All children lie. When a parent first discovers that their child has lied it can be very upsetting. Even though it is expected, parents worry that the lying may be a sign of troubled times ahead. To some degree, lying is a normal part of childhood- children exaggerate, make up stories, deny things and conceal the obvious. However, if lying continues as the child gets older and it becomes more frequent, parents should take more active steps to understanding the causes and dealing with it.
WHY DO CHILDREN LIE?
- Fear – most children lie to avoid being punished and yelled at. When kids are scared of the consequences of their behaviour, they often lie to avoid being discovered.
- Habit – habits are easy to form and can be hard to break. It doesn’t have to take long for children to get into the habit of lying. If this is the case, one way to deal with lying is to give the child the opportunity of “coming clean” without worrying about being judged or punished.
- To avoid doing a task or chore – “did you do your homework?” “yes I did it!”
- To protect a friend or family member
- For love, approval and to impress others – kids will often exaggerate their accomplishments to win approval.
HOW TO PREVENT LYING:
Children often lie as a way of self- preservation. You can’t stop your kids from lying, but it’s vital that a parent create an atmosphere where their child does not feel pressured to lie in order to avoid consequences.
- Role Modeling – children are observant and extremely mindful of their parents behaviour. Even when a parent tells (what they perceive to be) small lies, they are teaching their children that it is okay to lie.
- Reward Honesty – Children thrive on attention- negative or positive. At times it can be useful to ignore the lying and give more attention to the positive behaviour and the times that your child has been honest.
- Don’t Reprimand Your Child for Telling the Truth
- Talk about Family Values – Talk to your children about why honesty is valued and what can happen when a person is dishonest. Use age appropriate examples and scenarios to illustrate your point. Children need to be informed by their parents and need to understand that honesty is part of their “family value” and way of life.
DEALING WITH A LIE:
- Give yourself time to calm down. When your first reaction is an overreaction, your child is more likely to shut down and not communicate about what happened. Your goal needs to be encouraging your child to talk to you honestly. This is best accomplished by being supportive and calm.
- Once you find out why your child has lied, follow through with the consequences for the misbehaviour. For example, if your son lies to you about cleaning his room, consequence him for not cleaning his room, not for lying.
- After resolving the situation, talk with your child about the problems that lying can cause and how much you disapprove it.
- Punishing a lie tends to be unsuccessful. It is more important to discover the reason for lying and then to deal with the problem and not the symptom. Teach your kids how to problem solve. It is a parent’s responsibility to show their kids how to get what they want in acceptable ways.
Dealing with a dishonest child can be difficult and frustrating and it should concern you. We want our children to tell the truth- not be afraid of it. We want our children to be honest- as a valued way of life.
As a Parenting Educator and Family Therapist, Susan Lieberman has spent almost 15 years helping kids, teens and adults meet success. For more information please visit www.familysupport.net for helpful downloads and other proven resources!