Your child just lied to you. You can see it on their face. They won’t make eye contact. They are trying to hide the object they don’t want you to see. Before you react and send them to time out, consider what they are thinking.
We, as parents, need to be careful to know our children so that we can know how best to help them handle situations that come up in their lives. Of course, if you can tell that your child is intentionally and deliberately deceiving you then there needs to be consequences. Otherwise ask these questions. What was the intent of the child? Was the child playing make-believe?
Play is a wonderful way for children to navigate social situations. Make sure your child wasn’t just trying out an answer to see your reaction. Was the child’s answer trying to “help” another child by his response? (For example, A child might say he “likes” someone else’s project when he does not.)
Was he trying to please you his parent by saying something that was not true but was the answer you would expect? This kind of lying is identified as a prosocial response. Emphasize that you as a parent are pleased when your child is honest; which means telling what actually happened. There are great rewards for having the reputation of being honest, having a good name, and integrity. These traits are taught little by little and line upon line. Give your child the teaching he needs so he can make good choices in a variety of social settings.
Looking for Approval
Was he trying to get approval from his peers by answering a certain way? Is the child repeating a line from a television show or movie? It is very, very important to know your child so that you can know what is going on in his mind (as much as possible) when he is processing information. It takes a lot of work, questioning, and discussing to get to the heart of the matter.
Knowing your children and their intents is important. These next 3 steps are ways you teach your children the truth.
It is vitally important to check behind your children.
If you tell your children to do something, make sure that you check up on them and make sure that they have done it. This is one way to teach them to be truthful. I am using the conversation below as an example.
Mom says, “Did you clean your room?”
Child answers, “Yes, I did.”
Mom says, “I’m going to go check.”
Child says, “Wait! Why are you doing that? Don’t you trust me?”
Mom says, “Your job is to clean your room. My job is to check. I gave you a check sheet of what it means to have your room clean. It doesn’t look clean to me. You need to clean your room according to the check sheet. Because your room was not clean when I checked it, I am not happy. Next time, if your room isn’t clean, just tell me the truth. You will still have to go clean your room but I will be so happy with that truthful decision. You need to tell the truth. The truth is what is true.”
Next time when Mom says, “Did you clean your room?” the child will know that Mom means this, it is important enough to check behind, and there were negative consequences when Mom wasn’t happy because the truth wasn’t told.
Click this link to get a sample: What it means when I say, “Clean your room.”
Reward truth as a good choice and as a good behavior.
You are teaching your children to make good decisions all the time. They are not just learning their colors and numbers. They are developing their values and learning to make decisions. These decisions will range from what to wear, or what book to read to what they will tell you when they make a mistake. Praise good decisions when they occur! You explain and explain and sometimes it just doesn’t seem to be getting through. Then, it happens! Your child tells you the truth in a situation in which you knew they understood there may be negative feedback from parents or peers. Their intent was to be truthful perhaps even to their own hurt. Reward their good decision! Praise them! Tell them you are pleased with how they thought this through and made the right decision.
Be a good example of truth.
If you say something, mean it. Explain why you are saying what you are saying. There are so many ways that we teach our children to lie. We “stretch” the truth by saying how glad we are to see someone (when our kids have heard us say how much we dread that person.) We say, “It’s no problem,” and then complain about why all the work gets dumped on us. We say, “We’ll be there in 5 minutes,” when it takes 15 minutes. We need to set an example of telling what really happened; not embellishing and with no intent in our heart to deceive others for our own benefit. If we are teasing, using hyperbole or exaggeration we need to make sure it is very obvious. We need to be constantly teaching, teaching, teaching what we are doing and how we are thinking to our children so they can learn from us how to tell the truth.
When you value the truth, your example and teaching will work together to pass that value on to your children.