Parents often don’t know how to handle dishonesty and common discipline techniques don’t quite address the problem. A more comprehensive plan is usually necessary since dishonesty often has several components.”
Here are 4 ways to help children who have a problem with lying:
1. Talk about reality and truth and how they are different from fantasy, wishes, possibility, pretend, and make believe.
Require that children use cues to identify anything other than reality. Here are some ideas:
“I think it happened this way,” “I think this is the answer,” “I’m not sure…” “Maybe…” (possibility)
“I wish this were true,” “I’d like it if…” (wish)
“I’d like to tell you a story…” “I can imagine what it would be like to…” (fantasy)
2. When you sense a child is beginning to stray from the truth, stop them.
“I want you to stop talking for a minute.” Sometimes children just get started and can’t stop. Parents can help teach them. “Think for a minute and then start again. I’d like to hear the things you know separated from the things you think.” “Start again and tell me how it really happened. Just the parts you are sure of.”
3. If a child has ADHD or is impulsive, use a plan for self discipline.
Sometimes children who are impulsive blurt out things without thinking. Other times they start talking and don’t know how to stop. This impulsivity component can lead to dishonesty because of a lack of self-control. It’s not always malicious lying, but it’s still not good and shouldn’t be excused because the problem often gets worse. Even though children may have poor impulse control, they must learn to tell the truth. The route, though, may contain more self-discipline training than some of the other suggestions.
4. A courtesy generally given in relationships is called, “the benefit of the doubt.”
When a child has developed a pattern of lying, we don’t automatically give that courtesy. Believing someone requires trust and it’s a privilege which is earned. Privilege and responsibility go together and when a child is irresponsible privileges are taken away. For a time, the things your child says are suspect. You may even question something that is found to be true later. A child may be hurt by this, but that hurt is the natural consequence of mistrust which in turn comes from lying. Being believed is a privilege earned when children are responsible in telling the truth on a regular basis. Not believing your child may seem mean but your child must learn that people who don’t tell the truth can’t be trusted.