Parenting 101: How to Deal with a Lying Child
by Lori Ramsey – real life parenting with a mom with 6 kids
When dealing with a lying child the first thing you should do is find out why the child is lying. Children will lie for different reasons. Some may lie to keep from getting into trouble. Others may lie because it becomes chronic or a habit. Wisdom tells us we need to teach our children to be truthful and curtail the lying so when the child grows up they will be of honest and trustworthy character. Whatever the reasons behind the lying, dealing with lying head on will help to turn a liar into an honest person.
The Why Behind the Lie
When you catch your child in a lie try to find out what’s going on or why they felt the need to tell one. Perhaps the lies are caused from a break in communication and they think they are telling the truth. They may have a defense behind why they told a lie and it might sound good even to the parents. Still, responding to the lie and listen why your child told the lie in the first place. Don’t speak angrily, but talk to them, help them by remaining calm and tell them you need to talk it out. Sometimes the truth is revealed and you can help the child by talking to them about being honest when you find out the why behind the lie.
Lying for a five-year-old differs vastly from a thirteen-year-old liar. The younger child may not quite understand they told a lie whereas the older child is lying on purpose. How you handle each should be age appropriate. The best way to help a child not turn into a liar is to teach them early on that lying is wrong. Perhaps it never came up and your child started lying at an older age. Whatever the case, deal with them per their age. Always correct a younger child when they tell a lie even if the lie is an innocent one. For example, a four-year-old may say something like, “My dad ate all the turkey on Thanksgiving.” They literally may think if the turkey is gone and mom said something about dad eating it. “No, dad didn’t eat all the turkey, but he ate a lot of the turkey.” Point out the difference. When you catch an older child in a lie, you need to let them know you know about it and talk about the lie, always encouraging to tell the truth.
Experts say they can tell if a person is lying by their body language. You understand your child better than anyone. Look for the signs of a lie when you believe your child isn’t being totally honest. When they speak the truth, watch how their body language reacts, how they hold their posture, their eyes, their hands and feet. Pay attention to what they do when they lie. Shift their eyes away, shuffle their feet, wring their hands, etc. You will spot a lie from body language alone.
A child may lie if they have little communication with their parents. When life gets busy, we may only connect when we must and otherwise we’re too busy to pay attention. It’s vital with children to make those daily connections and take the time to articulate communication even if you’re pressed for time. By communicating, you will better read their body language and they will have more opportunity to speak with you honestly.
Lead By Example, Always Tell the Truth
Children learn foremost by watching their parents. If parents are in the habit of lying, then you can expect the children will be liars. React with integrity with others. Don’t give flippant promises and break them. Children recognize this as a lie and assumes it’s okay for them to lie if mom and dad lie. If your child asks you to do something and you say yes and then don’t do it, well, guess what? That makes you a liar in their eyes. Always observe how you answer your child if you have an idea you may not follow through, be honest. “Yes, I will try. Remind me.” Never say yes to something and then not follow through with what you promised you’d do.
Consequences, Accountability and Responsibility
Children need to realize they have an accountability to give for their actions and lies and there are consequences for telling lies. If your child is caught in the lie, make them accountable for the lie by taking responsibility for the lies. If the lie hurt someone’s feelings try to help them to come up with a way to make it up to the person they hurt. Start by apologizing for the lie and promising never to lie again. Show them and tell them how honesty always leads to freedom. Administer discipline when the lie calls for it.
Open Transparent Communication
Children need to understand if they come clean about something, or if they are honest, you won’t blow up with them. Don’t make certain topics off but instead be open and transparent when talking with your child. This includes talking about taboo things such as sex. Your child will be able to talk with you honestly about what’s going on instead of coming up with a lie to hide the truth if you are open and honest with them and make them feel comfortable about talking with you.
Lori Ramsey (LA Ramsey) was born in 1966 in Twenty-Nine Palms, California. She grew up in Arkansas where she lives with her husband and six children!! She took the Famous Writers Course in Fiction from 1993-1996. She started writing fiction in 1996 and began writing non-fiction in 2001.