He wants to take action but lacks the drive to do so most of the time.

Type 9s tend to get along and not rock the boat and struggle with motivation until they find someone else to light their fire, but Type 8s need more personal freedom to take charge so having an 8 wing as a Type 9 causes my middle son to reject the opinions of others but not take charge.  Anger is the underlying issue with Types 8, 9 and 1 but the 9s do not hardly ever show it and by repressing it.  Later in life this can manifest in health issues or other problems.  As a parent of a Type 9 it is important to instill self-care and communication habits so they can work through their repressed feelings.

My youngest, and only girl, has an amazing imagination.  Everyone who knows her can tell you about her creativity and the stories she comes up with in her mind.  She has always been very stubborn.  When she was training to go from a crib to a bed I stopped counting after putting her back in her new bed 35 times.  I finally had to just sit at the door and let her sleep wherever she wanted on the floor because she was not about to stay in her bed.  She was the child that when you said “No” she would just try harder so I learned to redirect and offer more appealing solutions to her.  Even now at school she will go toe to toe with anyone who confronts her, but otherwise she is sweet and friendly.  Although I hesitate to give her a type because it is hard to type children and they do grow into their personalities over time, I believe she is most-likely a Type 6.

6s use their imagination to feed their world.  Most 6s have issues with anxiety and fear because their imagination takes them away. 6s need security, need to know that what they are relying on have the strength to support them.  They tend to join groups or be involved in organizations that they can become a part of and feel the security of the structure involved.  I think that is why they can buck against authority so hard, which I have seen in other 6s.  They need to know that it is strong enough and reliable enough to support them and their fears.  If so, my daughter does a great job testing the waters of my strength and resolve as her mother.  Because my mother is a Type 6, I know that it is not spite, but sincere concern for her safety that causes this, so I try to relieve her concerns rather than be angry about her resistance.

Knowing the Enneagram and being able to see the uniqueness of my children in both their strengths and their struggles has helped me enjoy parenting and marvel at how well they display their personality.  It has also helped me see the warning signs of their natural weaknesses and help them be more self-aware and try to work with it in a constructive way.  I have not figured it all out and struggle myself. . . everyday.  Being a Type 1, I want to figure it all out and make it work perfectly and  but I know that isn’t possible.  Knowing and understanding my need for order and perfection has helped me fight against my need to control my children and allow them to flourish and grow in the pot of their own types.  Looking back at them as young children it is easy to see that they have been revealing their inner selves to me from the beginning.