“No, I didn’t break that vase.”
When we see our children lie, our first response might be rage. How dare she lie to me? However, we are truly just worried. We fear that if not nipped in the bud, the lying could become a habit and more detrimental as they grow. Today it’s a vase; tomorrow it could be smoking or ditching class.
So how can we prevent our kids from lying? In a nutshell: they shouldn’t feel like they need to lie.
There are broadly two types of lies with children. The first type are the provoked lies. When a mom sees her child has not tidied his room, she may trap him into lying by asking, “Did you clean your room?” Mom already knows the answer to her question. The child might try to lie to escape the consequences.
Instead, she could frame the question differently and acknowledge that he is struggling. Cleaning the entire room might be too overwhelming for him, so a lie can seem like an easy way out. She can try to help solve the problem by suggesting, “What part of your room can you tackle right now?” or “Can I help you put your clothes away?”
The second type of lies are those that tell truths. They hint at your child’s fantasies. Your daughter might be lying if she says, “I won three games of Snap.” But instead of focusing on the lie, as parents we need to ask ourselves what is this lie telling me? We are learning that winning is very important to her. She wants to achieve mastery at her games. So, at times we need to look beyond the lie and see how we can respond to foster honesty and open communication.
Kids also lie when they feel they are not allowed to say the truth. They know they will get into trouble if they say, “I hate my sister.” But if we want to encourage honesty, we must train ourselves to listen to bitter truths. What trouble is she having with her sister these days? What is the underlying issue that we can solve or at least acknowledge? Is one sister hogging the bathroom when getting ready for school? Is one sister bullying the other on the bus? Why does she feel that she hates her sister is the bigger question.
I hope I’ve given you some food for thought on how to view lies from a different lens so that we can try to uncover what lies beneath the lie. When we focus on our child and not their behavior, we can make progress as connected parents. I believe that when our kids feel right; they do right.
What is the most obnoxious lie your kids have ever told you? And what did you do about it? Let me know in the comments. No judgment zone, I promise.