when the other parent tells the kids to lie

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Penny Lane

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when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« on: February 05, 2019, 06:34:49 PM »
Several times recently DH or I has asked the kids something routine, often as simple as "what did you do this weekend?" and the kids get really shifty about their answers. Usually eventually they do tell us or they deflect enough that we can sort of figure out what it was. And it's happened enough times that it's clear they're trying to hide something that BM doesn't want DH to know - something that's not objectively wrong in a way the kids would know but it is a violation of the parenting plan.

I think we know enough to make an educated guess that the kids are being told to lie. What we don't know is exactly what BM is saying - I couldn't tell you if she's just straight up saying to lie, is she telling the kids that something bad would happen if dad finds out or something else.

So the question is, what do we do? In the past DH has tried talking to her about the issue and explaining why it's dangerous for the kids to be told to lie to their parent, and that got nowhere as she unsurprisingly told him that she wasn't saying that. Overall, I don't think it's a good idea for DH to tell BM what the kids say to him, because there'll be more repercussions for them at her house. So the solution needs to happen solely at our house. He could ask the kids directly if they're being told to lie. He's done that once or twice but my sense is that it just puts the kids in the middle even more. And they get defensive about their mom so we don't get the information we need anyway.

So, what do we do? Nothing? Do we keep asking the kids these very basic questions like "how was your weekend"? Do we keep following up if it's clearly something they're not comfortable telling us? Maybe he has a bigger picture conversation with them about how it's important not to keep secrets from parents?

Often with stuff like this we like to sort of give the kids guidance for how to handle things with BM in a roundabout way, so we're never talking about her but they can apply it to her. Like, I'll say when we know she's been raging at the kids a lot, when someone yells at me and I know they're in a bad mood that's not about me, I like to just walk away. But I'm not sure how to address what she's saying when we're not sure what it is. My concern is that she's saying something really off the wall like "dad won't let me see you if he knows about this," but it could be any number of things so we can't just roundabout reassure them that dad is always going to let the kids see mom, or whatever.

And can I just say how mad this makes me! This is literally what child abusers do - "if you tell anyone what I did to you something bad will happen." I hate that the kids are having to navigate this, and we KNOW they're having to navigate it, and we are powerless to stop it.

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athene1399

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2019, 07:21:41 PM »
Maybe you can try a "lesson" in why you shouldn't lie to protect people or lie because you are afraid to get in trouble (I would not do it after you think they are lying. Like bring it up later or something). Try to think up an example, maybe something that could happen in school so they can easily relate. But with the lesson, say how it's always better to tell the truth then to keep lying about something. Maybe find an age appropriate book on lying. Maybe also reiterate that you and DH are safe people to talk to about things.

I would also keep asking how their weekend is. Even if they aren't telling you the truth (which is irksome. I hate lying as well.), you are still showing them that you care about how their weekend was IMO. If they don't answer or lie, then just move on to something else. Maybe at some point they will be comfortable telling you.

We've never figured out how to nip that in the bud with SD. In our case, it seems to be her mom does something that she is ashamed to admit to us. But she has also lied or told half-truths to cover for her mom being irresponsible. For SD, I feel it's more she's afraid her mom will get in trouble if we know. So she does it to protect her. It's slightly similar to what it sounds like you are going through. With her, we ask her once and if she dances around the question we just change the subject. Otherwise she would get defensive about BM and it would create an argument. But she's also a lot older than your kids, so that also creates a different dynamic than what you are experiencing. I am sorry you are going through this. How frustrating!

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Nohigherjoy

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #2 on: February 05, 2019, 11:12:42 PM »
Iím so sorry and donít have words of wisdom. My ex is extremely manipulative and uses scare tactics with the kids... they are scared to tell me anything that happens at his place. He continues to drink (after 3 DUIs). It is against rules of agreement, so Iím put in a tough position as he minimizes his drinking and also throws me under the bus over silly issues. Itís sickening.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2019, 11:15:12 PM by Nohigherjoy »

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Whiteheron

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2019, 09:19:18 AM »
Hi Pennylane,

I used to ask my kids how their weekend was, but I never got much in the way of a response - like they were afraid to tell me what they did while over at his house, even though it was probably not much. What I started doing instead, was just saying "I hope you had a good weekend!" and let it be. I found that later on, when the kids were more settled and feeling comfortable they would open up about one or two things that happened while they were with their dad.

