Several months ago, Boyfriend and I dropped the kids off with their mother on a typical Sunday night and went about our business of running errands. While we were in the local home improvement store, his phone rang. It was his ex. She was furious because Drake told her that we left him alone at the ski resort we’d been to and he was assaulted by a gang of teenagers. She wanted to know why we would abandon the children in such a large place and why he didn’t tell her about the horrendous incident.
Boyfriend was flabbergasted. We hadn’t left the kids alone. They were never out of our sight for more than a few seconds. As he explained to her, we start together and we end together. Every slope, every time.
She persisted. But he insisted: Drake was lying.
Instead of volleying the accusations, Boyfriend switched gears and asked her a question: “What happened before he told you this story?”
His ex explained that the boys bounded into the house like animals. They were loud and proud and wanted to brag about their increased snowboarding skills. When she told them they needed to calm down, the tears started started flowing and the story spewed forth.
This was an easy one for me to decode because I remembered the game from my own childhood. I vividly recall feigning injury to avoid punishment. What mother can resist the tears of her child?
For Drake, his story came with a bonus. He was able to deflect Mom’s disappointment away from himself while presenting her with a new target for her irritation: a villain she loved to hate. Drake was no longer causing a disruption in the house. Instead, he was the innocent victim of poor parenting. Drake is a smart kid. He’s successfully used this tactic several times.
Kids with divorced parents have also been known to say things simply to boost a parent’s ego. Little lies such as “I don’t like him/her” or “I don’t like it there” can accomplish that pretty easily. Divorced parents take great pride in being better and preferred, and their kids know it.
Yet another motive (and you might disagree) is to arouse conflict between Mom and Dad. As backwards as it sounds, parental conflict can be a comfort to children. For one thing, it means that Mom and Dad are passionately engaged. And for kids who long for their parents to be “together”, arguments might be preferable to cold distance (if you care enough to fight about it, it means you care, period.). Fighting can also be reminiscent of the marriage and therefore it’s familiar and somewhat soothing.
The psychology behind this stuff is rather fascinating. Parents and stepparents, realize this can be a natural part of the process for kids. Recognize the internals struggles that drive their deceit. Help to guide them and calm their anxieties. Communicate love and acceptance even when you’re angry…
…and don’t be so quick to fall for all that BS 😉