When you know your child is lying...Oct 23, 2023
Have you ever been in a situation where you know your child is lying?
Maybe you got a call from the school or you checked the online portal to find out your child is missing a number of homework assignments, but then you ask your child and they insist they did their homework.
Or you have a child that hits a sibling or took something they shouldn’t have, and they insist they didn’t — but you know that they did.
Then what do you do?
If you’re like most parents, you’re going to question your child and push for a confession. You might get upset and lecture, and you’re likely to make them feel ashamed for not telling the truth.
But when you lecture or shame them for lying, you are unknowingly making it harder for your child to tell you the truth moving forward.
Kids don’t like disappointing us, and they really don’t like feeling ashamed or embarrassed. So when they do something they know they shouldn’t have, they are going to do anything to avoid feeling shame — so they lie about it.
And we can get upset, and lecture and shame our kids… or we can accept that they’re kids, they don’t have well developed impulse control yet, and they’re going to do things that they regret and lie about it.
Most kids struggle with impulse control because that part of their brain is still under construction. Impulse control is a skill that kids have to learn, and they don’t learn it without trying and failing a bunch of times first. This means that they are going to do a whole bunch of things they shouldn’t, and wish they hadn’t. On top of that, they may also even respond impulsively and lie and then not know how to back out of it.
So what can you do instead?
First, know up front that they’re going to lie and stop making a big deal out of it — and if you already know that they didn’t do something they were supposed to or vice versa, don’t ask if they did and set them up to lie.
Here is something you could say: Hey listen, I know you took your sister’s favorite stuffy. I’m not mad, and I know you told me you didn’t because you thought you would get in trouble. I also know you know that was wrong. So I’m going to go make dinner and give you an opportunity to go put it back and make things right with her.
Consider that their lying means that they have a conscience and they know they did something wrong — and that’s a good thing! Your goal is to increase the likelihood that they will tell you the truth in the future, instead of getting them to confess now.
If you want to add more specific tools and scripts to your parenting toolbox so you know exactly what to say and do when your child lies, check out the 20 minute class on lying inside the Confident Parenting Club. Click here to sign up and join us.
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