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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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Sally White

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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