Why do children lie? Quite simply, it is a strategy, and many adults use the same strategy. It is to get out of something, to avoid something, or get some kind of a reward, even attention. Unfortunately, kids lie because it is an effective strategy, they get what they want. If we can take away their payoff for lying, then we can reduce their lying.
Tips For When a Child Lies
Tip One – Stay calm.
If you find it difficult for you to stay calm, take care of yourself emotionally and do some slow breathing. Take a step back until you can be in control before you talk to your child.
Tip Two – Do not ask your child why he or she lied.
You know it is a strategy. Don’t ask questions for which you already have the answer, then it isn’t really a question, it is a statement disguised as a question. Asking why they lied, puts us at odds with our child from the start and we don’t want that.
Tip Three – Start with a statement.
“David, you just told me that you finished your homework, but I know your homework is not finished.” Do you hear how clear and direct that statement is? “You know, Angela, you told me you came straight home from school, but that doesn’t quite fit.” Identify the issue and do it in a clear matter of fact sort of way where you establish your position. If your child gets upset at this point, wait for them to calm down. When you can talk to me like I am talking to you, we can discuss this.
Tip Four – Approach them from an empathetic point of view.
“I can see why you would think lying would be a good option for you. You’re thinking maybe if you lie about having your homework done, you won’t get in trouble, or you wouldn’t have to skip soccer practice to work on it. Is that what you’re thinking?” Check with them, they will say either, “No, that’s not it,” or “Yeah, I was hoping for that.” This gives you a chance to connect with your child and understand their reasoning.
Tip Five - Model appropriate strategies for handling their choices.
Use a method for drawing out information as you don’t want to be in the position where you are giving advice. They don’t want it and they need to discover the answer for themselves. “Well, Jimmy, what do you think you could do next time that might work out better for you?” Acknowledge how the right decision is usually hard. Jimmy might say, “Well, I guess I can come to you or just admit that I didn’t do my homework.” We can then name their fear. “Are you afraid that might not go over well with me, maybe I will get upset?”
Open up the lines of communication, show them that while they will have to experience consequences, you are not upset at them and it is better to talk to you about the problem. Hopefully they will begin to see you as someone they can talk to when big issues arrive in their lives.
Dr. Paul is an author, speaker, personal coach and positivity expert with 20+ years experience as a Professional Psychologist.
His book Pathological Positivity and its pocket-sized companion Portable Positivity illuminate powerful principles that when applied can make an immediate difference in your life.
Dr. Paul's channel Live On Purpose TV, available on YouTube, has a parenting playlist with a wide variety of subjects to help parents create positivity in their parenting.