I read an article this month by Amy McCready, writing for Positive Parenting Solutions . In her article on seven steps to encourage honesty, she reported that lying is a developmental mile marker. “When your preschooler starts lying, it’s simply a new developmental milestone, according to research by Kang Lee, a University of Toronto professor and director of the Institute of Child Study. This shift signifies changes in the way your child organizes information. It’s a normal step, so you don’t need to worry about your little one becoming a pathological liar.
Though it’s a normal stage of development, we still want to know how best to deal with this misbehavior so that it doesn’t continue. Amy says, “[Children] want to avoid punishment, disappointing their parents or an unpleasant outcome. Would you be honest if you knew it would cause you humiliation, a lecture, a punishment or being yelled at?
“And naturally, when our kids blatantly lie to us, we want to punish them to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens – when we punish kids for lying, they’ll keep doing it in the hopes of avoiding any future punishment. So if we can’t punish them, how do we put a stop to the lies? Keeping in mind the reasons why kids lie, we can create an environment where they feel safe telling the truth. The following seven tips can help you make your home a more honest place.”
Here are her seven steps. To read the entire article go to: Seven Steps to Encourage Honesty in our Kids and Put an End to Lying.
- Keep calm and parent on. If your kids worry about being yelled at or punished when they mess up, they won’t want to come to you with the truth. Focus on using a calm voice. That doesn’t mean kids are off the hook for lying. But instead of getting angry and assigning blame, discuss solutions to the problem with your child.
- Don’t set up a lie. When we ask questions to which we already know the answer, we’re giving our children the opportunity to tell a lie. Instead, emphasize ways to address the situation. Ask questions like: “What are your plans for finishing your work?” and “What can we do to clean this up and make sure it doesn’t happen next time?” This can help head off a power struggle and allows your child to save face by focusing on a plan of action instead of fabricating an excuse.
- Get the whole truth. Get to the root of the problem and why she couldn’t be honest. Open up a conversation gently, saying, “That sounds like a story to me. You must be worried about something and afraid to tell the truth. Let’s talk about that. What would help you be honest?”
- Celebrate honest. Say something like: “I really appreciate you telling me what really happened. That must have been difficult for you, but I really appreciate you telling the truth and taking responsibility.”
- Delight in do-overs. Turn the mistake into a learning opportunity. Ask, “If you could have a do-over, what would you do differently?” and brainstorm different ideas.
- Show the love. Let your kids know you love them unconditionally, even when they make mistakes. Make sure they know that while you don’t like their poor behavior, you will never love them any less because of the mistakes they might make. This helps your kids feel safe opening up to you.
- Walk the talk. Remember that your kids are always looking to you and learning from your actions. Those little white lies we tell, whether it’s to get out of dog sitting for the neighbors or helping with the school fundraiser, aren’t harmless – they’re showing your kids that it’s okay to lie.
Some of these principles we have highlighted many times before. But it is always good to review them in light of specific parenting situations we face.
Many of your children are not yet to the stage where they lie, for you, being forewarned may keep you from increasing the likelihood of more lying when it begins. For those of you who have already detected your children in lies, hopefully this and other articles will help you to discover the root cause of the lies your children tell.
A Better Way to Stop Lying is a previously published article on Your Child’s Journey that you may find helpful too.