They are so worried about upsetting him and I don't want make them feel like they're under the spotlight when they're with me (I'm not in any way suggesting this is what you're doing - this is all me  :upsidedown: ). stbx, on the other hand, loves to put them under the spotlight and demands to know what they did each day when he calls them to say goodnight. DS has become really good about saying "nothing" or "it was a boring day." Typical teenager stuff. DD feels like she needs to give him a rundown and goes to hid in her room so I won't hear what she tells him.

Not sure if this helps. I can definitely relate though.
You can't destroy me if I don't care.

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Stepping lightly

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2019, 11:42:07 AM »
Hi PL,

Our situation is similar to Whiteheron- we really don't ask the kids too many questions.  We will ask "how was your week?", and when we get a vague "fine" back...we don't go further.  DSS never provides detail, and I believe that is partially a normal kid move, and partially a defense mechanism to protect himself. 

From what I've learned in our situation, it isn't always as simple as BM telling the kids to lie, so normal lessons on not lying don't necessarily apply.  For us, BM is likely quite subtle.  I always assumed that she was direct with her alienation tactics, and DH disagrees and thinks it is much more manipulative than that (he lived with it, he would know).  He said she probably just manipulates their emotions, gaslights etc .so the kids don't even necessarily understand they are lying, they are just a proxy for BM's lies.  It's really twisted.  She's really good at being a PD.  All we can do is model behavior.  We never ever lie to the kids, BM tells them we do, but they have never experienced us lying to them, and deep down they know. I asked DSD one time during a tense conversation where she didn't believe me, "have I ever lied to you?" I held my breath while she thought about it, then she shrugged and said, "no".

We also don't ever tell BM what the kids have said, unless we are in court.  When I first met DH and I heard the lies DSD came back with, I asked him, "do you call BM out on that?  Do you document that DSD said XYZ?".  He said, "No, that would put DSD in a bad situation, and it won't only make things worse".  We've realized, and had concrete proof that the kids being able to tell us things, and it not going back to BM, gives them the freedom to talk.  And what we hope more than anything else, the kids continuing to talk to us.


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Penny Lane

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2019, 12:06:05 PM »
Thanks everyone! This is all very helpful. As always it's nice to know that other people are going through the same thing!

I've done some thinking as I read through all your posts and I realized basically what you said, Stepping Lightly. I'm not certain she's explicitly telling them to lie - it's more like, she's giving them the impression or manipulating them to think that they should hide stuff from their dad. Athene, what you said about they think mom is going to get in trouble - I think that's spot on. The kids both had lying phases awhile back and we worked with them on lying overall, so that definitely seemed to have helped. Now they just deflect or change the subject or, occasionally, pretend to misunderstand.

I am fairly certain that it's coming from her, though, because if you ask the same question about some other time you'll get a real answer. So like, "what did you guys do with dad while I was at work" = a long excited blow-by-blow of their day, "what did you do last weekend" = "nothing" or "I can't remember." We also will see sometimes that when DH is on the phone with the kids and they're telling him about their day, BM will actually interrupt to "correct" them or discourage them from saying anything else.

Whiteheron I think like your kids, they probably do feel like they're under the spotlight even though we don't intend it. I know their mom interrogates them about stuff they did over here. And lately she's been accusing DH of doing that which makes me think she's been ramping it up. Also, we try to be positive about what they do at their mom's house but they know things are tense between their parents so probably any discussion of the other house makes them feel stuck in the middle somewhat.

