All children lie sometimes and a little dishonesty should normally not be a cause for concern. However, if lying occurs regularly, it can become a significant problem. When you teach your child the value of telling the truth, the importance of personal responsibility, trust and care also becomes clear.
Lying can become a bad habit when children see that it is an effective way to avoid trouble or avoid responsibility. So if your child is lying, talk to him or her in a simple way and stop it from happening again.
Here are some strategies to keep a child from lying.
Make telling the truth a household rule
As part of your family rules and values, create a clear household rule that emphasizes the importance of honesty and truthful communication. This will ensure that your children understand that you value the truth, even if it is hard to tell.
Talk about the different types of lies and the damage that each type can cause. Explain the different reasons why people lie and why you expect honesty.
Role model honesty
Setting an example for the behavior you want your child to behave – that means always telling the truth. Children cannot distinguish “little white lies” from other lies. So don’t lie about your child’s age in order to make him or her eat cheaper in a restaurant, and don’t say that you don’t feel comfortable coming out of a social engagement in which you don’t want to participate. Your child will imitate what he or she is watching you.
Discuss telling the truth vs. lying
No matter how old your child is, it is important to explain the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie. Note, however, that young children up to the age of about four do not fully understand the difference between telling the truth and lying.
For small children, it can be helpful to say things like, “If I said the sky was green, would that be the truth or a lie? Talk about the possible consequences of dishonesty, for example that people no longer believe what you say.
It is just as important to talk about telling the truth instead of being brutally honest. Children need to learn that they don’t necessarily have to announce “That’s an ugly shirt” or “You have pimples” just because it’s honest. Balancing honesty with compassion is a sophisticated social skill that you should teach early on.
Also talk to your child about what will happen if he or she is caught lying. Discussing consequences for dishonesty before it happens can be a deterrent and helps you both know exactly what to do if / when lies occur.
Distinguish the reason for the lie
There are three main reasons why children lie: to avoid fantasy, bragging or negative consequences. Distinguishing the probable reason for the lie can help you develop a plan to respond to it.
Children of preschool age often tell fantasy lies. If your child says, “I went to the moon last night,” you ask, “Is that something that is really true? Or something you wish were true? “This can help children understand the difference between reality and faith. However, if your child only pretends that it is okay to indulge in fantasy – as long as everyone knows that it is more fiction than fact.
If a child lies because he or she is bragging, this may be because they have low self-esteem or want to gain attention. They can benefit from learning new social skills and positive activities to increase their self-esteem.
All children sometimes lie to avoid trouble. It is important that their lies are not successful. Instead, make it clear to your children that you will check the facts.
Another component of using lies to avoid responsibility is that children can use lies to avoid expectations or to do what they want. Examples include lies of omission, of ignoring or partial truths, such as a child claiming to have to use the bathroom to stop unloading the dishwasher – he or she can use the toilet but then never return to the kitchen.
Also note that children with attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more prone to lying. The common ADHD symptoms of forgetfulness, impulsiveness and disorganization can lead to a predisposition to dishonesty – often exacerbated by misunderstandings.
For example, you might ask a child to put his or her toy away, and if he or she has not done so, he or she might stubbornly insist that you never asked him or her to do so. This may not really be a lie – they may have actually forgotten your policy.
But don’t let their diagnosis become a free ticket. Just remember to consider how ADHD can affect your child’s honesty and try to strengthen the skills and support that they may need more help with.
Give a warning
Give children a warning if you are pretty sure you have involved them in a lie. For example, say calmly: “I’m giving you another chance to tell me the truth. If I catch you lying, you will get an extra consequence. “
It is also helpful to repeat what will be the consequence for dishonesty. But focus on teaching responsibility and honesty rather than accusing or embarrassing your child. It also helps to keep the tone calm and compassionate. If you are angry, yelling or threatening, your child will feel less comfortable when he or she gets clean.
Give an additional consequence
Give your child an additional consequence if you catch him lying. For example, instead of just taking away their electronics for the day, give them extra tasks. Take away privileges and/or use reimbursement as a consequence to tell a lie.
Make sure the consequence is reasonable and fair. Avoid the temptation to go overboard in punishments. If you tend to pile on consequences or tend to overreact, your child will probably go away thinking about how unfair his parents are instead of focusing on his misdeeds.
Discuss natural consequences
Talk to your child about the natural consequences of lying. Explain that dishonesty makes it hard for you to believe them next time, even if they are telling the truth. And other people do not tend to like or trust people who are known to tell lies.
Catch your child telling the truth and reinforce it positively. Praise her by saying, “I know it must have been hard to tell me you broke this court, but I am so glad you chose to be honest.
Help your child to restore confidence
If your child has a bad habit of lying, develop a plan to help him or her restore confidence. For example, create a behavioral contract that links more permissions to honesty. If they tell the truth, they are one step closer to regaining more privileges.
Seek professional help
There are times when lying can become a serious problem for children. If your child’s lie seems to be pathological or is causing your child problems at school or with peers, seek professional help to address the lie.
A word from Verywell
All children will lie occasionally, but it is important to nip dishonesty in the bud so that it does not become a habit. Children have a variety of reasons to lie, but the most common and worrisome is to stay out of trouble. Once your child knows that you expect the truth (and you consistently back up that expectation with consequences), you are likely to see much more honesty in your home.
The principle “Honesty is the best policy
As the age-old saying goes, “honesty is the best policy” is still relevant today. Make it a family rule and ask everyone to practice it. A child imitates elders and takes in what he sees. If you practice honesty yourself, he will appreciate the importance of truthfulness.
Give examples and create scenarios
Teaching using examples and stories is the best way to get your message across. If you notice that your child lies quite often, it is best to grasp the situation while it is raw. Once grown up, children usually carry their childhood habits, which can be a problem for them in the future. Let them read stories about honesty, biographies for truthful people and quotes about how important it is,