In my previous post I discussed some of the reasons why our kids lie. Fear, internal stress, and even survival are some of the motivating factors for lying for children who have come from traumatic backgrounds. Here are some helpful approaches to addressing our kids when they lie:
1. Set the example. Your kids are watching you. Their ability to learn honesty begins with you, even in the small things. For example, if your child answers the phone and the caller wants to talk to you—but you don’t want to talk to them—please don’t instruct your child that you are not home and to “please take a message.” To you, this may seem insignificant, but to your child, it sends a message about honesty.
2. When your child lies, don’t confront him as to whether or not he lied. Just assume to yourself that he probably did. If you try to interrogate him about whether he lied it’s just going to complicate the matter and likely prompt him to tell another lie to cover up the first one. Encourage him that it is okay to be honest, and that you will help him with this. Tell him that you know it is hard for him to tell the truth, but that telling the truth is the best way.
3. Praise your child when they tell the truth—especially when you know she could have easily lied about something. In your praise of your child, emphasize why you are proud of her. If you have a young child, tell her in simple words that you love her unconditionally, especially when you have to use consequences to address lying. “Catch” your child telling the truth—so many parents are primed for catching their child in a lie that they don’t even consider that it’s so much better to catch a child telling the truth. This form of positive reinforcement goes a long way in helping your child’s conscience develop in a healthy way.