Honesty is a characteristic that most adults value highly. While all kids lie at some point, it’s hard for parents not to worry about it when it’s their kid. So, if they all do it, how do we stop it?

How do parents teach their kids to stop lying?

Teach Your Kids to Stop Lying #StreamTeam

 

With love.

It’s so important for parents to approach lying in a straightforward and calm manner, and encourage honesty while discouraging dishonesty. First, though, find out why your kids are lying.

Why Kids Lie

Children lie for a number of reasons. Most often, lies fall into three different types – fantasy, avoidance, and bragging. Take a good look at the situations in which you find your child most often telling lies, and work out solutions from there.

Fantasy

This type of lie is most common with the preschool set. Your little one may tell his preschool teacher that he stayed up late last night because he was in Disney World visiting Mickey Mouse. When he lives in Ohio.

He might tell you that he really didn’t hit his little sister. He’s not necessarily telling you because he thinks he didn’t really do it, or even because he thinks you won’t know. He may be saying that because he actually wishes he hadn’t hit her. He may not have realized that he’d hurt her, and now that she’s crying he feels bad. He’s projecting the fantasy of what he really wishes had happened, not what actually did.

Just like the fantasy of traveling to Disney World overnight, he’s not destined for a life of lying, cheating, and stealing… he’s just figuring out his world.

Avoidance

Most kids will lie to avoid punishment at some point. They do or say something they know their parents or another adult will disapprove of, and they lie to avoid the shame of letting down the person they love.

Children may also tell lies to avoid something unpleasant and make way for something they’d rather do. Like saying their chores are done, when actually they’ve just shoved everything under the bed. They just want to go outside and play with the neighbors.

Teach Your Kids to Stop Lying #StreamTeam

Bragging

This type of lie is especially prevalent in kids that have other struggles… anxiety, low self esteem, or those that struggle to make friends. They feel the need to embellish the truth. not out of fantasy or avoidance, but to seem better or more important than they are.

Kids that lie for attention may need help form their parents to find ways to believe in themselves and build their self-esteem. They may also benefit from counseling to help them learn what it takes to be a good friend.

What to Do About Lying

It’s sometimes easier to understand why something is happening than to take steps to stop it. But, no matter how difficult it is, kids need to know it’s important to stop lying – and their parents need to help them.

Talk about behaviors and identify them without asking questions that invite lying. What does that mean? Well… how many times have you asked a question that you knew the answer to, only to get frustrated when your kiddos lies?

Did you take your sister’s Easter candy and eat it?

No.

Don’t lie to me! I know you did… your father saw you take it.

There is nothing good about that scenario there. Your child is backed into a corner, and you essentially set him up for failure. Instead, try something like this:

Your father mentioned to me that he saw you take your sister’s Easter candy out of her basket and eat it. I’m sad that you felt the need to take something that didn’t belong to you. What can you do to fix this problem?

He may still balk and try to get out of it, but you can deal with it at that point better because he knows you know the truth, so you’re on the same team, talking calmly and working out a solution.

For the little one who tells people the impossible, you can try something different:

I know you really want to go to Disney World to meet Mickey Mouse in person, but you realize that telling your teacher that you were there last night is wrong, don’t you? Try this next time you really want something to happen – tell your teacher that you really want to go to Disney World. Ask her to imagine what it will be like to give Mickey a hug.

No matter how frustrated you get, though, don’t lose your temper and call your child a liar. Labels like that do damage by tearing down kids’ self-esteem and leading to self-fulfilling behaviors.

Teach Your Kids to Stop Lying #StreamTeam

 

Establish a family culture of honesty. Model honesty – the only way to get your kids to stop lying is to show them that you are honest. If they catch you embellishing the truth, they’ll be confused and likely stretch it themselves.

Remember that your kids are watching you… so don’t take a few years off when you go to the amusement park to buy their tickets so you can save a few dollars, and if they’re too old for the kids’ meals at your favorite restaurant, split something with them from the regular menu or let them order what they want. Set the bar high for yourself, and the rest of the family will follow.

Talk to your kids about honesty. Have regular discussions about lying and its consequences. Be intentional about the books and movies you share with your kids so you can find easy and natural ways to reinforce your family mission statement and culture. Have discussions that highlight characters’ choices – good and bad.

We just read The Story About Ping together. It’s a classic, and well-loved. In it, a little duckling was late getting back home for the evening, so instead of risking the spanking he would get for showing up late, he hid out. The next day he got into trouble, and almost ended up as dinner for a family, realizing that sometimes following rules, and facing the consequences for one’s actions, can be for less trouble than the alternative.

Teach Your Kids to Stop Lying - Book Suggestions #StreamTeam

There are lots of great books that teach kids about honesty and lead to wonderful discussions:

Teach Your Kids to Stop Lying - Video Suggestions from Netflix #StreamTeam

Try some of these Netflix videos for your next family movie night to spark some great conversations about the importance of truth {note – I have watched the first four titles with my little ones, but haven’t seen the others, so make sure you preview shows before letting your child see them if you’re concerned about content.}:

Teach that lying doesn’t work and there will be clear consequences, and make sure they know what those are. Remember the boy who cried wolf? People stopped believing him because he lied all the time. When he was finally being truthful, there was nobody left to listen.

By age six, your children should be able to tell the difference between truth and lies. This is a good time to start giving consequences for both the lying and the negative behavior. Make it clear that they’ll still earn a consequence if they tell the truth about something that they did wrong because wrongs must be righted, but it will be much less severe than if they’ve lied about it too.

Make it clear to them that you approve of honesty, and they’ll get a lighter consequence. But, make sure your consequences are fair and consistent…overly harsh punishments may encourage more lying.

Finally, praise honesty. My son broke a window a few winters ago. It was a dumb thing – he was swinging icicles like a bat, trying to knock down other icicles, and aiming towards the house. He came inside, crying. He admitted what he’d done right away.

This was a huge thing, because we’d been having trouble with him lying and blaming others for what he’d done. And, while I wanted to yell, I chose to praise him instead. I thanked him for being honest, and told him we’d need to figure out an appropriate consequence because it wasn’t a good choice to be hitting icicles toward the kitchen windows, and the window would need to be replaced.

He worked extra jobs around the house until he “earned” the money to help replace the window, and helped to patch it up in the meantime. Throughout the whole experience, we talked about how proud we were of him for telling the truth right away, and how it meant that we were able to get right to solving the problem.

Teach Your Kids to Stop Lying #StreamTeam

What next? Sometimes you and your child need to find ways to work together to regain trust – especially if your child has built a long habit of lying. Make sure he knows that he can do it. He can build back a trusting relationship with you, and you want him to.

Consider creating a behavior contract or system to begin this process. And, if it’s been going on for awhile, and you’re both hurting from the cycle of lying and yelling and punishment and around and around… it might be the time to seek professional help. If your child’s lying has gotten out of hand, and is impacting the culture of your family and his relationships, it could be a great thing to have him {and you} talk to a counselor who specializes in children.

Above all, know that this too will pass – like everything else about childhood and parenting. Your children are precious and need your love and understanding, so do whatever you can to preserve that relationship.

Love him and build your relationship back up.

It’s your turn – what kinds of things have you done to build a culture of honesty and fairness in your home?
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I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam, which means I received a year of Netflix and a special gift in exchange for sharing different ways we choose to use Netflix to support our family’s culture, mission, and values. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

 

Latest posts by Colleen Kessler