Maybe John said he got a B on the test when it was really a D. Maybe Mary said she put away her laundry when she just shoved it under the bed. Whether it’s a little fib or something bigger, lying can be one of the most frustrating issues for parents. And to boot, punishment often makes the situation worse. However, there are solutions that will help you create an environment where kids feel safe telling the truth.
Creating an environment where kids feel safe telling the truth not only cuts down on lying day to day, it helps your child build character traits that will serve her throughout adulthood.
Try these seven tips to bring out the truth in your kids.
1. Keep calm and parent on. When your kids misbehave or make a poor choice, use a calm voice to discuss solutions to the problem, and avoid punishment and lectures. If your kids worry about being yelled at or punished when they mess up, they won’t want to come to you with the truth.
2. Don’t set up a lie. If you see toys scattered, don’t ask Jerry if she’s cleaned her room – you’re just giving her a chance to lie. Instead, use a “when you do xyz, then you can have abc approach”. If you know Jacob hasn’t touched his homework, ask, “What are your plans for finishing your math homework?” This can help head off a power struggle and allows your child to save face by focusing on a plan of action instead of fabricating an excuse.
3. Ask instead of accuse. If you catch your child in a lie, try to understand why she felt she couldn’t be honest so you can better encourage her to tell the truth in the future. Accusing or blaming only makes things worse. Open up a conversation gently, saying, “That sounds like a story to me. You must be worried about something and afraid to tell the truth. Let’s talk about that.”
4. Celebrate honesty. When your child tells the truth in a difficult situation, commend her for coming to you truthfully. Tell her, “I appreciate you telling me what really happened. That must have been difficult for you, but thank you for telling the truth and taking responsibility.”
5. Delight in do-overs. Think of mistakes as a way to learn how to make better choices. When we stay calm and avoid yelling or punishment, our kids will be more likely to admit their slip-ups in the future. Brainstorm things they’d do differently next time and if someone else was affected by the situation, find ways to make it right.
6. Show the love. Let your kids know you love them unconditionally, even when they make mistakes, and they’ll feel safe opening up to you in the future. Be clear that you don’t like their poor behavior, but tell them you will never love them any less because of their mistakes.
7. Walk the talk. Remember that your kids are always looking to you and learning from your actions. Those little white lies we tell – like saying we are on our way… when we are just heading to the bath– just shows our kids that it’s okay to lie.
These tips will help start your family on a path for a more honest household, but it does take time to build up trust. Be patient. However, if your child continues to lie often or lies with the intention of hurting others, you may want to consider coaching support or other professional help.
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