There’s something unnerving when little children lie. We, as parents, expect truthfulness and honesty. When the fib escapes from the lips of our darling child, a parent can be puzzled, sad or just plain mad.
Lies happen. At some point, all children will lie. What’s important is what we do with the lies to train our kids to be honest.
Lying can be broken down into three categories: attention, acceptance, and avoidance. Attention lies are typically fabrications told by young children until approximately age six to get a desired response. These lies are usually fantasy based. An imaginary friend or an amazing adventure would qualify. In these instances encourage imagination while pointing to truth within the story to help the child differentiate between fantasy and reality. “The frog story you told me was terrific. Let’s get the art supplies out. I’ll write your story out for you and then you can illustrate it. Your imagination is wonderful!”
Acceptance lies are security and belonging based told by 8-year-olds and up. These lies are told with full knowledge of the truth. Kids who lie to gain acceptance are looking for love and a desire to be included. These children are falling into the trap of performance-based acceptance. If you are hearing lies of this nature, love your child unconditionally and help him to see the best in himself. Affirm the child for who he is as a person. “I really appreciated how kind you were to your sister today. You have a kind heart.” Catch the lie and redirect with understanding and empathy. If the lies are in response to seeking friendship, keep tabs on the friends as to why your child feels he needs to lie to be accepted in the group. Work on social skills in friendship building.
Lies of avoidance are to stay out of trouble. There are two types of avoidance lies: commission and omission. Lies of commission are the bold-faced lies, “No, I didn’t do it.” Lies of omission are sneaky lies where the truth is conveniently left out, “No, I don’t know why Tommy is crying.” When you catch your child in avoidance lies, insist on the truth by acknowledging the lie. State your expectation for truth, a confession, and a request for forgiveness. Discuss why honesty is an important character trait and how honesty builds trust.
Modeling honesty is the best way to build trust and integrity in our children. Be a truth-teller. Be trustworthy by being on time, following through with plans, and keeping promises. Expect the best from your children in how they tell the truth. And when they lie, deal with it firmly but lovingly.
Tips for Building Trust and Avoiding Lies
1. Model truth and trustworthiness.
2. Expect honesty. Call kids out when caught in a lie.
3. Deal with the lie; love the child.
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