We would all love our children to be models of honesty. However, many of them seem to enjoy a fib, and that can be distressing for parents. So why is this happening?
In reality, there are many potential reasons a child may lie: to enhance self-esteem, to test out a new behaviour, a lack of impulse control, or to get attention. Whatever it might be, there are plenty of things parents can do to encourage truth-telling in their little ones.
Here are steps to take to stop your child from lying.
1. Reward the truth
Often, lying will be the easier option for your child than confessing an embarrassing truth. So when children do tell the truth, praise them for doing so. For instance, you can grant them several minutes more on their tablet as a reward.
At the same time, you should be careful that your children are not using truth-telling as a tool to simply get what they want. The aim is for them to tell the truth naturally. Rewards should not be given if you suspect this is happening.
2. Allow for truth correction
Let’s say you have been told by a teacher that your child has been unkind to one of her classmates. Often children will jump into a lie to avoid punishment. If you sense this is happening, you can give them the chance to tell the truth.
For example, a parent could say, “I’m going to make a cup of tea and give you 10 minutes, then come back and ask you again. If you want to give me a different answer, you won’t get in trouble. We can call it a truth check.” Children, afraid of consequences, will often fess up rather than continue to lie. Careful, though - it is important that children don’t associate the truth with fear. Try to be as calm as possible.
3. Be affectionate and understanding
Children might worry that if they tell a truth that reveals poor behaviour, their parents might be angry or even love them less. You can encourage truth-telling in them by reminding them that you don’t expect perfection, you will always love them regardless, and that everyone makes mistakes. Once they reflect on your unconditional love, children are far more likely to tell the truth.
4. Be patient
As mentioned before, lack of impulse control, especially for children with ADHD, drives a lot of lying. Those who struggle with this may say, for example, that they have finished their homework, without even looking down at their sheet. So it’s important to teach impulsive children to slow down and check whether what they are saying really reflects reality.
5. Be a good role model
Children are wonderful imitators. So don’t behave the way you don’t want them to behave. Even if it’s a white lie, like lying about your child’s age at the museum, your little one will imitate what they watch you do.