Why Kids Lie and What to do About It

Contributed by Melanie Miller, M.Ed.

Lying is one of those behaviors that can certainly bring up a lot of strong feelings in parents. Understanding why kids lie and what we can do as parents to decrease lying, and promote honesty, can be a welcome relief! The following information is from a TV interview with Certified Positive Discipline Trainer, Dodi Blomberg (www.dodieblomberg.com) and the book Positive Discipline A-Z; 1001 solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems by Jane Nelsen Ed.D. et.al.

Why do children lie?
➢ They feel trapped
➢ Are afraid of punishment
➢ Scared of rejection
➢ Feel threatened
➢ Think it will be easier for everyone

Focus on solutions and brainstorm what would be helpful next time this problem occurs. Let go of punishment as a parenting tool because it invites:
➢ Resentment
➢ Revenge
➢ Rebellion
➢ Retreat (as sneakiness or reduced self esteem)

Keep in mind what you want to grow in your child long term:
➢ Honesty
➢ Problem solving
➢ Asking for help
➢ Trusting relationships
➢ Dependability

Remind children (and ourselves):
➢ Mistakes are simply opportunities to learn.
➢ That we are loved and cared about even when we make mistakes.

What Can I DO?
Stop asking set up questions. Instead of asking; “Did you take your sister’s shirt from her closet?” when you know she did, say, “I know that you took the shirt, and I’d like to work on a plan for how it can be returned.”

Focus on progress not perfection. Lying has made sense to your child… otherwise he/she wouldn’t do it. Allow time for training and opportunities for your child to find healthier approaches to solving problems.

Use curiosity questions to solve problems. Instead of asking “why”, ask “what and how” questions. “Why” puts us on the defensive.

State: “That doesn’t sound like the truth…I am on your side” Allow your body language and tone of voice to reflect that you are on their side.

Acknowledge when they tell the truth. “It took courage to tell the truth.”

For young children using fabrication: ”You are really good at using your imagination! Tell me more.”

Melanie is a Certified Positive Discipline Trainer, parent educator, grade school counselor and parent coach. You can contact her at Melanie_miller@verizon.net. To find out more about Positive Discipline, visit www.belongpartners.org or www.positivediscipline.org