Kids lie. They don’t do it all the time. Some do it deliberately to cover what they know they’ve done wrong. Others may not even realize they are lying. Bottom-line, it happens and we parents can get stuck in the nitty-gritty of parenting through a habit or moment of lies. The parenting aspect is sticky. When lies come up, as loving parents we desire to recover our child’s character, uncover the truth of the event or situation, offer instruction for future behavior that’s more appropriate, then give consequences if necessary. To do all of that in the moment can be a daunting, if not impossible task for some parents. Take a look below to help navigate these waters with your child with a bit more ease and a compass to gauge your conversation.
Recover Your Child’s Character – When you recognize a lie, or even may have a hunch that something is not right, the first thing to do is to believe in the innocence of your child. Understand that he or she is still learning about how the world works and probably at this point may not know the difference and dangers of lies verses telling the full truth. Do a quick search within and ask yourself, how extensively have we talked about lies and truth, reality verses illusion? Is this important to our family? Your child’s character will only grow through this as much as you yourself have decided to stand firm in a reality that is honest and truthful.
Uncover the Truth of the Event – Next, ask questions to find truth and then seek to understand the context of the situation and your child’s unique individual experience. For example: Let’s say your child is at school and she comes home and says, “I sat next to Sally during lunch today.” Then her older brother says, “I saw you sitting next to John.” It may appear like one is lying and the other telling the truth, but in reality, they both may be telling the truth. Perhaps Sally and John were both at the table with your child. The brother’s perception may be that he only saw John and not Sally, or there may deliberate twisting of truth (in which you would have to also get to the bottom of). This situation happens more frequently than we think or are aware of as parents. Always question the individual’s reality by objective facts.
Note: The Reticular Activation System in our minds filters out many details. Therefore, one person’s perception of time and space will never be the complete picture. Asking questions with integrity (without judging or accusation) will help you fill out a more complete picture and better understand the situation.
Helping Your Child With Future Behavior – In the case where a child indeed lied, what will you say? Communicate the difference between the illusion and concrete reality in terms of helping one move through life and be successful. When your child needs help solving a problem, but is lying or withholding details, it is impossible to “work” on what doesn’t exist. However, if your child needs help solving his or her problem and would like to move through life with greater comfort and ease then it is necessary to work on details and issues that actually exist.
Consequences for Lying – The natural consequence for lying is a hard pill to swallow. The fact is that when a child lies, no one will trust him or her or want to help him or her because they may have experienced a situation where their effort and energy was expended for nothing. Explaining this to your child in a gentle way helps plant the seed for maturity and offers the opportunity to build abridge of trust. When it comes to consequences that require immediate action and discipline, any consequence that repairs or rebuilds what was damaged in the event is most appropriate. Always relate it to the event as much as possible.
For example: A child that lied about skipping school may be asked to record his own voice telling the truth about skipping school and why, or a written account of what actually happened. Then writing a letter of apology to the teacher and asking for homework missed that day and being held accountable to turning it in. These “consequences” are directly associated to the event, and require your child to take responsibility for his or her life in an honest and empowering way. You can apply the principle of taking honest responsibility as a consequence. It would be like exchanging the lie for the truth and moving forward from there.
Being a parent requires you to make tough choices. At times it is uncomfortable to challenge our children in the way of character development. They kick, fight, call us names, but in the end, if you are diligent to uphold a good standard and healthy discipline, they will have the reward of your relationship, investment, as well as their own hard work and perseverance.