My 5 year old son has began lying, throwing tantrums and bullying...please help before it too late...

Emily - posted on 02/11/2013 ( 2 moms have responded )

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From the time my son could talk and make sense of telling the truth as opposed to a lie, I have explained to him how important it is to tell the truth. Now, within the past 3-4 months he has been lying multiple times throughout the day. Lying anywhere from putting a toy away or eating his food to lying at school and ending up in the principals office (I haven't been able to talk with the teacher yet, but its something about playing with blocks and he said he didn't, I think he didn't put them away...) When I spoke with him about going to the principal, he insisted he was not playing with the blocks and he told me the principal said he would kick him out of school if he lied again. I understand the need of him going to the office if he is lying in class, but I was pretty taken aback that the principal would tell a just 5 year old (his bday was January 18th) that one more time and he would be kicked out. So I began an email to the principal to set an appointment so we could talk about what happened and I wanted to confront him with my didn't rn of telling such a young child that they would be kicked out of school when he had never been in the office prior to this occasion. As I was emailing him, my son asked what I was doing. My son then begged me not to say anything about being kicked out. This raised my curiosity and I asked if the principal really said that and my son said no, he didnt (I had asked him many times over the weekend what exactly the principal had said to him...even asking "are you SURE he said he would kick you out of school". My son then told me he was sorry..I asked him what the definition of sorry is (something I have done pretty much everytime he says sorry after timeout), after he told me the definition, I told him he wasn't sorry because he keeps lying. I also explained that when he lies, it hurts me inside and makes me not believe him. It hurts me to tell him things like this, but I am hoping that if he knows it hurts me, he might stop...
I have done all that I know what to do. I have began putting him in his room where he has to stay on his bed for his timeout (there are no toys or t.v. in his room, he has a playroom), I have taken toys away, taken t.v. and games away and I continually talk to him about lying. In the past, he has lied about being sick at school & came home. When this one happened I told him the story of the boy who cried wolf and he had to lay down and couldn't play for the rest of the day. He kept asking if school was over and when I'd say no, he'd tell me ok, he still didn't feel good so one of the times I said yes and he said he could tell because his tummy felt better...school wasn't really over and I replied with school wasn't really over and I could take him back if he feels better. I also talked to him about how I lied to him and how did it make him feel.?. This last one with the principal really hurt me inside though. I am at whits end. Should I take him to a counselor? Is that something they could help with? Is something going on in his world that is making him think he has to lie?
Another thing I have recently noticed over the weekend is he is begining to show signs of bullying, and that is definately NOT ok!!!!! We were at a friends child's birthday party and he was picking on a little boy the entire time. I began really watching him and following him around at a distance that he did not notice & he was not letting this boy in the playhouses, jumping on him in the bounce house and then when he got into trouble for that, I heard him tell the boy, "I'm watching you." To me, that was a threat to try to scare or intimidate the boy, and this boy was a good 2 years older than my son. We ended up leaving early because of his behavior.
My son was not raised to be like this. Both my husband and I, and the rest of my family are very loving towards him. I talk with him about whatever he wants to talk about every night in bed, trying to keep communication completely open with him. In these conversations I always throw in subjects like showing respect, lying and even about his private parts and how no one should touch them except him or mommy and daddy if we are bathing him or wiping him after he goes potty... He's very loving, always telling us he loves us, giving hugs and kisses throughout the day. In the past 3 months, he has began throwing temper tantrums and screaming when he doesn't get what he wants. He has also become very very attached to me. Some days when I drop him off at school he cries and some of those times the teacher has to hold him while he tries to get away and beg me to let him come to work with me. He now says he doesn't like school and cries to stay home There is nothing significant that has changed in his life...or, nothing except for starting school in September (he had previously been in preschool roughly the same hours). He started an early school program for kids that were too young to start kindergarten. Its called transitional kindergarten and they go to school the full day like the other grades, but he did not have a problem with going to school and me leaving him until a few months ago.
I know this is a lot of information and a lot of different behavioral problems and after writing it out, it really worries me that all of these negative problems would point to something specific. I would really appreciate any suggestions. Please let me know if these problems sound like something a child counselor or psychologist could help with. He has always been such a well mannered child and things have changed so suddenly that it has left me not knowing which way to turn for help...please help!!!!!

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I know it sounds like a lot of negativity when you write it all out, but in truth, most of what you have described is very common, healthy behavior for a 5 year old.

Of course you still need to address it, but don't worry too much--you sound like you are doing great parenting him.

Let's start with the lying. The two biggest reasons school aged kids lie are 1) Because they are afraid of getting in trouble, and 2) to test their limits and see how in-tune you are with them, and what they can get away with.
Lying to get out of trouble is human nature--Think about telling someone you were late because of traffic, when in reality you couldn't decide what to wear, or got distracted on fb, or just over slept. Make sure he understands that it is okay to make mistakes and even to get into trouble sometimes, but that lying only makes it worse. When you catch him in this kind of lie, have separate and distinct disciplines for each offense. For example, if he made a mess in the kitchen then lied about it, have him clean up the kitchen as the discipline for the mess. This is better than just sending him to his room or ordering an apology because it teaches him the consequence of making a mess--if there is a mess, SOMEONE has to clean it up, and because he made the mess, it should be him. Then tell him that you would have helped him clean it up if he hadn't lied, but because he lied, he needs to do it himself. That will show him how lying makes things worse.

If he is testing his limits, trying to see what he can get away with, what he can get you to believe, make sure you discipline him EVERY TIME you catch him in a lie. Also, be very watchful so that he learns that you can easily tell when he is lying. Eventually, he will move beyond this stage, but you have to teach him that lying is not a good way to interact with people.

You can also read more books about lying to him.
Sam Tells Stories by Thierry Roberecht and A Big Fat Enormous Lie by Marjorie W. Sharmat are great books about how lies catch up to us. Also try this activity with him:
Get a large clear jar or vase and fill it with water. Next drop a quarter into the water and let it float to the bottom. This represents the first lie. Next, let your son drop pennies into the water to try to cover up the first lie. The pennies represent additional lies that have to be told to cover up the first lie. It is VERY difficult to cover a lie, you have to keep lying and keep lying until eventually, there is very little room for truth in your life, and that is very stressful, because you have to keep track of all of those lies, and lies are harder to remember than truths.

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Emily - posted on 02/11/2013

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Thank you so much for your input and suggestions! I will definitely be purchasing some books..he loves to read with me!! I am so worried about the lying and you put me at ease with it and gave great suggestions on addressing the problem. Thank you!!!!!

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