How To Handle Your Child's LiesMay 18, 2021
"All of us have experienced at one time or another, our children lying when they're young. It can be kind of cute, they're not very good at lying (but) as they get older, it can become a more persistent problem. It can be distressing for parents and sometimes parents get really fearful that they're raising a pathological liar or a child who is going to really struggle with being honest and telling the truth throughout their entire life."
This week on the 3D Parent Podcast, we will be talking about how to handle your child’s lies, as well as provide some insight to help make sense of what’s going on and where the lying might be coming from so that you may have a better understanding of what’s happening.
We will go over topics such as:
- How to determine the underlying factors that might be causing this period of lying
- How to address the root cause of your child lying once you identify it
- How to identify if there might be something going on at a much deeper level in your relationship with your child
I hope these tips help with the issues you may have if you're experiencing lying with your children, and prove to be excellent ideas that you can apply. Especially if this has been a recurrent problem already.
Things You Will Learn
[0:07] This episode is all about tips and insights on how to handle your child’s lies. I came up with this topic since all of us have experience with our child lying, either when they’re young, which can still be kind of cute, or when they get older, at which point it becomes distressing for us as parents because we start to worry about our child’s ability to tell the truth, and be honest.
[1:44] What you need to do when you find yourself in this situation, first and foremost, is to identify what may be causing your child to lie. Here, you’re going to encounter the term magical thinking which is what might be happening with your child at a young age, when he’s still a toddler or a preschooler. The separation between reality and fantasy for them isn’t much at this point.
[2:59] It is really important that you lend your child a hand at this phase of his or her development. Helping him make sense of reality versus “magical thinking” is pretty much one of the things that you need to focus on. There is nothing to be alarmed about, really. Even when your child gets a bit older, like maybe school age or beyond, he or she could be communicating something in their life that is causing them stress. This drives them to hide something from you, in the form of a secret or an outright lie.
[3:43] Another question that you may go ahead and ask yourself is,” why would my child be lying about this thing?” or “ why would my child not tell the truth here?” There could be a number of underlying reasons here, and those are the things that you need to uncover. In the end, it is better to stop and ask yourself, “ why is there underlying stress that causes my child to lie?” rather than just jump to the conclusion that your child has a lying problem.
[4:50] If, for instance, you’ve been more of an authoritarian type of parent, with these high demands and unreasonably high expectations, you will need to learn how to strike a balance between being a firm, strong, yet nurturing presence with your nurturing side as a parent. Once your child steps out of line or doesn’t tell the truth, decide against issuing harsh punishments. Rather, take into account the behaviors, emotions, and even the struggle from within that might be the underlying problem that is causing the behavior. It is always helpful to think of alternative ways to approach any problems with your child.
[6:38] Let us look back at the 6 Stages of Attachment that we discussed in a previous episode (see episode recommendations below). Here, we recall how crucial the stage of attachment is for a child around the age of 5 or 6. This is when children want everything within their heart to be known to their closest attachment. This means that they would never think about keeping a secret or telling a lie at this point. Even if they do, they wouldn’t be able to keep it for very long as it feels like a great degree of separation for them.
[9:02] Now that you know the important concepts as well as the crucial stages in your child’s development, it is now important that you don’t fall into the trap of merely lecturing your child that lying is wrong. They know this already. They know in their heart that lying is wrong and so, they’re doing it for a reason.
[9:15] Another thing that you need to avoid is placing labels on your child. When kids receive labels such as bully, liar, or thief, they start to treat those as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. You don’t want to call children names that they may identify themselves as a problem behavior and it might just become true as time goes by.
[11:23] The first thing that you need to do once your child admits to doing something wrong like lying is to meet it with empathy, instead of saying, “you shouldn’t have done that” or worse, “you’re in trouble”. Frankly, you might want to get your point across by celebrating the fact that your child decided to side with the truth. Tell them something like, “I’m really glad you were honest with me” and “I know it’s not always easy to admit when you’ve done something wrong, I really appreciate that you gave me the truth here.” Once you do, you may move on to coming up with a solution that works, one that doesn’t feel like a punishment, that makes sense for everybody.
[19:06] In certain circumstances, where recurrent lying is taking place, you need to take a closer look at the entire parent-child relationship. Chances are, it’s probably an issue with the relationship at that point since deeply-connected children struggle with lying, because of the deep attachment. To them, it’ll feel like a great sense of separation. Right here, you’ve identified that your connection with your child needs some work.
[25:08] I just want to share the first thing that I did when my daughter told me, “I need to tell you something. I’m really scared to tell you and I don’t want to get into trouble.” Then, my priority was to make her feel safe to tell me the truth. I uttered the line, “I want you to tell me everything, even something that’s hard to tell and I promise you, we’re gonna be okay. I’m going to help you through this.”
Quotes From Episode 21
“If a child is kind of experiencing a lot of harsh punishments from their parents when they make a mistake, they might be more prone to lie in an attempt to avoid punishment.”
"Don't fall into the trap of lecturing and teaching your child that lying is wrong. They know (that) already. They know in their heart that lying is wrong. They're doing it for a reason."
"Another thing you want to avoid when addressing lying is labeling your child as a liar. You don't want to call them a name that identifies them as a problem behavior, or it might just become true after time."
"If your child does not admit that they've done something that you're pretty sure they have done, I encourage you to let it go for now. They may have their defenses up. They may be experiencing stress. They may have some underlying fears. I encourage you to let it go for now, not forever, but for now."
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