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.