Written by: Jenny Smith
Encouraging your child to tell the truth can lead to frustrations as a parent. Once children are over about three years old they start to work out that adults around them are not able to read their minds and that it is possible to say something that isn’t true and have it believed. As they get older they become capable of being more believable in their lying by incorporating body language and facial expressions into the act and by the age of eight it’s common for young people to be able to get away with lying.
Honesty is something that most of us value in ourselves and in our children and it can be shocking and upsetting to realise that something your child does is to lie.If you have noticed this it will help to take some time to think through what may be going on for them to make them do so before you tackle them about it.
Why do kids lie?
There are lots of different reasons that cause a child to lie. These can include covering something up as a way to avoid punishment, a way to test a parents reactions, to exaggerate a story or impress someone, to get attention, to get what they want in a situation. All of these scenarios show that the child is in someway frightened or insecure and using dishonesty as a way of manipulating a situation that feels threatening to them.
Take a step back first
Because honesty is such a high value in our society it is easy to feel very threatened by, and judgemental towards your child’s lying behaviour. If this is going on, remember that there will always be a reason for what they are doing and that their lying is simply a strategy to meet a need.It is important to be sensitive to your child if you either suspect or know that they are lying. Tell yourself that there is a vulnerability underneath the behaviour and that you do not need to take it personally, this will help you to step back from the situation and respond to it more creatively.
Honesty is the best policy
It is important to give a clear message to your children that you expect honesty and to model that as their parent so that your actions are consistent with your expectations.
One of the most successful ways to wean a child from a habit of lying is to consciously praise honesty and focus on that behaviour rather than punishing the lying. When your child is owns up to a mistake or an accident take the opportunity¬† to give them really positive feedback, for example ‘I am really glad you told me the truth, it’s very brave of you.’
Lead by example
To give them a chance to become more aware about their behaviour you can explain that sometimes people are tempted to tell lies for different reasons. If you are willing to share a time when you have told a lie in your past, it can be a very powerful way for your child to learn more about the issue and¬† if they experience this level of honesty from you they are more likely to mirror it back.
Put yourself in their shoes
If this is a situation that you are in, put yourself in your child’s shoes and see if you can feel what may be prompting the lies. Has something changed at school or at home recently? Are they under any particular pressure at the moment, or is there something that is making them feel insecure? See if you can make some time for them and do something together that they enjoy so that they can feel valued and taken care of, and then gently find a way of raising the topic and giving them permission to say what they need to about it.