Parenting Advice: Children Who Lie

By: Dr. Noel Swanson


Unfortunately, even though adults hate lying, they often set up their children to do just that. Here's a look at how:

Mother has just heard that Greg was throwing stones at someone:

"Hi Greg, what have you been doing today?" [Why would I tell you if you don't know for sure?]

"What do you mean? Nothing." he says, with an innocent, puzzled, expression.

"Did you throw stones at that new girl?" [Hmm, maybe I can get away with this.]

"No", he answers incredulous that you would even suspect him.

"Mavis saw you."

"It was some other kid. I wouldn't do that." [She'll believe me over some nosy neighbour!]

"She is convinced she saw you doing it."

"She's wrong! It wasn't me!"

During the first exchange, Mum is tempting Greg to lie, and when he does she has him cornered. Now it's showdown time. Does she have total confidence in Mavis? Now Mum is having some doubts and doesn't quite know how to proceed. Greg is being insistent, so maybe it was another kid. If she chooses to believe him, she'll have to apologize for not believing him in the beginning. If she doesn't believe him, she will have two strikes against him; lying and throwing rocks.

Just about any child will lie to avoid getting into trouble with an authority figure. As a parent, you need to be the one to encourage honesty and truth. Part of doing this is to let him know the benefits of truth-telling. Lay a strong foundation of truth and honesty in your family. Don't ever lie yourself. Start looking for honesty and truthfulness. Keep talking about the importance of building a solid reputation. Also, notice and reward your child when he is honest. Continue to show that honesty is a Good Thing, and will reap rewards.

If you do suspect them of lying or some other bad deed, don't lose your temper.

If you know what they have done, do not ask them, "Did you do it?" Why tempt them? Tell them what you know, and dish out the consequences.

You can also ask him to tell you the truth. Here is an example that won't giver him the option to lie about it:

"Greg, Mavis informed me of something she witnessed this afternoon. I would like to have you tell me what went on. Go to your room and think about it for 15 minutes. While you're thinking, keep in mind how much we value honesty in our home."

Greg now has time to calm down and decide whether to dig himself in deeper, or to cut his losses and come clean. If he confesses, praise his honesty. If, after this, he still lies, then it is double the punishment, once for lying and once for the "crime".

Either way, once things have calmed down, talk about the feelings of anger, envy, or insecurity that may have led to the behaviours. Show that it is okay to have such feelings, but that feelings don't excuse bad behaviour. Be patient. Tthey won't talk until they know it is safe and that you won't "blow up" at what they say.

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Dr. Noel Swanson regularly writes for Yes Parenting website and also has a free newsletter with heaps of expert parenting advice.
This and other unique content parenting articles are available with free reprint rights.

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