Dear Vicki: My 12 year old son has always been funny and outgoing, but lately I’ve caught him lying to me. It’s not really big stuff, but it’s concerning. For example, when Todd spent the weekend at his fathers (we had an amicable divorce five years ago), Todd reported that he and his dad had lunch with the mayor. When I checked, it turns out that the assistant mayor is an old high school friend of my ex-husband and that’s who they lunched with. When I challenge Todd, he laughed and said it’s a better story to have lunch with a mayor. Another time Todd complained that his history teacher assigned 100 pages to read over the weekend. It turned out that the assignment was 50 pages, but they could do more for extra credit. His response when I asked was to cop a dramatic attitude and laugh. I’m beginning to wonder if Todd’s a Fire who’s out of control and that’s why he’s lying. Regardless, I’m very upset, my Metal will not tolerate it, so how do I get him to stop? Signed: Disturbed Outside Denver
Dear Disturbed: Teaching children that honesty matters is an important part of parenting. It will be especially important to you as a Metal because following rules and maintaining high ethical standards matter greatly to Metals. The norm for our culture has been that lying is wrong, and Metals are our guides for determining right from wrong, so you are probably upset that your son isn’t getting with the program. In truth, your son’s lying strikes at the core of your values as a Metal. We’ll address his lying first, but I suspect there’s another issue at play that’s part of what’s upsetting you, and we’ll cover that later. But first, the lying.
It’s interesting you suspect that Fire would be the element to lie. That’s possible, yet all of the elements will lie. But the reasons they lie will be different.
- When Fires lie, it’s usually for a sense of drama. Todd’s correct, it’s a more dramatic story to say one has lunched with the mayor than the assistant mayor. Fires exaggerate a story for the effect, too. Fires enjoy being the entertainer and garnering the attention.
- When Earths lie, it’s usually to protect someone’s feelings. Earths don’t like to hurt people or make them feel left out. They will deny attending a party to which you weren’t invited, or tell you that the painting you made for them is beautiful, even if it isn’t. Earths care and don’t want people hurt.
- When Metals lie, which isn’t very often, it’s usually to discredit a fact or idea that would negatively affect something they know to be true. It’s much more compelling to say that the committee unanimously agrees with a specific course of action even if, in truth, there were a few dissenters. Other times Metals lie it’s usually because their secondary element kicks in for a sense of drama, to protect feelings, etc.
- When Waters lie, it’s usually to avoid something. Waters like to keep their own counsel and spend quiet time alone, so will say they’re busy to avoid an event they’d rather not attend. They’ll also distort reality to avoid a truth they’d rather not embrace, which is an interesting way to lie to themselves.
- When Woods lie, it’s usually to make themselves appear more impressive. Personal accomplishment matters to Woods and any way they can make themselves appear more important is worth the lie. Exaggerating the turnout attending the event one hosts is a good example. Woods will also be tempted to lie about anything that could reflect poorly on them.
So you see, all of the elements can lie. It does sound like Todd’s lying is coming from his Fire, and as a Metal, you will find Todd’s lying most egregious. I do want to suggest, however, that part of what’s upsetting you deals with the issue of control. Here’s why.
First, parents expect to “control” their children via guidelines and teachings that keep them safe and encourage them to grow into wise, responsible adults. This will especially matter to a Metal parent. You want your son to become an honest adult. Second, your Metal values the ability to control situations so that the “right” outcomes are achieved. For a balanced Metal this isn’t haughtiness or ego, it’s based on the fact that Metals are masters of the past and know what has worked and what has not. Why repeat the mistakes of history when we know how they’ll turn out? You know lying can lead to trouble.
Finally, if Todd is a Fire, the two of you relate on the Controlling Cycle, with his Fire controlling your Metal. For all the reasons listed above, feeling like your son is controlling you won’t go over well. But remember that a Controlling Cycle relationship doesn’t have to feel controlling if both parties are balanced. Fire energy can help a Metal avoid becoming too rigid or stuck in their ways. Fire can bring fun and spontaneity to Metal. However, you suggest that Todd might be “out of control,” by which I suspect you mean he has too much Fire. Too much Fire can threaten Metal’s orderly, process-driven ways. This may be what’s happening to you.
If you do think that Todd has too much Fire, remember that it’s Water that Controls Fire. Encourage him to join a swim team at school, paint his room blue, or just ask that he drink more water. Serving hot meals can also decrease Fire, as do many of the other techniques we’ve discussed in this blog over the years. And you are correct, the drama of excessive Fire certainly can be the reason he’s lying, so let’s hope that’s the case. The goal is to help him manage his Fire and grow into the ethical, fun-loving Fire he’s meant to be. Blessings to you!