Everyday TBRI®: Correcting Strategies – Little White Lies

Posted September 30, 2016

Everyday TBRI®: Correcting Strategies – Little White Lies

Everyday TBRI®

Correcting Strategies: Little White Lies

Do you want to know a secret?  Children lie.  They all do.  Foster children, adoptive children, biological children, and children in between.  They all practice dishonesty.  Stretching the truth is a normal part of human development starting with children around the ages of three and four.  This developmental stage is what Erik Erikson called Initiative vs. Guilt, and is the time when children are exploring both good and bad, learning to exert control in the world, and exploring their environments.  Part of this process for children is experimenting with the effect of not being truthful.  They are wondering how mom or dad will respond and what the consequences might be. 
Lying behavior can be exacerbated by abuse, neglect and trauma.  Children from hard places come from homes where parenting was unpredictable and their needs were not consistently met.  As a result, many children develop methods of getting their needs met that work for them while they are in crisis, but don’t jive well in a healthy family setting.
Let’s unpack this a little more.  You are a foster/adopt parent of an eight year old boy and a biological parent of two older children.  Your older kiddos have come to you to say that their electronic devices have been broken and you have reason to believe that culprit is their younger foster sibling.   This seems easy enough to solve (because you are trained in TBRI and you are IN CHARGE!) but you ask your youngest about the Gameboys, and they tell you they know nothing about it.  Talk about cognitive dissonance.  You have every reason to believe it was them, but this little one is incredibly convincing.  What gives?  Children reared in trauma learn survival skills.  Lying serves children to keep them from being abused by their caregivers, to keep schools and neighbors from learning about abuse at home, and to protect the family.  For these children, lying absolutely serves a purpose. 
Naturally, foster and adoptive parents say to themselves “Well, these kids are safe now and they are still fibbing. What gives?”  Remember, actual safety does not equal felt safety.  It takes about a month per year of life to see noticeable behavioral changes, and this increases with increased trauma history.  However, you can speed healing along by really monitoring how you react to lying behavior.  Check yourself, and respond playfully even if it doesn’t feel natural.  Handle the situation as soon as you learn about it.  The longer you wait, to harder this is going to be for both of you.  Get on their eye level, make physical contact, and let them know that everyone is dishonest sometimes, but it hurts family members and it needs to be made right.  Have them walk through what really happened, and use puppets or stuffed animals to role play and take the pressure off.  Finally, make sure they know that this is about behavior, not about them as a person.  You love them regardless. 
Sound familiar?  IDEAL response, ya’ll!  Works every time!*

*This is not actually a true statement.  It works most of the time, which is why we carry lots of different tools in our parenting toolbox.  

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What is TBRI®?

TBRI® is an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. TBRI® uses Empowering Principles to address physical needs, Connecting Principles for attachment needs, and Correcting Principles to disarm fear-based behaviors. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory processing, and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI® is connection.
TBRI® is designed for children from “hard places” such as abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. Because of their histories, it is often difficult for these children to trust the loving adults in their lives, which often results in perplexing behaviors. TBRI® offers practical tools for parents, caregivers, teachers, or anyone who works with children, to see the “whole child” in their care and help that child reach his highest potential.
Want to know more? Visit TCU’s Institute of Child Development http://child.tcu.edu/.