Stop the lying!
Telling the truth is a moral we hope all of our kids adopt. But, as our kids grow, they are faced with circumstances that may embarrass them, get them in trouble, or the worst of all – prevent them from getting what they want. Lying comes in many forms: not telling the truth, exaggerating, choosing not to say anything, and so on. Our job as parents is to encourage and expect kids to tell the truth.
Why do kids lie?
At young ages, kids will lie to create a story or to get what they want. For example, young children may lie about cleaning their room in order to play with their friends. Or they may lie about a friend as a part of their imagination. As kids grow up, they have more at stake such as avoiding punishment, preventing embarrassment, or saving their ego. A teen may lie about who they were with on Friday night because the group of kids are known to get in trouble…or, the person is a girl or boy they like…or, they were told they couldn’t go to a certain party, and they still went. They don’t want to hear mom’s reaction. Teens just want to fit in.
What can a parent do?
Curb your reactions. If kids are afraid to tell the truth, they never will. React to your child with respect and rational behavior. If a child can consistently gauge your behavior, trust is built. Once trust is built, lies just don’t fit the mold. Your reactions can encourage kids to be more truthful. Model this for your kids.
Don’t assert questions. Kids become defensive when asked a number of questions. Gather your facts from other sources if possible. Know when to ask and use that ability in only a select few circumstances. Always get the full truth before jumping to conclusions.
Be clear – honesty is the best policy. At all ages, lying has a consequence. It can be a punishment or result in a bad circumstance. Kids may not want to admit their choices or mistakes, but teach them to weigh out telling the truth rather than facing the consequence. The consequence needs to be steep enough to encourage truth. The risk of lying cannot outweigh the reward of truth.
How can you change the behavior?
Know what to ask – and how to ask it. Don’t accuse or be skeptical toward your kids. They are smart. They can sense when a parent is fishing for information or doesn’t believe them. That will only encourage them to shut down or deflect the question with a fib.
Don’t be naïve. Believing that your kid doesn’t lie is only setting yourself up for future issues and disappointments. Learn the signs your child displays when they are lying rather than telling the truth. Do they look you in the eyes? Does he mumble when he’s lying to you. Do they fidget? Or, do they just avoid you. Either way, learn to recognize the signs on a lie.
Enforce the consequence. Consistency is key. To curb a behavior takes discipline. Be prepared to be the bad guy for a while.
Give them a ‘safe to say’ place. Kids of all ages need to know that, despite what they tell you, there’s always a ‘safe to say’ environment. Did you son have a drink at a party? Let him know that you will pick him up, no questions asked. It takes time to extend trust on their judgment in certain situations, but over time, extending that trust will earn you respect in return.
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