What should you do if you catch your child in a lie? Advice from our expert.
Common reasons why kids lie….
Young children tell fibs based on fantasy and they are usually made up
stories of who they wish they were (princesses), or what they wish they could
do (today I ran across the road and didn’t hold anyone’s hand). And to not
get in trouble.
Elementary School Children start to tell “smarter” lies to avoid
sound “cool” and to get what they want. They also lie to avoid chores. If at a
young age they find that their lies get them what they want, the lies will
Teenagers tell lies to protect themselves and their friends, to avoid
punishments and arguments and to get what they want.
In addition…Kids also lie….
– to have control, find out what they can get away with, test us
– to get attention
– to get what they want
What can we do to keep the lies from becoming habit and help limit…?
FIRST- we have to be a good example. We can’t lie ourselves. (Think,
pretending to not be home when the doorbell rings, or lying about your kids
ages when you are going to the movies to save money)
SECOND- Analyze why our kids are lying. I caught our son lying
asked him why he lied, “Because I didn’t want to get in trouble.” was his
response. Why are they lying?
THIRD- We need to give our kids enough attention and be willing
to listen to
our children. Then, our kids will feel more comfortable talking to us, and less
likely to hide things from us. They will be more open with us because they
feel respected, and in turn will give respect. Remember that to kids, attention
is attention. If they are not getting enough positive attention from us, they
will do “something” to get attention. Even if it is negative, like lying.
FOURTH- Teach that honest is THE policy in your home. Teach that
always be honest with them, and you expect them to be honest in return.
There are no exceptions. In this family, we tell the truth.
FIFTH-Don’t be a harsh parent. Create an environment so kids feel
coming to us and telling the truth. When we are harsh with our children, they
will be afraid to tell the truth and will lie to avoid.
SIXTH- Make expectations and rules clear. And consequences
When your child does lie…
1. Don’t accuse your child of lying or call them a liar. This will make them
feel trapped and make things worse. Instead of “did you break the cookie
jar?” say, “Looks like there was an accident, do you need some help cleaning
things up, what happened?”
2. Don’t overact. If your child knows that you are going to stay calm, they are
more likely to tell you the truth. They don’t want to tell the truth if they think
it is going to get them in trouble.
3. Enforce consequences. When your child lies, there should be a
consequence. It should be reasonable. Understand that there are two sets of
consequences. A consequence when you do something wrong, and another
one for lying.
4. Stick to the facts. “Your backpack is still on the ground, be honest, did you
pick it up like you were asked?” “I can see that your nails are very short and
that your fingers are red, I expect the truth, have you been biting them?”
After the lie…
*Teach what happens when we lie. (Get in trouble, people don’t want to be
your friend, can’t trust you, hurts others, etc…
*Teach the difference between make believe and fiction.
Heather Johnson is an adjunct faculty member at Brigham Young University.
Find more practical hints for family life at Heather’s blog: