HOW TO HANDLE LYING WITH YOUR CHILD AND YOUR TEEN
Depending on your child’s age, her lies do not have the same meaning. So, knowing the kind of untruths your child tells at each age, and why, can help you guide her to understand the values of honesty that are appropriate for her age.
A preschooler usually lies simply because it is the age of invisible friends, horned monsters, and talking rainbows. At this age, children make up big whopping stories as a way of being creative and to begin to figure out their world.
Schoolkids lie for very specific reasons. Most of the time, it is to get out of trouble. For instance, your child may lie because she broke a house rule or did not do her homework. In this kind of case, lying is a way of dealing with a problem or a conflict that your child does not know how to handle differently. Your child may also lie to avoid hurting other’s feelings. If your child says to her grandma “I really like your present” when she does not, she says this to not hurt her grandma’s feelings. From her perspective, she has a justifiable reason.
Tweens: Lying is often used to establish identity and to connect with peers, even if that identity is false. Lying to her peers about she says or does may make her feel more impressive. At this age, your child is more likely to respond to peer pressure.
Here are a few tips about how to deal with lying:
1. Take time to regroup. Oftentimes, when you catch your child lying, you experience a flood of emotions ranging from anger to disappointment to betrayal. Take some time to calm down as responding while being upset will not be effective.
2. Do not lecture your child. This is usually parents’ first reaction. However, this technique is quite ineffective and, most of the time, counterproductive. If you start lecturing your child about lying, your child’s reaction is to tune out. She is no longer listening and nothing will change. Instead, you want to identify what triggered the lie and state you are concerned about it.
3. Keep the door open. Since lying is often a way for children to solve their problems, make sure your child knows that you are willing to hear what is going on with her. Let her know that you are interested in listening to what happens at school and with her friends. When a healthy communication has been established between your child and yourself, then it is easier for her to talk to you when something goes wrong. Creating a safe environment in which your child feels heard and understood is the key.
4. Focus on the issue the lie is about. If your child lied about his homework and got a failing grade, encourage her to see that lying makes things worse. Instead, try to find a way to help her solve her issue with homework. Ask her if this is a recurrent problem she has, in a specific subject,…Then, brainstorm with your child ideas about how to solve her problem. Show her that you understand her issue and support her in finding a solution that truly works for her.
5. Rebuild trust. Explain to her that rebuilding trust after it has been broken is a process that will take time. Keep your focus on helping your child learn more effective ways to deal with her difficulties. Praise her when you notice she handles things in healthy ways. Trust will be rebuilt when your child can show you she can follow rules even if she does not like them. With better choices comes more independence.
When you catch your child in a lie, it’s natural to feel betrayed, hurt, angry and frustrated. But here’s the truth: lying is normal. It’s wrong, but it’s normal. It is your role as parents to teach your child how to solve those problems in more constructive ways.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.