What to do when your child lies

P7124787All parents want their children to tell the truth.  When our children lie to us, as parents, we often take it personally.  We worry that the behavior will become a pattern to be repeated again and again.  It often angers or frustrates parents.  Parents begin to worry if they can trust their child. When children lie parents often wonder “why?”  Often, parents will try to get the child to tell the truth.  As parents, why do we do this?  Do we think that by getting them to tell the truth will prevent future lies? Do we think that the same thing won’t happen again?

 First of all, lets look at the reason’s why a child may lie:

  1. To avoid possible punishment.  Who wants to get in trouble?  
  2. To get attention.  Some children learn that the more great and exciting the lie is, the more attention they seem to get.
  3. To gain control over a situation.  “He started it!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat can a parent do about it? First of all, as a parent, look into your own behavior. Remember that time you were in a hurry to get one child to their soccer game, another to gymnastics?  You might have been speeding a bit, or maybe you didn’t stop completely at that stop sign.  It may also be that you have known all week that one of your tail lights is out but you just haven’t had time to get it fixed this week due to the normal day to day activities of home, work, and family. You’ve talked about that burned out tail light with your spouse.  Your children have heard and know it’s out and that it needs to be fixed.  Do your children really care that it needs to be fixed?  Nope.  In their world, it doesn’t really effect them.  Speeding?  Depending on the child’s age, they are looking at the speed only because in their world they see those speed limit signs.  Hum, that must be a “rule” they think.  But your going over the “limit”. Of course, it’s probably only 5 MPH, or maybe only a little more over the limit.  They don’t  know the difference.  A rule is a rule.  That stop sign you didn’t stop fully at?  There is another “rule” to a small child who is learning that rules at home and school must be followed.  Haven’t they been told to follow the rules?  

As parents aren’t we constantly teaching our children “right from wrong”?  But, now, you have been pulled over for that same tail light that you’ve known all week needs fixed.  Or,  your in a hurry, being that good parent that you are and trying to get everyone where they need to be on time so your speeding.  

You tell the officer that you didn’t know the light was out but will take care of it as soon as possible.  Do you have intentions of getting it fixed?  Sure you do!  In your mind your going to take care of it tomorrow because you’ve been stopped and know it needs to be done.  Your even chastising  yourself because it hadn’t already been taken care of.  But you’ve just told the officer that you didn’t realize it was out.   Maybe you were pulled over for speeding.    You tell the officer you didn’t realize you were speeding, apologize and tell him you’ll slow down.  The officer gives you a warning, tells you to slow down.  Back on the road again, you realize that you still have to get everyone to their practices on time, now running more late……back to 5 or 6 miles over the speed limit. Little ears in the back seat….. always learning.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

How to deal with lies: First, question the child about the situation.  Do this once.  You then make a decision as to whether or not you are going to accept the child’s explanation.  Don’t continue to badger the child about what the truth is.  If there is a fair probability that the child is telling the truth, then take it as such and drop the issue.  If you know it’s not the truth then explain why you feel that way and punish the behavior which was lied about in the first place.  Don’t harp on the lie.  An example would be that if they broke something because they were playing rough in the house.  You simply tell them that you know they were playing rough, the end table wasn’t broke before that time and is now, so the item will have to be replaced, and they will need to work to help pay for part of the cost.   If you call the child a liar they will become defensive.  They will think, “I’m already accused of it so I might as well keep telling the lie”.

Oh, and the next time an officer pulls you over for speeding…. fess up.  If he gives you a ticket, deal with it.  If he doesn’t give you a ticket and only a warning you just taught the child the value of telling the truth.  


About Childs Play Counseling Services

No family is without the occasional frustration or challenge but when issues are interfering with daily activities or causing chaos within the home it may be time to look for help. Child's Play Counseling Services offers full service mental health counseling and therapy for adults, children, adolescents, and families in Covington County, Alabama. I offer therapy for a variety of issues not limited to ADHD, behavior problems, parenting issues, depression, anxiety, school problems, anger management, low self esteem, eating disorders, family issues relating to divorce and separation within the family. I have been helping children, adults and families heal, and lead healthy lives for over 15 years in a safe, confidential, and nonjudgmental environment. I can help you. Call 334-222-7094 to schedule your appointment. I am licensed in Alabama as well as Florida and in addition to being a licensed counselor, I am also licensed in both states to offer supervision for those wishing to obtain their licenses in Alabama, Florida or certification in Play Therapy. I often teach parenting classes and training and conduct workshops to other professionals in the field of mental health. The topics I present on include issues of concern for parents, as well as counseling techniques to professionals. I specialize in Play Therapy and am always happy to conduct workshops to other professionals on the benefits of play therapy. If you would like me speak at your event or offer a workshop in your area, please contact me and we can set something up.
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2 Responses to What to do when your child lies

  1. So difficult to do! But definitely worth it in the long term. Have been caught out by little uns’ on a lie or 2…’that’s not what you said!’…

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