10 Ways to Stop Your Child from Lying
2011 November 27
- Don’t trap your child into lying to you: How often do we know when our child has done something and then we ask them if they did it? This is basically daring them to lie to us. Then when they do lie to us we yell at them for the lie as well as whatever it was that they did in the first place. It’s far better to tell them what you know and go from there.
- Be open and available for the truth: Your child has just told you a lie and it’s a pretty obvious lie. If you attack your child and tell them that you know they are lying and punish them for lying what have you accomplished? Adults lie too and it’s really hard to tell your child not to lie and then tell the telemarketer that you don’t speak English and hang up. Tell your child that what they said does not sound right to you, but maybe you both should step away from this topic for a while. Let them know that you will be available to talk about it later. Once your child does not feel trapped and has had time to consider what the right thing is they will hopefully come to you and tell you the truth. The key is to not yell or punish them at this point either. They have come to you and told you the truth. Thank them for doing that and let them know you know how hard that was for them and that you appreciate it.
- Discuss a time when you lied: Have this discussion when both you and the child is relaxed and there’s no lying happening at that moment. Tell them about a time when you lied and then decided to tell the truth and what happened. Don’t make this a time when you got a spanking or something awful happened because that will not encourage them to come clean to you. Use a time when you told the truth and took your lumps. Let them know why you decided to tell the truth. Tell them that you would have felt bad or guilty if you had not or your sister would have gotten punished instead of you for something she didn’t do. Examples like this will help them the next time they are tempted to lie.
- Love unconditionally: The most important thing to let your child know is that you love them no matter what. When a child feels unconditional love and feels that they have a soft place to fall, then they are more likely to share their mistakes with you. Kids don’t want to disappoint their parents and will lie to avoid doing so. Let them know that it’s okay to make mistakes and to not be perfect. Childhood is about discovery and sometimes things happen, but it’s okay.
- Set a good example: Kids are great at not hearing you when you are asking them to set the table or to put their backpack away, but they will definitely hear you when you lie to the ticket taker that they are only 6 so that they get in free. It’s very difficult for a child to understand why it’s okay for Mommy and Daddy to lie, but it’s not okay for them to lie. Lead by example.
- Explain loss of trust: As children get older they want to do more and be more independent. Sometimes they will make mistakes and lie. Explain to your child that you have always trusted them to be honest and to do the right thing. Now that they have lied you are having trouble trusting them again. Let them know that they will have to earn your trust back. Tell them that as they get older they will want to have more privileges and that you will only let them do those things if you can trust them.
- Benefit of the doubt: It may never have occurred to you before now, but most of us give people the benefit of the doubt. Explain this concept to your child. Let them know that people want to believe them, but once they have lied it is hard for people to give them the benefit of the doubt. Telling the story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” might be a good idea. After you read the story or during it ask them questions. Ask them if they would believe that boy? Putting the shoe on the other foot might help them understand how hurtful lying can be.
- Creative writing: Provide an outlet for storytelling that doesn’t hurt anyone. If your child likes to tell fantastic stories explain to them that you love that they have such a great imagination and then give them a notebook or journal to write their stories down. This will help them distinguish between truth and lie.
- Find out why?: Sometimes it’s helpful to find out why your child feels it necessary to lie. Before you launch into a lecture about why lying is bad, ask them why they lied. This will take them off guard because they are waiting for you to ask them if they lied. Assuming that they are lying (only if you are sure they are) and then just asking them why might actually get you a truthful answer. If they don’t say anything you might make a suggestion. “Did you lie because you were afraid of getting in trouble?” or “Are you lying because you think I will be disappointed in you?” Maybe one of the these suggestions will let them fess up and let you in.
- Be consistent with your punishment: When you catch your child in a lie (and you will at some point) be clear what the punishment is and what it will be in the future. You must be consistent with your punishments. The child must know without a doubt that they will be punished if they lie and know exactly what that punishment will be.