Although it is normal among children, telling lies is serious when your kid is a tween. By this age, he knows the difference between right and wrong.
Your primary schooler most likely tells lies when he wants to conceal something, so that he can avoiding punishment for having done something he knows is wrong. He is afraid of discovery, and tries to worm his way out of the situation.
Spot the signs
Everyone reacts differently when telling a lie, but here are some give-away signs that might reveal to you he is not telling the truth:
His face is flushed
He may become embarrassed when lying to you because he knows it’s wrong. The area around his cheeks – or even his whole face – goes red.
He has weak eye contact
If your kid feels guilty about something he is saying to you, then he won’t be able to maintain good eye contact.
He appears nervous
Watch signs of this when he talks to you, such as shifting from one foot to the other, rubbing his fingers together, or blinking rapidly.
His speech is hesitant
A tween who is normally fluent often speaks less comfortably when telling a lie. He may even start to stutter, because he is afraid of discovery.
He changes the subject
A useful strategy to avoid detection when telling a lie is to change the topic of conversation. So, be wary if your child becomes evasive when questioned.
Set out the rules
It’s better to discourage your tween from lying before it happens, than it is to punish him after you’ve caught him.
Harsh discipline isn’t a straightforward solution – psychological research has found, for example, that a child who is smacked is less likely to feel guilty when he lies, and has a lower resistance to temptation.
Although reasonable punishment can deter lying – for instance, withdrawing privileges or cutting down screen time – punishment that is too severe doesn’t work.
Instead, set down clear rules regarding moral behaviour. Your child needs to have rules made very explicit, and they may have to be repeated quite often. The clearer, the better.
“Don’t tell lies to me or to anyone” is easier for your child to understand than “Telling lies isn’t a very nice thing to do”, which is too vague and as a result may be ignored.
Another useful preventative strategy is to explain that his behaviour has consequences. Spell it out to him, such as “Telling lies makes me sad” or “If you tell lies, none of your friends will trust you.”
Make the explanation of consequences as basic as you can, stressing those that affect him directly, as well as those affecting others.
Certainly, your child should understand that you disapprove of his lying, but make sure he also realises that you don’t reject him if he does something wrong. He should understand that you can be angry with him and also love him at the same time.
And bear in mind that since most cover-up lies are told in order to avoid a reprimand or punishment, try to ensure that your tween doesn’t become afraid to tell you that he has done something wrong.
Remind him that you would rather hear the truth, no matter what, than to hear him lie to you. Tell your nine-year-old that lies nearly always get discovered.
Emphasise that it is better to tell the truth and finish the situation quickly, than it is to fib and then face an even bigger furore when the truth emerges.
And lastly, if your child admits his guilt straight away, let him know how pleased you are that he didn’t lie to you, even though he may have been tempted.