If you’re a parent, you’re probably trying to figure out how to get your kids to stop lying.
Have you ever asked your child to clean his or her room, only to have them tell you a short while later that it’s done? But, when you’ve gone to look, you discover the room hasn’t been touched.
By that point, you likely feel frustrated that your child has flat out lied to your face.
How to get your kids to stop lying
Obviously, your child knows you’re going to discover their tall tale, so why tell it anyway? Are children telling lies an indicator that a life of delinquency is in their future?
Fortunately, the answer is “no.” In fact, their tendency to lie is a healthy sign of brain development and normal, expected behavior for all children.
Believe it or not, not telling a lie every now and then should be more of a concern.
Children telling lies is a behavior that starts around 3 to 4 years of age and indicates that your child’s cognitive development is on track.
If you want to know how to get your kids to stop lying, here are 9 ways to get encourage honesty.
1. Be a model of good behavior, of course!
Your child learns from everything you say and do. Anytime you speak to another person, your child listens carefully and makes note of any inconsistencies in your story.
Avoiding any form of lying is not as easy as you might think. Studies show that parents lie quite often in their daily conversations. If you do tell a lie, your best bet is to explain to your child why you did it.
2. Ask your child to promise to tell you the truth.
Before you question your child about a lie told to you, ask your child to promise that he or she will tell you the truth.
It’s much harder to lie when you make a promise to someone you love, especially for children.
3. Do not question your child about the lie.
Instead, use corrective statements. For example, if you ask your child to put their bike away and they say they did when they didn’t, you could say, “I know you forgot to put your bike away, so please put it away next time so it does not get stolen.”
Don’t make the mistake of inviting your child to lie by asking, “Did you forget to put your bike away again?”
4. Make sure you reward honesty.
When your child is honest with you, compliment the honest behavior by saying something like, “Thank you for telling me the truth. I really appreciate your honesty.”
5. Provide your child with reassurance.
Let them know that you love them, unconditionally.
Focus on lying as a behavior. Separate it from who your child is as a person.
6. Do not attempt to control your children.
Children often lie to explore what they like and what they want to do.
They are lying to please you, but have a desire to learn about themselves and expand their world. It’s important to think about how to get your children to stop lying without disrupting this process.
7. Foster an understanding approach to mistakes.
Don’t call your child a liar. Let them know that mistakes are opportunities to grow and learn.
Let your child know that mistakes do not make them a bad person so they do not feel they must cover up those mistakes with lies
8. Explain to your children there will be times when they need to lie.
For example, when they need to keep themselves safe from strangers. Discuss situations when lying might be acceptable or necessary behavior.
9. Encourage open communication and trust-building.
Avoid focusing on the problematic behavior of lying. Focusing on what your child does right and rewarding honesty is the fastest way to diminish misbehavior and lying.
Why do children lie?
When a young child lies, it indicates that they understand they can create an alternate reality to events. They also realize they need to use their executive functioning skills and have the confidence to tell someone the story is true.
Your child is realizing that they have their own thoughts, ideas, and feeling outside of primary caregivers.
Keep in mind that lying seems to peak between ages 6-10 and decreases as they get older and understand that there are consequences to lying.
There are common reasons to explain children telling lies.
Typically, the child wishes to avoid getting in trouble for a mistake they made or something they did. With younger children, the lies often develop because they want to play or because they speak out of wishful thinking.
School-age and older kids, on the other hand, are far more socially aware and may lie to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings.
In other words, this indicates that your child has hit another important developmental milestone by taking how others feel into consideration.
When you come across older children telling white lies, it’s because they usually don’t want to disappoint or let someone down.
Lying seems like an attractive alternative for older kids who want to avoid the consequences of punishment, too.
Fortunately, there are certain ways you can tackle your child’s tendencies toward being dishonest and approaching the question of how to get your kids to stop lying in a healthy manner.
It’s natural to feel frustrated when dealing with lying children, but using the tips above can help both you and your child get through this perfectly healthy, natural phase.
Monica Ramunda, MA, LPC, LCMHC, RPT-S is a family therapist who offers both parent coaching and play therapy for children. She is the owner of Rocky Mountain Counseling Services and Lighthouse Counseling Services.
This article was originally published at Rocky Mountain Counseling Services . Reprinted with permission from the author.