It is not uncommon to catch small children in a lie. They are testing out boundaries and learning right from wrong, but one thing that often concerns parents more than other lies is when a kid is lying to get out of trouble. The good news is that there is hope, you are not alone facing this issue and we have some real world advice.
My Child is Lying!
The other day, a reader wrote, “My child is lying to get out of trouble. How to I encourage her to tell the truth, even when it may mean consequences?”
I think we have all been there with our kids. It’s part of human nature, as they grow, to test boundaries. That doesn’t mean that it’s a behavior that is to be supported. These tips to teach kids to be honest are tried and true!
Age Appropriate Consequences for Lying
One of the difficult parts about being a parent, grandparent, teacher, caregiver…is that you need to always make sure that you are taking in consideration the age of the child. And the level of maturity!
That can make your response more challenging to make sure that you are addressing the lying at the child’s developmental level. If your 8 year old is lying that is a very different situation than your 3 year old.
Keep your child’s age in mind for these tips…
1. Make Teachable Moments Fun
Yes, Mom and Dad are supposed to set limits, and be firm, but there are certain lessons that can be more lighthearted than others. We earn respect as parents by giving guidelines, and making children feel safe within the limits we give them, but we earn their trust by being soft when needed.
A fun way to work on this is to play a game together.
2. Talk about the Rules BEFORE They Lie
Talk about the rules before you play. Ask your kids what they would think if someone cheated, just to win. What could that person do to be a better version of themselves? This allows children to look at it objectively, instead of feeling like their own behavior is the focus.
3. Practice What Your Preach
My husband and I always say that we would rather our kids be honest up front. In order to firmly set that habit, we talk to our kids about it (not while the actual lie is being told, but all of the time). We want them to know that lying now is not a good idea, and the truth will always come out… even if it is much later.
Stop the Little White Lies
We make sure that we are also reflecting this with our actions. Are you telling little white lies and your child is watching? Try to stop yourself from doing this, and just be honest with your kids (as much as you can with little children, of course.)
Own Up to Lying when Your Child is Watching
Adults aren’t perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes, too. Owning up to it, apologizing, and doing better, not only makes you a better human, but also a better example for your little humans, who are always watching.
Kids can struggle with honesty because they fear disappointing their parents. Make it a habit to talk about what you failed at so they know you are not perfect.
I also make sure to check my emotions, when responding to my kids. It’s easy to overreact in the moment, which then can cause kids to lie, because they fear your overreaction. Take a minute and count to 20 before reacting to any situation.
4. Keep The Lines of Communication Open
Hold a family meeting and go over consequences. Sometimes just having open plans about things can help clear the air. What do they do if they have done something wrong? What should they do if they’ve lied?
5. Link Freedom with Honesty
Remind your child that as they show they are honest, you will be more apt to give more freedom. My Mom always said she would trust us, but when the trust gets broken, it has to be rebuilt.
The next time they lie, talk calmly about what happened. Why did they lie? What happened as a result? Building a strong communication line with your kids is key to building honesty.
6. Be Patient and Positive
When you are working on this issue, be sure to forgive and forget.
Give Positive Labels, Not Negative Ones
Give your child the hope that you believe they can be honest- do not label them a liar. Instead, label the action, and encourage them to turn from it. Children live up to what we expect of them. Our words become their inner voices.
7. Absolutely Never Give Up
Don’t give up on your child!
It can take a lot of repetition, but it is always worth it.
Keep on teaching, training, and modeling what you want your child to do.
More Parenting Tips and Tricks from Kids Activities Blog
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Comment below with any tips you have to encourage your children to tell the truth!