La Croix: Do college students often lie?
Patrice Huerre: Some teens lie a lot or, rather, I would say they tell each other stories they come to believe in, just like they did when they were kids and got their hands in the jam jar. In both cases, the lie serves to avoid the inconveniences of the truth, for example to circumvent a risk of punishment. Such an attitude is not the prerogative of young people only: an adult who passes a red light also claims that it was orange.
→ READ. Samuel Paty, college students indicted: “Justice will assess how far they can be re-educated”
However, not all teenagers lie, because it depends on their temperament. Some have a lot of imagination, others are very anchored in reality. But it is certain that a child who, around 3-4 years old, multiplies lies, will tend to replay it around 12-13 years old. With puberty, a new personality emerges, everything becomes new and the adolescent reactivates the opposition phase of his early youth: he opposes the parents, again tests the limits, etc., but he does it according to his early childhood. In a way, he is writing a new chapter of his life based on the previous ones. Also, when the relation to the truth has not been fixed the first time, the adolescent will again lie a lot.
How can parents react?
PH: Unlike young children, whose lies are often easily spotted, adolescents are able to develop more convincing stories. He knows his parent well and therefore knows what to say to be believed. He is often able to “serve” a story that the adult is quite willing to hear since it corresponds more or less to what he already believes. This is why the latter must question what the teenager says and not immediately validate everything he says without asking a question.
For example, in the case of this family implicated in the Paty affair, it seems established that the girl’s absenteeism was known to all. If that was the case, then the parents could have first picked up their phone to ask the college if she was present that day rather than immediately taking over what she had told them.
When to start worrying about lies?
PH: Normally, around 6-7 years old, a child is able to understand the difference between reality and imagination. He must also have understood that there is a graduation between the prohibitions, that killing is more serious than chatting with his classmate, for example. From there, he can develop certain skills, including that of correctly arbitrating between these principles. So you have to worry when this ability is not acquired.
→ MAINTENANCE. “The adolescent creates the adult he will one day be”
To help the child, parents and the school must try to be fair in their sanctions: if everything is put on the same level, this can only blur the landmarks and, incidentally, encourage the child to conceal and to hide. lie. In addition, we must help very creative children, those who let themselves be carried away by their imaginations, to sort things out and channel this flow so that it does not carry everything in its path. We can congratulate them on their inventions, by encouraging them to write stories for example, but also call them to come back to the facts, and nothing to the facts, when they tell something that happened.