I'm trying to tease out why I'm so worried about this and it comes down to two things:
1. DH is being blocked from knowing about half of the kids' lives. They might be feeling like they have to be split in the middle, they can't tell dad about stuff at mom's house (and probably vice versa). Also we simply don't know what's going on with them. This isn't dangerous per se but not having full information about what's going on with the kids makes it harder for DH to make good parenting decisions overall. On the other hand, it's not the kids' job to tell him that stuff, it's their mom's.

2. The more concerning thing is that BM is actively hiding her bad behavior from DH. And at some point that could become dangerous. Right now it's hiring a babysitter instead of offering him ROFR. But in a few years does that become leaving the kids alone to fend for themselves for hours or even overnight? I'd like to make sure that they're relaying big important pieces of information like that if and when the time comes. DH has had a big problem with her hiding information (medical, educational, etc) and usually he can track it down through third parties. But some stuff only the kids can really tell him, so if they're not sharing then he's kind of in the dark.

I think some of it just comes down to that radical acceptance - I need to get comfortable with the fact that we're not going to be aware of all the potentially dangerous things she does with the kids. Maybe not comfortable, but at least learn to live with it. And it's definitely very wise to focus on being someone who the kids can open up to, rather than trying to force them to stop.

Nohigherjoy, I'm so sorry you're going through the same thing! The drinking stuff ... that's exactly what I'm worried about in point #2 above. Obviously I don't have a solution for you but I agree that it's sickening!

Iím so sorry and donít have words of wisdom. My ex is extremely manipulative and uses scare tactics with the kids... they are scared to tell me anything that happens at his place. He continues to drink (after 3 DUIs). It is against rules of agreement, so Iím put in a tough position as he minimizes his drinking and also throws me under the bus over silly issues. Itís sickening.

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Stepping lightly

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2019, 02:06:37 PM »
hi again!

You will likely not know about dangerous things that are happening, and it does suck.     I would really reinforce with the kids that you are ALWAYS there for them, and that it will always be your intention to keep them safe.  That way, if BM does leave them home alone at some point and they need something- they will call you.  I think part of that goes back to doing everything you can to make the kids understand you aren't "out to get BM in trouble". 

We found out a couple of years ago that BM was leaving DSS home alone.  He was 9 at the time (i think), and it was younger than we were comfortable with him being by himself for a few hours at night.  We only found out, because DSS took the opportunity to call DH, but you could tell he was a bit panicked.  BM doesn't allow the kids to call, she claims we "fill their heads with lies".   DSS called because DH had planned to visit DSS at school the next day for lunch.  DSS was having such a horrible time at BMs, and he consistently asked DH and I to visit him for lunch, and not tell anyone because BM would be very angry.  He wanted DH to know that he had testing over lunchtime, and wanted DH to change days he was coming. ANYWAY- we were really kind of stuck- we couldn't say anything about DSS being home alone, because then BM would know he called us and she was terrorizing DSS as it was already....so ...what do you do?

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elly87

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2019, 05:39:58 PM »
my BF and I have this issue with his BPD/NPD ex who has taken my SS (age 8) on a flight cross country in violation of their order multiple times. She also has a tendency to keep him home from 2nd grade so he can be her 'play date' or if she isnt in the mood to prepare him for school in the morning (she likes to sleep in). He missed so much school the school had to call us back with the total number because they couldnt count the absences and latenesses over the phone immediately. So she tells him to lie. and he does. It is very sad. there isnt much you can do about that when the child is so young. these kids are dependent upon a mentally ill parent for survival and placing pressure on them about lying will do more harm then good. What we do is simply to ask what he did that day/weekend and let him guide the discussion. for example, if we ask how his day was and he stayed home from school he may say "I was really sick so i stayed home'. at which point we may ask if he went to the doctor. at that point, he usually changes the subject 'so dad what did you do today?' we drop it at that point. any info we need, we get from his school which is thankfully wonderful. if we were to press more he would become very anxious. this weekend I innocently asked him if he had done anything fun the last weekend. 'I wanna play a game with you!' was his answer. I let it go and played. a few hours later he was sharing a funny story about his little sister (major deal since he was told by his BM that he is not allowed to talk to us about her daughter with her current husband). I laughed at the story and encouraged him to tell us more, which he did.

making the child/children feel comfortable and safe is number one, even moire important than doing detective work. usually, if there is an abuse/neglect concern (educational neglect in our case, among other things), you can obtain info from other sources (school, family, neighbors, doctors etc..) I feel so sorry for these children. they deserve so much better.

