What to do when your child lies: 3 little known rules from a Play Therapist!
Many parents are extremely frustrated and exasperated by this issue, and are really struggling with what to do when your child lies. It is highly upsetting and demoralizing to never know when the youngster is telling the truth or not. In addition, often a parent knows he or she is lying and this is insulting to the parent and a dishonor. What can a loving, dedicated parent do to resolve the situation? The answer is to implement 3 basic concepts which I will now elucidate…
Rule #1 for what to do when your child lies: Always believe and trust your child or teen, and let him know you believe him, even when you know he’s lying!
That’s my amazing and counter-intuitive secret that works like a charm! Let me explain…
When a child is lying and the parent suspects so and lets the child know he doesn’t believe him, it puts the child in a very uncomfortable position. He is at best in a deadlock where he insists he did no wrong and he is not believed, or he has the difficult option of admitting he lied which will surely get him in more trouble and will be humiliating. No matter which option the child chooses it will be a terrible strain on the parent-child relationship and not a pretty situation.
Now even kids who often lie sometimes tell the truth, but since the parent is never sure when that is, he may often accuse the child of lying when he is indeed telling the truth, this time! That will enrage the child terribly, who is trying to be honest but is accused of lying, and he will think, “What is the point of ever telling the truth? They never believe me anyway!” In addition the child is terribly insulted and dishonored that you don’t believe him, and it will result in low self-esteem, as he will think, “I’m a bad kid, he doesn’t believe me.” So no matter how you slice it, not believing the child has undesirable results and it will only escalate the conflict! It is simply impossible for it to lead to a resolution.
However, if you make up your mind to try and believe your child and display trust towards him,
the key word is display, that means tell and show the child you are trying as hard as you can to act like you believe him, even when you suspect him of lying, and the outcome will almost always be much more positive!
If the child happens to be telling the truth, he will be overjoyed that you believe and trust him, and he will be greatly encouraged to tell the truth more often, as he will think, “It felt so good to tell the truth and be believed, I’m going to do so more often!” It will create a warmer parent-child relationship and will reduce further conflict. And if the child is indeed lying and you still display that you trust and believe him, he will be impressed by your kindness and generosity, and will think, “Look how much they honor me.” In addition he will think, “Look how sincere and faithful he is being to me, and I am responding by lying,” and he will feel terribly guilty for doing so, and will think, “Next time I will feel much better if I just tell the truth, as I see that I will surely be believed.” So you see no matter what happens you will likelier have a much happier ending!
Furthermore children often tell small lies and half-truths not out of maliciousness, but out of confusion or shame, or when they are unsure of the facts. When you always believe them, you give them the benefit of the doubt and prevent many misunderstandings.
Rule #2 for what to do when your child lies: Don’t overreact when the child or teen makes a mistake or does something wrong!
Children often lie because they are afraid of your reaction if they tell the truth. Basically they fear a reprimand, a scolding, a rebuke, a punishment or criticism, which all is terribly painful and shaming to a child, so they are forced into the uncomfortable alternative of lying. So a great solution to the situation is to just take mistakes, mischief and disobedience in stride, and not react harshly with discipline or reprimands. The truth is, as I write about in my blog, reprimands, punishment and criticism always do more harm than good. But if you tolerate and accept the child’s mistakes without any unpleasant consequences, he or she will think, “Look how gracious, kind and patient my parent is being, even though I did some thing wrong she is not mad at me… I will try and be so much better and not make any mistakes the next time!” In other words, your not getting angry or rebuking the child will show him or her that you honor, respect and trust him, and this will inspire him or her to improve his behavior, not to mention it will lead to a much healthier parent-child relationship. And furthermore, it will completely take away the motivation for lying, as the child will think, “There’s no reason to try and float a dangerous and uncomfortable lie, Mom or Dad will still be nice to me, trust me and honor me even if I admit I did something wrong. It feels so much better to come clean and tell the truth!
Rule # 3: Believing them will create much better communication!
With children and especially teenagers, the name of the game is communication. How can you parent them effectively, if you don’t know what they are thinking or feeling, or what they are doing or planning? In addition, when youngsters keep secrets from their parents it can be very dangerous, as they don’t have the experience and wisdom to make healthy choices on their own. If you don’t believe and trust them, or overreact and respond with reprimands and criticism when they do reveal things, they will respond by simply hiding as much as possible from you from now on, and it will be terrible for their development and your mutual relationship. But if you believe and trust them, and accept their mischief and mistakes with a smile, they will think, “I love telling things to mom and dad. They never get mad at me. It feels so good to share my feelings, thoughts and plans with them. It is so helpful to get their guidance and advice. Whenever I have a problem, the first thing I do is go to mom or dad!”
What to do when your child lies: Strengthen the Parent-Child relationship!
Remember the most important thing in any youngster’s life is the parent-child relationship! It pays to guard the health and integrity of that relationship at all costs. Any parenting intervention that compromises that warm bond will do more harm than good!
Feel free to peruse my fascinating blog, view my videos, or download one of my informative free reports at the bottom of this page, and get on my email list. If you are struggling with what to do when your child lies, and feel I may be the right therapist to help you, you may send me an email, or call me directly at 646-681-1707 for a complementary 15-minute consultation. I look forward to speaking with you!