Six-year-old Adam sheepishly strolls into mum’s bedroom with crumbs clinging to his lips. Mom interrogates, “did you go take a biscuit?” Adam smiles, eyes opened and refute mom’s confrontation. “Stop lying, Adam! I see those crumbs on your mouth. Now kneel down there until you are ready, to tell the truth, young man. When are you going to learn it is not good to lie?!!!”
Does anything like this happen in your household? Is Your Child Lying?
Indeed, lying is a serious issue… usually used to cover up a misdeed or to get out of some unpleasant task. It drives every parent crazy and managing it is often difficult and confusing.
Aggravated, most parents use coercive force: guilt, threats, punishment, intimidation, commands, shouting, beating, criticism, sarcasm etc to motivate their children to get them off the lying mode. This may work, but only in the short term- it has no lasting positive effect on behavior.
Force or coercive power motivates through fear…instead of love. Therefore, it has the counterproductive effect to make children protect themselves by being more skilful in lying, being hostile, blaming others etc. This way, the child’s behaviour is not governed by his own sense of right or wrong and no positive value is developed.
Surprisingly, lying is not a rooted trait or characteristics of most children. It is developmentally ‘normal’ for children between the ages of four and seven to lie. The concrete operational stage of children begins at seven. From that age, children are capable of understanding the value of honesty and know the difference between reality and cooked stories.
However, if you make too big of an issue about it between the early period of their development, your child may continue to lie in order to avoid punishment. So what is a parent to do?
Don’t Corner Your Child
What do I mean? You know the answer, and you deliberately set up your child to ‘test’ if he will tell you the truth. For instance, you are Adam’s mom. You are 100% certain that he had taken the biscuit- after all, the evidence was all over his lips! Yet, you still asked him if he did. Of course, his first response is no. If you asked say five times and on the sixth time, he finally breaks down and admits. By this time, you are furious, but also feel victorious that you finally got the truth out of him.
But what has just really happened? You just gave Adam five times to practice lying!
You may think that sooner or later, your child will realize he can’t fool you and give up lying. Yes. Sometimes, this works. However, at other times, they will simply work to be better liars and you will be helping to provide with their practice sessions.
If something happened. You either know the truth or not. If you don’t know what occurred, ask your child once what happened. If he tells you and you later found out that he lied, discipline for whatever the offence was as well as for the lie. Hopefully, you have previously set the limit that lying is never condoned in the family. No assumptions or they should know…But one-on-one verbal engagements where consequences and reward for the opposite- truthfulness/honesty/integrity are pre-agreed upon.
Confront the Child
So Adam’s Mom can say, “I see you ate some biscuits. Eating biscuit before dinner is not a good idea”
Help them Develop an internal Sense of Responsibility
Ask your child to describe how he feels internally when he tells a lie? Does he feel disturbed? Happy? Guilty? Teach him that he is in control and has the power to choose how he will like to feel.
Provide a Non-threatening Environment
The biggest deterrent to lying is for the child to learn good things happen when he tells the truth. He will feel better about himself and others will be more willing to trust him.
If you have been punishing your child, you may want to going forward, provide a non-threatening environment by informing him that you will not punish him if he told the truth. This is to reestablish connection. Stick to your promise.
Ask with Wisdom
If something happened, do not ask who did it or why? Rather use the phrase. How did it happen? This is more likely to give you a truthful response.
Try not to surprise your child my asking your question impulsively or out of the spur of the moment. Many kids just respond impulsively. They lie. However, their real intention/desire is just to end the conversation, get rid of you and stay out of trouble.
For instance, something happened and you already know the details. You may say: I want you to tell me the story of what happened when it was time for dinner today, but not right now. Think about it a while and we’ll talk about it in 15mins. But remember, I already talked with (an eye witness).
However, in the case where you already know that the child is very likely to lie about the event no matter how the question is phrased, simply tell the youngster what you know and calmly mete out your discipline. You do not even give him the chance to lie.
Teach Children the Value of Trust
One great tool to do this is the story of the boy who cried wolf. Clearly, they see that once trust is broken, the stake is high and it becomes a herculean task to build it.
Teaching the importance of telling the truth is a long process. It is not something that can be taught one or two times and be expected to “sink in.” It is important that you view your child’s lying as an opportunity to teach rather than something to be punished.
Lying is not good…but it isn’t the end of the world either. It’s a challenge that needs to be managed carefully and thoughtfully. Remember, with the use of coercive force, you are helping to produce an accomplished liar…