Ever caught your child in a lie? I have.
My son would ALWAYS tell me the truth when he was younger – no matter what. As he has grown, telling the truth has been a bit more challenging for him. In middle school, he would lie at the drop of a hat. I would get so frustrated, and my reactions only made the situations even worse.
Now that he’s in high school, he still lies from time to time, but thankfully not as often. I am indeed beginning to understand something as a parent: Stopping a child from lying has more to do with my reaction to the lie than the actual lie itself. In fact, I’ve discovered a strategy that works.
Ready to hear it?
This strategy focuses more on the child than the lie they tell. When children lie, we have to focus on how lying triggers our reaction to the act of lying itself. Children with traumatic backgrounds often lie to survive, and all children lie because they’re afraid or stressed. But often, it really is more about our reaction or overreaction that ignites lies in children.
When your child lies, start by asking yourself three things:
- Is there an unmet need?
- Does my child have a fear?
- Do I overreact?
Then, try these steps to help your child stop the cycle of lying:
- Once you hear your child lie, check your mindset and your reaction. Encourage and reassure your child that you love them. Be calm and walk away if you’re upset.
- Address the problem. Later, when your child is working on homework or watching TV, talk about how much it bothers you when he or she lies to you. Let them know that no matter what, you want them to feel safe enough to tell you the truth. It is essential for your child to trust you and understand that everything is going to be okay, so try not to overreact.
- Remember that discipline is about teaching, not punishing your child. This will help you create a positive and safe atmosphere for them, and provide security in the relationship.
- Think about your example. If your child hears or sees you telling lies, it will be easier for them to mimic what they see you do. Always be the example for your children in everything – they are watching!
- Build value in truth-telling and celebrate the successes of being honest by affirming their choices to tell the truth. Do not celebrate catching them in a lie (gotcha moments).
Remember, how you handle it when your child lies can either build up or tear down your relationship. If you want to stay connected, work to establish and maintain a safe environment and focus on changing the behavior in a positive way. Though you may not see results overnight, they will eventually learn to catch and redirect themselves.