Kids who cry wolf only fail themselves in the long run

Student talking to a teacher

Kids who cry wolf only fail themselves in the long run

The need to be in control is a driving force for everyone and is one of the six essential human needs that have to be met. So, what happens when we don’t feel in control and try to control others? 

We talked about this in the last blog where people try to meet their own needs of significance by being the centre of attention and attempting to control the events around them. But you know (if you’re a regular reader) that it’s a pointless exercise. 

You have no control over other people; what they do or what they say  so why waste your energy? Focus on what you can control instead.


Spotting unhelpful behavioural patterns

Lately, I’ve noticed the same behavioural patterns popping up with the young people I work with. On an individual level, within schools, community groups and in families. It’s more prevalent in 9-10 year olds but younger children will also have this trait. 

As a teenager or young adult you will have probably grown out of this (I hope) but, just in case it appears once in a while, I thought it would be useful to shine a light on it to ditch any lingering habits and become an amazing success by working through it.

What on Earth are you talking about I hear you cry? That’s exactly it. Crying. Or ‘crying wolf’ to be more precise. 

Now I don’t want to assume you have heard the story about Peter crying wolf, so I want to retell it, either as a reminder or a revelation.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” Friedrich Nietzsche


The boy who cried wolf

A boy called Peter lived with his parents on the hillside. His parents, like most other people in the village, were sheep farmers. Everyone in the village took turns to look after the sheep and when Peter was 10 years old he was considered old enough to take his turn at sheep herding too. But Peter was all too easily bored, and he found it tiresome being on the hillside with only sheep for company, so he’d find ways to amuse himself. 

Running up rocks, climbing trees, chasing sheep, but nothing really kept him amused for very long. Then he hit upon a brilliant idea. He climbed to the top of the tallest tree and started shouting towards the village “Wolf! Wolf! Wo-olf! Woo-oolf!” 

One of the villagers heard him and gathered all the men together. Armed with axes, hoes and forks they ran out of the village to chase away the wolf and save their herd. Of course, when they got there, they merely found Peter perched high up in a tree laughing, with the sheep grazing peacefully around him. The villagers were very annoyed. 

That night Peter got a spanking from his mother (sorry that was back in the days when you could spank your children, please don’t do that now!) and was sent to bed without any supper. 

For a while life went on as normal and people forgot about the incident. Peter managed to behave himself whenever it was his turn to mind the sheep, until one day he got really bored again. He picked up some sticks, and running through where the sheep were grazing, he started hitting the sticks together and shouting “Wolf! Wolf! Wo-olf! Woo-oolf! Wo-olf!” 

Sure enough somebody in the village heard and before long the men all came running up the hill armed with their sticks and axes, hoes and shovels ready to chase away the big bad wolf and save their sheep and the poor shepherd boy. Imagine their alarm when they arrived in the field to see their herd grazing peacefully and Peter sitting on a big rock laughing uncontrollably. 

Teenager slumped over upset

That night Peter got a good telling off and an even longer spanking from his mother and was again sent to bed without any supper. For a few days people in the village went around moaning about Peter and his tricks. But before long things settled down again and life resumed its normal uneventful course. Peter still had to do his turn at shepherding every now and again, but he decided he should behave himself as he really didn’t want to upset everybody, and he especially didn’t want another one of his mother’s hidings. 

Then, one afternoon when Peter was in the fields with the sheep, he noticed some of them were getting nervous. They started bleating and running around senselessly, but Peter didn’t know the cause of this strange behaviour. 

He got worried and decided to climb a tree so he could see what was going on. He balanced on a sturdy branch and looked around and what he saw almost made him fall out of the tree. 

There was a great big hairy wolf chasing the sheep, biting at their legs, snapping at their tails. For a few seconds Peter was speechless, then he started shouting “Wolf! Woo-oolf! Wo-olf!” 

In the village an old man heard the shouting, “Oh no not that Peter again” he said, shaking his head. “What is going on?” enquired another villager, “is that Peter again? He just can’t help himself.” “That boy needs to be the centre of attention all the time,” said another. “Wait until his mother gets a hold of him,” added yet another. 

Nobody believed that this time there really was a wolf. Nobody got their hoe out or their axe or their shovel. All the sticks remained in the shed and nobody rushed up the hillside. It wasn’t until very much later that afternoon when another boy went to take over the sheep herding from Peter and found dead sheep’s bodies littered all over the hillside – and Peter still up there in his tree whimpering. 

The villagers found out there really had been a wolf this time. At last Peter learned his lesson, that if you always tell lies, people will eventually stop believing you and when you’re telling the truth for real, when you genuinely need them to believe you, they will not. 

I hope you enjoyed the story and understood its moral because what I am seeing and hearing these days is quite disturbing. I am consistently seeing more and more young people becoming habitual ‘Peters’. That’s a kind way of saying habitual liars. 


Kids who cry wolf are the ones who lose

I know it sounds harsh and you might call it ‘little white lies’ or ‘telling tales’ or in some cases ‘sticking up for yourselves’, but playing the blame game when it’s not true just to get someone in trouble or to be the centre of attention, seek sympathy or to try and control a situation is still telling a lie. Pretending to be the victim, distorting what really happened and deleting some of the truths to gain other people’s attention is dishonest. 

Making false or exaggerated accusations to get revenge, feel smug or to wriggle out of doing something is ‘crying wolf’!

“Miss, she just pushed me!”, “Miss! He just called me fat”, “Miss, he flicked his tongue out at me”, “Miss, he just hit me”. These are all examples from crying wolves, and I’ve heard them all recently. 

I’m going to leave this blog here and ask you to ponder on something you may have cried wolf about in the past, or something that you may have heard yourself. 

Next week we’ll talk about how continuing this negative behaviour in meeting your need to be significant can be really damaging to you and those who fall victim to the wolf!

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Mark Twain


Choose the life you want to lead

Share your cry wolf stories with the Back on Track Teens community and let’s help each other to grow from understanding the impact of this story.

Think before you speak and act – how will your actions affect others?

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