by Jamilah Samian
QUESTION : I am a single mother. I have a nine-year-old son. My husband and I fought a lot in the process of divorce, something that my son knew well of. The problem I now have is that, I noticed that my son has a habit of lying to me. This is something he picked up from his father, whom he regularly visits. It seems that this habit returns after he has spent several days with his father. I’ve told him in a nice way, scolded him, given him the silent treatment. But once in a while when I’m more laid back, he will start to lie again. What do I need to do? Please help.
ANSWER : It is extremely difficult for a child when the parents go through divorce. It is quite common for the child to blame himself, so it’s really important for your son to understand that whatever happened to your marriage is none of his fault. It is crucial that you rise above the conflict between you and your ex-husband in your interactions with your son. Don’t say negative things about your ex in front of your son, for instance, because this will cause an emotional tug-of-war in your son. After all, both of you are his parents, who should he be loyal to? Kids do not need this kind of baggage to deal with. They have enough things on their plate growing up.
Of course, there are always exceptions, e.g. cases of drug abuse, emotional/ physical/sexual abuse, alcoholism etc when the responsible parent would need to explain to the child in a way that the child can reasonably understand and appreciate. My book COOL BOYS SUPER SONS has a special section on Single Mothers Raising Sons, pages 170 – 174. As stated in the book, it is proven that single mothers can raise wonderful sons provided the conditions are right (they have moral support and financially stable).
Single mothers can do virtually anything to raise boys, but they cannot replace an inherent need for boys to observe and learn from responsible males on how to be a man. Count on trusted male coaches, teachers, uncles, and neighbours – any man who has a proven track record of integrity who can be a model to your son.
On your response to his misbehaviour (LYING) ~ It helps to remember that, when kids misbehave, it creates conflict that in turn opens an opportunity for us parents to teach them how to deal with conflict effectively. Parents are role models for their kids in almost everything. How we respond to conflict shows them how they should respond to their own conflicts in their own lives now and in the future.
Silent treatment is NEVER an effective way of dealing with conflict simply because the other person cannot read your mind. Perhaps he knows that he did something wrong, but he would have little idea of what to change and how to change (which are the core concepts of discipline, if you’re trying to discipline him). My first book COOL MUM SUPER DAD highlights the silent treatment effect – although the story is in the context of a marriage, the concept applies in any relationship.
The bad news is that, when it comes to lying, there is no easy way to stop him from repeating the misdemeanor. The good news is, the proactive (positive) approach normally works. For instance, story telling e.g. tell him or read to him the story of THE BOY WHO CRIED WOLF (after lying so many times, nobody believes him). Do this often, so the lesson becomes ingrained in his mind. In the end, what you want is a child who is self-disciplined, who knows and does the right things and stays away from misbehaviour whether you are there or not. Also, at the end of each session, tell him know you know that he’s a good boy, that you trust him to do the right thing.
Most importantly, make a lot of DOA (prayers). This is a test for you. Beg and plead Allah to strengthen your heart and guide you in your thoughts and actions.