Lying. Your kid does it and so does mine. Sometimes it’s easy to uncover, sometimes it’s not. Either way, no parent is immune.
I’m clear to my children about the difference between a white lie and a real lie.
If Grandma Thelma asks her Granddaughter Mia to share an opinion on her latest outfit, Mia shouldn’t spout out that the crop top polyester shirt makes Grandma look fat. Nor should she remind her Grandma that old people shouldn’t even wear crop tops, especially ones that are too tight.
How to Explain Good Lies vs. Bad Lies to Children
The way I explain lying to my children is that there are good lies and bad lies. Kids tell bad lies when they did something wrong and don’t want to get in trouble. Good lies are intended to keep people from having their feelings hurt.
They can also keep people out of danger. If Billy has his curious, pyromaniac friend over and the fearless firebug wants to play with matches, it might be time for a good lie. It would be fantastic if Billy said, “Playing with matches is dangerous; you shouldn’t ever do that.”
But unfortunately, not all kids are that strong. The next best thing Billy could say is, “We don’t have any matches. Let’s go ride bikes instead.”
I do all sorts of “good lying.” You do it, too. Some of us are so good at our good lying, we’ve lost the ability to know if we’re actually telling the truth.
I say, “Oh, those shoes are gorgeous!” I think, “Seriously those things look like booger boats on heels.”
I say, “I can’t wait to see you again.” I think, “If I have to see you again, I hope I remember to throw back a few glasses of wine first.”
Although it’s important to teach children about the two different types of lying, “good lying” isn’t something young children will have to do often.
The kind of lies you’ll be dealing with most are the, “No, I didn’t eat that cookie” (your visual: crumbs and chocolate smeared all over your child’s face). Or, the “No, I didn’t take Camryn’s sunglasses” (your visual: you find the missing sunglasses hidden in your child’s pillowcase, wrapped in toilet paper).
Your progeny is going to be participating in moderate to heavy amounts of lying for the rest of your life. You need a game plan and options that go beyond time-outs or spankings.
You need logical consequences to match the behavior. Your child needs to participate in a punishment that will help them remember the truth.
5 Parenting Tips For Teaching Kids About Lying
What you need is a lying medication filled with five ingredients of truth. Reading and discussing them with your child before the next lie comes spilling out. This way, your cherub knows what might happen after the next lie.
(Please note, this is for home use only. If you’re a teacher and you make your student scrub a toilet, you’re going to be fired. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
1. Discover a hidden ‘truth.’
Hidden truths are endless. For example, if you leave a cucumber in the refrigerator for too long it will decompose and turn into a white, creamy liquid. These nauseating juices will ooze onto everything they touch.
Your child can discover these truths, and many others, by cleaning out the refrigerator prior to washing it down.
All sorts of hidden truths can be found in all sorts of disgusting places: toilets, garbage cans, dirty dishes, the floor, and even under couch cushions. Window sills often hold bug-infested truths and baseboards carry dust-infested truths.
Think of an age-appropriate, disgusting job, and have your child discover its hidden truths by cleaning. When your youngster is finished, ask, “What hidden truths did you find?”
Maybe it was a poo smear in the toilet or an odd smell of death when taking out the garbage. The opportunities for truths are endless.
2. Stay ‘true’ with writing.
When I was a kid, my mom made me write one hundred times, “I will not lie to my mother and father.” I absolutely hated that consequence, but I have to tell you, it did make me think twice before I lied again.
Of course, I did lie again, but it still helped me remember I shouldn’t.
3. Be ‘tru-ant’ to something fun and exciting.
Does your child have an upcoming birthday party? What about swimming with some of their neighborhood friends?
To help your child remember to speak the truth, force them to be “tru-ant” at their next exciting event. Arriving thirty minutes late should do the trick. Remember, consequences work best when they’re handed out right away, so pick an event sooner than later.
4. Support our ‘true’ American heroes.
Instruct your child to bring you their piggy bank or wallet. Next, decide how much their lie was worth. Take their money and help them send it to the troops with a letter of thanks for their service.
Here’s the address of a well-known and reliable organization:
Support Our Troops®
P. O. Box 70
Daytona Beach, FL 32115-0070
5. Perform a ‘true’ act of kindness.
Here’s a chance for your child to learn that a true act of kindness will help the community or someone in need.
Have your older child mow his grandfather’s lawn.
Take your kid to a local nursing home to visit the elderly. Have a small child make cards for five sick children and mail the cards to your local children’s hospital (if they’re illegible, just throw them away — the cards aren’t the point). Get creative depending on the age of your child and what opportunities are around you.
Finally, when dishing out a consequence, call the ingredients what they are.
Telling your child just to clean the fridge doesn’t remind him or her to be truthful like it does if you tell your whippersnapper to go discover the “truths” in the fridge.
As a parent, it’s okay to be “intrusive.” Knowing the ins and outs of what your child does is what helps you provide protection. Once your child has completed one of the above “truths,” you should call a “truce.” It’s time to forgive and move on. If a lie comes out again, they might need more “medicine.”
The key, just like all good parenting, is to start early. Parenting tactics don’t work nearly as well if you start using them when your child’s a teenager.
Also, if you’re a “misleader” yourself (yes, that’s my nice way of saying a compulsive liar), don’t expect your trickster to be any different.
Heather Steiger is an elementary school teacher, writer, and mother of three. She has been published in Yahoo Parenting, Fox News Magazine, CNN, Something Special Magazine, Psych Central, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, and Popsugar.