Episode 20 – Anna, Age 9: Lying friend

Why might a friend not tell you the truth?

Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic
Episode 20 – Anna, Age 9: Lying friend
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Scroll down for DISCUSSION QUESTIONS & TRANSCRIPT

Think About It Questions

  • Have you ever caught a friend in a lie? How did you feel? Why do you think the friend lied to you? How did it affect your friendship?
  • Have you ever told a lie to a friend? What got in the way of you telling the truth? Did your friend ever find out the truth? What happened?
  • Why do you think Dr. Friendtastic suggested NOT calling a friend a liar even if they did tell a lie? What’s the difference between telling a lie and being a liar? How is a friend likely to react to being called a liar?
  • Why do you think Dr. Friendtastic focuses on what Anna could do instead of what her friend did wrong?
  • How could you make it easy for a friend to tell you the truth? What responses might make it harder for a friend to tell the truth?

Transcript

Hi, there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.

Here’s today’s question:

Hi, My name is Anna, and I’m 9 years old, and I have a question. My question is: why does my friend lie to me?

Hi, Anna. Wow, that’s an interesting question! Thanks for sending it in.

You know that telling the truth is the right thing to do. Nobody likes to feel like they’ve been tricked or deceived. Also, at a practical level, telling the truth is easier than lying because you don’t have to try to remember and keep track of lies you’ve told if you just tell the truth!

At the same time, you’re old enough to understand that just because you have a thought or you know something doesn’t mean you should say it. We want to be careful with our words, so we don’t hurt people’s feelings.

If a friend gets an ugly haircut, you’re probably not going to blurt out, “It looks ugly!” Instead, you might try to say something that’s true, but maybe not the whole truth, to protect your friend’s feelings. So, you might tell her, “I like your bangs” or “It’s fun to try different styles!”

Now, I don’t know what kind of lie your friend told, but I can guess some common reasons that kids lie. Often kids lie because they don’t want to get in trouble with adults. That tends to backfire because when the adult finds out they did whatever it was and lied about it, they get in more trouble than they would have if they’d admitted it right away.

Sometimes kids lie because they’re embarrassed or ashamed. They might not want anyone to know or blab their secrets, so they deny certain facts.

Or, they might think they have to be better than they are for people to like them, so they make up stories to seem more exciting or special. This is definitely not a good way to make friends! It prevents real closeness, and people get mad about being tricked when they learn the truth.

But my best guess about why your friend lied is that she was trying to avoid conflict. She thought the truth would make you feel mad or upset, and she probably didn’t want to deal with that.

Of course, you want your friend to tell you the truth, and you’re right –honesty is an important part of friendship. But we can’t control what other people do; only what we do.

So, I’m going to ask you to think deeply about a difficult question:

Do you make it easy for your friend to tell you the truth?

Let’s imagine that your friend made plans with someone else, but didn’t tell you, and even lied and said she was doing something else. Lying isn’t the right thing to do, but if your friend thought you’d yell at her or sulk if she told you the truth–especially if that’s what’s happened in the past–it’s kind of understandable why she’d decide to lie. The lie would be partly to protect your feelings and partly to protect herself from the yelling and the sulking.

So, what can you do when you’ve found out your friend has lied to you? Start by trying to imagine your friend’s point of view. Was she scared of getting in trouble? Does she think she has to pretend for you to like her? Was she worried about how you might react?

Then focus on moving forward. Don’t accuse your friend of lying or call her a liar. And especially don’t tell everyone else that she lied. That would hurt her reputation, and it wouldn’t help your friendship.

Some time, when it’s just the two of you, tell her you know the truth. Tell her you think you understand why it was hard for her to tell you the truth and ask her if your guess is right. You might want to apologize if you’ve given her reason in the past to think you can’t handle the truth. Then tell her she can trust you, moving forward, to respond in kind ways, if she tells you the truth. Promise that you’ll do your best to be truthful with her, too.

This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.

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