As a parent there is little that’s more frustrating than dealing with a child that lies. Whether you are dealing with a young child or a teenager, it can be tough to keep your cool. There are a lot of reasons kids lie, ranging from a lack of proper language skills (toddler age) to self-preservation (young children and teens) to saving face or outright defiance (older kids and teens.) Understanding why your children are lying can make a big difference in how the behavior should be addressed. A child with parents going through a divorce and lies as an emotional response will require different techniques than a child who is lying simply because they don’t want to get in trouble.
I remember the first time my oldest lied to me. She was three or four and she had snuck into the kitchen, climbed onto a chair and grabbed a Popsicle out of the freezer. When I heard her in the kitchen, I asked what she was doing. Her little high pitched voice came back “I’m not sneaking an ice-cream mommy.” Dealing with her lying was so much easier then, mostly because I could actually tell when she was lying.
Nipping lying in the butt starts early, but teaching them early doesn’t guarantee your kids will never lie to you. And when they do, you need to know how to handle it.
Once you determine your little one has lied to you there are a few different tactics to take. How you employ them depends on your parenting style, how long the lying has been going on and the temperament of your child.
Discussing the lie: One way to help alleviate long-term lying issues is to find out why your child lied. If they say they don’t want to get into trouble, you can address that by helping them understand they are going to be in more trouble when they lie than if they’d told the truth. Once they get older, their motives may change to privacy, resentment or embarrassment. If you can address these individual concerns, it can help your child feel more comfortable coming to you with the truth.
Consequences: If you really want to discourage lying, master the art of discipline. Kids learn best by recognizing they are rewarded (or get benefits) for being honest, but they have to face consequences (or lose benefits) when they lie. Knowing what makes your child tick is huge in determining proper discipline. A 16-year-old is more likely to be bothered by losing driving privileges than TV time for example.
Just recently my daughter snuck off to somewhere she wasn’t supposed to go and her friends lied to us about where she was, trying to protect her. We immediately told all of them, our daughter included, that if they chose to lie to us they wouldn’t be allowed to play with our daughter. We want our girls to understand it’s never okay to lie to us, and that includes protecting a friend from getting in trouble.
With all that being said, the most important thing you can to do encourage your kids not to lie is to not lie to your children. I’m not talking about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Instead don’t lie to your kids when they get in trouble (ie. Well, I was going to take you to the park today but since you were naughty…. When you never intended to take them) or lying about your emotions. If you are sad or angry, tell them you are sad or angry. You don’t have to tell them everything, but don’t lie, especially about the simple things.
How do you deal with lying?
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