How to Talk to Your Kids About…Lying

Most kids at some point in time, will tell a lie. As a parent, handling the situation correctly will help put a stop to the lying before it turns into a habit.

When your child tells a lie…

  • Don’t yell, raise your voice, or overreact. Stay calm. Overreacting will scare your child and they will be afraid to come and tell you the truth next time. If your child knows you are going to stay calm, they are more likely to tell the truth.
  • Don’t call your child a liar, or accuse them of lying. Accusing will make them feel trapped and make things worse. Instead of ‘I know you broke the window”, say…”Looks like there was an accident, do you need some help cleaning things up, what happened”.
  • Only talk about the facts. Stick to the things you saw or heard firsthand. “I can see the blinds are broken, please tell the truth, what happened?” Or, “your coach told me a different version. Please tell the truth.”

Enforce consequences

When your child lies, there should be a reasonable consequence. Help them understand that there are in fact two sets of consequences. A consequence when you do something wrong AND another for lying…and make the consequence fit the crime.

For example: maybe your child cheats on a test and then lies about it. Two sets of consequences….

  1. They have to right the wrong by telling the teacher they cheated, and deal with whatever consequences come from the teacher.
  2. For lying, they lose a privilege, such as not going out with friends for two weeks. If they hadn’t lied, you might be comfortable just expecting them to write the wrong by telling the teacher they cheated.

Help them to understand why lying is bad

Beyond just the immediate consequences for their actions, it is important to help our children understand why lying is wrong. Explain to your child that when we lie we get into trouble. Lying will also give us and our families a bad reputation, and it hurts other people. Others will not want to be your friend and they won’t be able to trust you when you lie.

We should also talk to our children about our own “honesty policy”. Make it clear that in your home you will always tell them the truth, and you expect them to always do the same.

Above all, we need to demonstrate honesty in all WE do as parents, and be sure to praise our children when they tell the truth.

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About the Author

Heather Ann Johnson is a homemaker, wife and mother. She and her husband have 4 children. She is an Adjunct Faculty member at Brigham Young University where she teaches students the principles behind successful families. Her blog, Family Volley, answers reader’s questions about families, marital relationships, and raising children. A firm believer that families should play together, Family Volley features a new activity or game for families every Friday. Heather is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team

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