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What to Do When Your Kid Always Lies

What to Do When Your Kid Always Lies

You hear the crash and run into the living room. Your favorite vase is scattered across the floor in several pieces. Your child is standing over it and the only person in the room. “Did you break my vase?” You ask, knowing full well the answer. He shakes his head. “Not me, mommy.” While your 6 year old may not be on the road to pathological lying, he has crossed the line into the lying zone.

According to Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman’s book: “Nuture Shock: New Thinking about Children”, 98% of children believe that lying is wrong, yet 98% of them lie to their parents[1]. Yikes! But before you order that lie detector to install in your house, guess what- they adopt their lying tactics from you!

Why Kids Tell Lies

Kids witness their parents lying and see them escape from it

Kids aren’t the only ones who lie – parents tell them lies all the time, like Santa Claus bringing presents on Christmas Eve and the Easter Bunny hiding eggs in the garden for an egg hunt- seriously- how would a rabbit even pick up an egg, much less carry it somewhere? Their parent may even lie when they lovingly greet Uncle Marvin and later, out of his company say how they really don’t like him because he drinks too much. Kids notice this stuff. And they pick up on it. A child whose parent lies will lie themselves because they view it as acceptable behavior[2].

Kids lie so as to take the shortcut to meet others’ expectation

Your child loves you and loves being loved by you. They may believe getting a “F” on that math test will make you think less of them and they will hide the paper or even throw it out so that you won’t see it. When you ask about the test, you may get a mumbled “I did fine” or “Okay.” They are lying because they don’t want you to be disappointed in them.

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Punishing them for lying only makes them lie even more

No one wants to be punished. No TV for a week, loss of their favorite game system or worse. If you find your best necklace hiding in their sock drawer and they know that owning up to taking it means facing a week or more of being grounded, they will try and think of a way to wriggle out of facing the consequences for their actions. Kids will lie in order to circumvent a punishment.

Kids lie to protect someone

Though younger kids are more apt to tattletale on friends, families and any child they catch doing something wrong, older kids will lie to protect their friends from facing punishments and consequences. They don’t view this behavior as wrong[3] if they are protecting someone from getting into trouble.

People Who Don’t Lie Are Less Stressed

Life is difficult enough without getting caught up in a sticky web of lies. Studies[4] show that people who lie less – refraining from even those little white lies, have better mental and physical health. They face less illnesses and feel less stressed. But if kids continue to lie, this can lead to lying as an adult and also cheating.

How You Can Stop Your Child From Lying

Give your child a better chance at a healthier and happier future by nipping their lying habits now.

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Avoid lying when your kids are around

Start your kids off by becoming a good role model. Stop fibbing. Curb those white lies. Let ‘honesty is the best policy’ become your family motto. And yes, investigating with your child exactly why there is a bunny associated with eggs may be eye-opening for both you and your kid.

Let them know that lying is wrong

Little kids may not know that lying is wrong. They may see it at home or at school. And they are certainly bombarded by advertisements promising better lives and happiness if certain products are used. Sit down with them and talk about how lying affects lives and why honesty is important for everyone.

Create a loving home environment

Giving your child a safe-haven from the world will help to develop a mutual trust. And when your child trusts you, they are less likely to lie. Communicate with them on all subjects and let them know that they can address any topic with you- openly. If you personally feel that you can not discuss a something with them- like sex- have a trustworthy relative or family friend with whom they can broach any subjects that you cannot. Sometimes it’s easier for your child to talk about very personal subjects with someone who is not a parent.

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Don’t punish them for lying

Know that lying is not the problem. Find the reason why your child felt the need to lie. Was it to protect someone, for fear of disappointing you, fear of punishment or something else. If you direct your attention onto the lying then according to Life Coach Allie Irwin at The Science of People, you are “teaching that lying is bad but also that getting caught is bad too.”[5] You need to teach them that honesty is the best way. Praise them for their honesty when they tell the truth, even when it means they have to face the consequences of their actions.

Control your reactions

When your child tells a lie and you know it, like if you found alcohol or other substances in their room, and they deny knowing about it, do NOT go ballistic. Keep calm. Control your knee-jerk reactions. If it’s serious and you unable to keep your cool- walk away and don’t discuss it until you can control your emotions. When you are calm enough to address the situation, give them the opportunity to tell the truth again- with no repercussions for lying. Losing your cool can spiral the incident into slammed doors and heightened secrecy. Keeping cool may open future communication avenues between you and your child.

Don’t set them up to lie. Don’t play the interrogation game.

Think before you ask a question. Asking if they took out the trash may be setting them up for an auto-response lie. Instead avoid the questions that garner yes/no answers and reword them. Instead say: “I noticed the trash is full. What should we do about it?”

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Let them know that mistakes happen

No one likes to make mistakes, yet everyone does. All people are imperfect. Let your child know that the “F” on the math test is not the end of the world- he may start showing you all of those test papers! Let your daughter know the broken vase was an accident and accidents happen. Show your kids that they don’t need a reason to lie.

Beware of This Mental Disorder: Pathological Lying

Pathological lying or lying compulsively is a mental disorder sometimes linked to a childhood trauma, like an abusive or dysfunctional family, or they lived in fear and needed some way to protect themselves[6]. Some children lie impulsively and can’t control their lying, others like to create fantasy friends and imaginary lives to escape their own.

If not addressed, pathological lying can become habitual and escalate out of control. Pathological lying is detrimental to a child’s development. Seek the advice of your doctor, therapist, or counselor if you suspect your child has a pathological lying disorder.

So next time your child starts to spout a lie, stop them with a helpful “are you sure about that?” reminder to keep them on track, keep your cool, let them know everyone makes mistakes, and that they can discuss anything with you.

Featured photo credit: Lisa Runnels (Greyerbaby) via pixabay.com

Reference

[1] Amazon.com: Nuture Shock
[2] ScienceNews.org: Telling Kids Lies May Teach Them to Lie
[3] ScienceDaily.com: The Truth about Lying: Children’s Perceptions Get More Nuanced with Age
[4] ScienceDaily.com: Lying Less Linked to Better Health
[5] Allie Irwin. ScienceofPeople.com: Why Children Lie
[6] ChildhoodTraumaRecovery.com: Pathological Lying: Its Link to Childhood Trauma

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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