The Parent 'Hood
Teaching kids the cold, hard truth about lying
How to break your child's habit of lying to avoid consequences
Your child's nose may not be growing like Pinocchio, but he or she still could be lying. (Walt Disney Pictures photo)
(from our panel of staff contributors)
It's not unheard of, and in my experience it has to do with two things: fear of getting in trouble or a need for attention. It should be addressed because no one likes a shifty liar, which is what you can communicate to your child, in less judgmental language. Once you determine whether they're lying to dodge a punishment or to be grandiose, you'll know what to say. Or maybe your child will grow up to be David Sedaris, which isn't an entirely bad thing.
— Maureen Hart
You should try to figure out why the child is feeling the need to lie … is he exaggerating for attention or covering something up? He needs to be taught that lying is not acceptable and can be hurtful. Gently explaining this and helping the child through the next time he begins to lie may help him see that the truth is best.
— Dodie Hofstetter
Normal? Extremely. A little annoying? Yep. Fixable? Totally.
"Children younger than 6 tell lies for a whole variety of reasons — wishful thinking, not understanding the difference between reality and fantasy, for example," says child development and behavior specialist Betsy Brown Braun, whose book, "You're Not the Boss of Me: Brat-Proofing Your Four- to Twelve-Year-Old Child" (Harper Collins), devotes a chapter to honesty. "Older kids tell lies so they won't get in trouble, first and foremost."
Not that it works, of course, since now you're upset at both the infraction and the ensuing dishonesty.
But there are ways to curtail this misguided behavior.
Let's say you caught your child sneaking extra iPad time after you asked her to shut it down for the night.
Don't set a lie into motion. "If you know your child is not going to tell you the truth, don't put her in a position to lie," says Brown Braun. "That's manipulative." So skip the pointless "Were you playing on the iPad instead of doing your homework?" which is going to get you the inevitable (and untrue) "No!" Instead, say to your child: "'You were playing on your iPad when I told you not to. You broke our rule and the consequence is this,'" Brown Braun says. "And then you impose your appropriate consequence."
Solicit her input. "Involve her in solving the problem about which she is lying," says Brown Braun. "Maybe a need isn't being met.
"Say to your child, 'This isn't working for us. What can I do to help you do what you want to do and also follow the rules in our family? Can you come to me and say (that you've) finished your homework and really want to watch a show?' Then decide if you can meet her partway. One possibility: 'You've already used your hour. Do you want to use part of tomorrow's hour?' Find a solution together."
Show her the error of her ways. "Kids are going to make mistakes," Brown Braun says. "I like to remind them, 'Everybody does things we shouldn't do. We figure out what we should do by doing what we shouldn't do. When you own your missteps, there will be a consequence. But if you don't take responsibility for your missteps, not only will there be a consequence for the mistake, but also a consequence for not telling the whole truth.' "I call it double-trouble."
Have a solution?
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