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findjoy81

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2019, 05:43:01 PM »
Wondering how old all the kids are....
Mine are 5 and 7, and I think this was actively happening for a while. 

When I pick up kids from school, I always ask how their day was. When they go to a birthday party, I ask what they did and how they liked it.  Any time they are at an event or a place without me, I ask how it went.  Pretty standard, I think.

But, when I pick them up from school after being at other parent's house, and as how their weekend is and if they did anything fun, the answer is, "I forgot."  Like, before I even get the question out, "I forgot."  Both kids will separately answer that even if the other is not around.  These kids can give 15 million details about things from months ago, but what did you do this weekend? Sudden amnesia?

Later, they would ask why I always ask them, so I explained that really, I'm asking just like for school or any other time, it's because I love them and genuinely want to know what is happening in their lives. 

After that, I really started to hammer into them that they NEVER had to hide anything that happens at my house, that I will NEVER ask them to lie or not tell their other parent anything.  They can always talk about what happens at our house.  And they are starting to share more again.  It's just weird, because I truly don't believe he's doing anything nefarious that might need to be hidden.  All it seems he's really doing is spending all his money instead of paying child support. 

Either way, lately it seems to have improved.  Curious if or when I'll face it again though.

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hhaw

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2019, 11:54:59 PM »
Kids giving the same answers, with the same words, is a sign they're being coached by someone.  This is from one of the forensic child T's that did evaluations on my kids, and testified they were "very much their own little people" when I was being accused of coaching them. 



hhaw



What you are speaks so loudly in my ears.... I can't hear a word you're saying.

When someone tells you who they are... believe them.

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acc1984

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2019, 12:45:47 PM »
No surprises, same thing here...

Although, we do have the thing happen where the kids talk INCESSANTLY about just random, unimportant things having to do with their mom (many of it lies-from her) in a really bizarre way. Like the rest of you, we mostly just ask about school and their friends because they won't talk specifics about THEIR actual time with BM. But then they'll interrupt a conversation with something TOTALLY unrelated "Our mom did XYZ at her job!" etc. It's like they don't want to talk about what actually happens but feel like they have to validate her. When DH and I got engaged it was "Our mom and her boyfriend are going to get married too!" Well, 3 boyfriends later...

It just makes me so sad that they feel like they have to play that role for her. That she can't be a self sufficient parent and let the kids be kids, instead, they are her mouthpieces.

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Penny Lane

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Re: when the other parent tells the kids to lie
« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2019, 01:04:58 PM »
Elly, this is so wise!

making the child/children feel comfortable and safe is number one, even moire important than doing detective work. usually, if there is an abuse/neglect concern (educational neglect in our case, among other things), you can obtain info from other sources (school, family, neighbors, doctors etc..) I feel so sorry for these children. they deserve so much better.

You are so right, "detective work" is not necessary or helpful. I keep thinking if the kids grow up and ask why didn't you protect us more, I want to be able to say we did everything we possibly could. But it's not like they're going to grow up and say "thanks for interrogating me about what happened at mom's house, that definitely made the situation easier for us!" (Again, I don't think we're interrogating them but I think they might perceive it as we are).

Findjoy, the kids are 11 and 8. The 11-year-old is much more concerned with keeping the peace and he'll mostly toe the line or say "I forgot." The 8-year-old is more assertive and a lot of times she'll tell the truth.

It's funny, the kids also repeat lies their mom says and it's always so jarring like she's speaking out of their mouths. Sometimes afterward they like, look at us expectantly - like they want us to correct the lie? They won't say it came from mom but you can usually tell. (One time it was, out of the blue, "mom tells the truth." We did not correct that one.)