Child Caring

NaNa wants a truthful granddaughter

My grand daughter is six years old and her lying has become habitual. My heart breaks for her, I know she does it for attention but I am not sure how to handle it.

Her mom is not in her life much, she is a recovering addict (at least that is what she has us believing). She left her children 8 months ago. My granddaughter whom I practically raised is now living with her dad, her 15- year- old brother and her 95- year- old great grandmother. She doesn't get a lot of attention there due to her dad works full time, her 15 year old brother does 15 year old activities and her great grandmother is too old.

She sees my daughter 2 times a week with supervised visits and I usually get her on weekends. The weekends are not like they used to be. It used to be fun- filled and I looked so forward to my time with her. But now it is a constant battle in trying to have conversation with her knowing that most of what comes out of her mouth is a lie. I try not to get angry, usually I just explain to her that what she is saying could not be the truth and when she wants to tell me the truth I am ready to listen. She never ever gives in so we go on to the next subject. I don't punish her at all, but I do call her out on her lies. She gets very frustrated and insists that it is the truth.

She has no friends in her father's neighborhood, and she goes to a magnet school that is 30 minutes away, so she is usually home alone, playing by herself. Even as I write this, my heart breaks for her. I have read that lying at this age is typical, but I know there is a much more emotional component to it and I, as the grandparent, do not know what to do. I have asked her father to take her to a therapist, I told him I would even do it, but he feels there is nothing wrong and that his older son was in a similar situation when he was my grand daughter's age with his other ex and found therapy was a waste of time. I know why it is so frequent due to my baby's situation, but I just don't know what to do to help in anyway in the little amount of time I get to spend with her. What used to be a loving, outgoing, joy, has turned into a depressed, deceitful, angry little girl. I would elaborate more but the tears stream down my face and I really can't see much of what I am writing, so any helpful advice would be greatly appreciated.

From: A loving Na Na, Springfield, MA

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Dear Loving NaNa,
This is not the time to be self-righteous or stern. If you're right -- that she's doing this for attention -- that speaks to how deep her need is for you to be the warm, loving oasis that she has come to rely on.
Sometimes kids at this age who lie have poor role modes (not to point fingers, but she does live with a teenager), or they just don't know how to stop without losing face. (Lying can sometimes be a sign of an emerging mental illness but there will typically be a constellation of problems.) Your granddaughter needs to see you as understanding and approachable so she can conclude, "Even if I do/say something really stupid, nana might understand. I can be truthful."
That does not mean you should excuse or ignore the lying, but I suggest you handle it a little differently, starting with your attitude about it. It sounds like you now have to steel yourself for her weekends with you so that by the time she arrives, you're probably already emotionally spent, anticipating an unpleasant time. Instead, consider that this is the same little girl you have always loved and who needs your help to get through a difficult stage. My hope is that with love, patience and a little humor, you can do it. Here's a plan:
Next time she's coming, plan an activity you know she will enjoy and look forward to. Make it special. It doesn't need a reason. Let her know about it beforehand but plan it for the second day of the visit.
On the first day of the visit, look at some photos together from when she was little. It's a way to remind her of your bond and how special it is.
Let some time pass (an hour or more). Tell her you have a problem you hope she can help you solve. The problem is your best friend. The most important thing to you in a best friend relationship is honesty and truthfulness, and until recently, you could always trust this friend. But lately, not so much. Sometimes she tells "trick lies," that you know couldn't possibly be true because they're so silly -- give her an example she can relate to without actually repeating one of her lies. "For instance, if your best friend told you she ate rattlesnake for dinner last night, you wouldn't believe it, right, and you'd be angry if she insisted and insisted, but if she said, "Ha ha, I tricked you," then you wouldn't be angry, you can laugh together at the joke.
Other times, tell her, they aren't "trick lies," (some kids will prefer to call them "joke" lies), you just don't know when she's telling the truth. You can even use the boy-who-cried-wolf story. Tell her how much you love this friend, and how you want to get things the way they used to be, but if she doesn't stop lying, you don't know how.
Then ask her to help you brainstorm ideas for how to solve this problem.
By now, your granddaughter may or may not realize or acknowledge you are talking about her. At some level, she probably will but it doesn't matter because it's less threatening to talk about this as an anonymous third-person. What's more, she will help you come up with solutions of what you can say when you think the BF is lying. For instance:
Ask her in a playful way, "Is this one of those 'Ha-ha, I-got- you-lies'?"
Agree to a pause-rewind clause: "I'm not sure if this is the truth or not. Before you say anything else, let's pause and rewind so you can think about this again." Then start over.
Be blunt: "I don't think you are telling the truth. In my friendships and in my family, it's really important to tell the truth. It makes me really sad to have someone I love lie to me."
Now let the conversation go. The next time she lies, use whatever appropriate bits from the conversation to address her lie. With any luck, she will understand, in a wink-wink kind of way, what has happened. What has happened is this: You will have managed to let her know how serious this is without making her feel ashamed, without lecturing, yelling, or punishing. And she will also know how much you love her.
And then you can go off and have your fun activity, using the same strategies every time a lie happens. At some point, if they don't start to diminish, you can tell her directly: "You know, you remind me a lot of that best friend I was talking about. (Wink wink.)...."
Whatever you do:
Don't try to trick her. Rather than ask her what she's done and "test" if she's going to lie, be honest: "I can see the package of Gummies is open. How many did you eat?"
Always give her a second chance, which is similar to the pause/rewind. "I'm not sure if you're telling the truth or not. Before we talk about this anymore, take a minute to think really hard."