Your child lied: Here’s what to do next

April 21, 2019
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    Every child lies sometimes. But your little one has lied to you several times over trivial matters such as whether she has completed her homework, or if she took her brother’s toy.

    You are worried a pattern has started to develop and don’t want it to get worse. By the time she’s in kindergarten, your child knows the difference between right and wrong, truth and lies – so her deliberate intention to distort the truth is worrying.

    Related: When your child lies about homework

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  • Prevention is better
    2 / 8 Prevention is better

    It’s better to discourage your child from lying before it happens, than it is to punish her after you’ve caught her doing so.

    Many parents believe the firmer the discipline, the less likely kids will lie. But psychological research has proved that this belief is based on fiction, not fact.

    Related: The topic of white lies

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    For instance, a kid who is smacked by her parents feels less guilty when she lies to them, and has a lower resistance against temptation. Although reasonable punishment can deter lying (for example, withdrawal of privileges or being confined to the bedroom for a time), punishment that is too severe doesn’t work well.

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    Similarly, some parents threaten to withdraw love as means of disciplining their child when they discover she tells lies (“I don’t love you when you say these things”).

    But this strategy, too, does not have the desired effect. If your kid thinks you do not love her, then she has little incentive to behave properly in the future.

    Related: 4-year-old milestones: Development myths you shouldn’t believe

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    A more effective strategy is to set clear rules regarding truth and lies. She needs to have rules about lying made very explicit, and they may have to be repeated quite often.

    In other words: the clearer, the better. “Don’t tell lies to me or to anyone” is easy for a preschooler to understand, whereas “Telling lies isn’t a very nice thing to do” is too vague, which may lead to her ignoring your comment.

    Related: 4 ways to help your child cope with anger

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    Another useful preventive strategy is to explain that her behaviour has consequences. Spell it out: Say “Telling lies makes me sad” or “If you tell lies, none of your friends will want to play with you.”

    Make the explanation of consequences as basic and practical as you can, stressing those that affect her directly, as well as mentioning those that affect other people around her.

    Related: 9 life lessons to teach your daughter before she becomes a teenager

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  • Take action
    7 / 8 Take action

    Certainly, your child should realise that you disapprove of her behaviour when she lies to you. However, make sure she realises that you don’t reject her when she lies.

    She should understand that you can be angry with her and also love her at the same time. And bear in mind that since most cover-up lies are told in order to protect herself from punishment, you must be sure that she isn’t afraid to tell you that she has done something wrong. Confirm that you would rather hear the truth, no matter what, than to hear her lie to you.

    Related: 12 problems you may have with your domestic helper – solve them now!

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    And lastly, praise her for telling the truth.

    There will be times when you confront your child about something she has done, only to find that she admits her guilt to you straightaway.

    Use these instances to tell her how pleased you are that she didn’t lie to you, even though she may have been very tempted to do so.



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