Daughter, 10, and husband have problem with lying


January 14, 2001|By T. Berry Brazelton, m.d. | T. Berry Brazelton, m.d.,NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL REATURES

Q. I have a 10-year-old daughter who constantly tells lies about just anything. I feel I should take her to counseling, but my husband objects. He also has a serious problem with stating the truth.

What can I do to get her out of this habit? I talk to her almost every day about this problem, but it just gets worse. Can this be inherited?

A. Certainly, if she didn't inherit it, your daughter has probably picked up her father's tendency to exaggerate or distort the truth.

Depending on the nature of your husband's elaborations, it is possible that your reaction may be a reinforcement to your daughter's lying.

If your daughter is indulging in wishful thinking, you might want to try joining her in her fantasies, having fun with them, but at the same time indicating very clearly that you -- and she -- both know the truth. I'd seek psychotherapy, however, if her lying is interfering with her adjustment at school or with her friends.

All children go through a period of "lying" or of fantasy at 4 and 5 years of age, but age 10 is pretty late for such a phase and the lying may be more of a problem than I can recognize without knowing more about all of you.

Q. Have you ever worked with a mother who was disabled? I have extensive nerve damage in my back, and for about two years I have not been able to lift more than about 3 pounds without severe pain.

My 5-year-old daughter is the light of my life. I find true joy in being a mother. I keep wishing I could have a second child, but I am so afraid I will not be able to lift a baby. My husband is very supportive, but he is concerned too. With our first child, he had to do a lot of the child care because I was hurt. He is willing to do more than his share again, but he is afraid he may have to do 100 percent of the care.

I wish I could be content to have just one child, but every day I long for a second child to love. Do you think I am risking too much?

A. It may be difficult, but remember that you can do a lot of cuddling and loving without lifting. Can you and your husband find help from an intervention center or a physical therapist about how to handle this? Your 5-year-old can be a help to you, as well as your husband. It is important, however, that you and your husband make this decision together, as it will be a great commitment for him.

It does seem a shame to have such an important decision hang on a disability. Many more severely disabled parents have managed. It takes ingenuity and determination, but it can be done.

Questions or comments should be addressed to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, care of The New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10168. Questions of general interest will be answered in this column; Dr. Brazelton regrets that unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

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