My Child Lies
Joey and Carla Link
Is there anything worse than your child lying to you? It’s hard to stay calm. I was talking to a parent recently who found out her child lied to them when Mom was talking to a friend and heard what her child said to her about an issue they were dealing with. This mom felt a deep burn in her heart when she got the story from her friend.
What do you do when your child lies to you? We have a very helpful Mom’s Notes presentation called “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire” that is full of practical information on this troubling character trait. You can download both the notes (PDF) and MP3 at parentingmadepractical.com. I would also like to offer insight on this topic here as well. Let us first lay a foundation.
Does your child brush his teeth every day? Turn the light off in the bathroom? Make his bed the way he is supposed to? Get the dog fed? How about getting the trash out? Get off the computer when it’s time? Do you remind your kids to do any of these “normal” daily responsibilities? If so why do you remind them?
It could be because you are working on training him to do these responsibilities. When is your training over so you can give him the monkey (ownership) of each responsibility? It is over when you are confident he knows what to do, why he should do it, how to do it and does it by himself with no reminders from you 75% of the time.
Once you give a monkey to him, what do you do when you can see he isn’t carrying his monkeys, or he hasn’t completed the tasks he was previously characterized by doing?
- Ask yourself, is this a one-time happening or is it happening with several different responsibilities many times a day. If it is a one-time thing don’t do anything.
- If it is happening again and again, let him fail. We know this hurts you as much as them, but it is a necessary part of growing up. This is the deal with letting him fail, failure = consequences. Be ready with an appropriate consequence that makes the failure painful. If he doesn’t get his schoolwork turned in, let him feel the consequences his teacher will give him. If he is homeschooled, take away all his freedoms until he is caught up.
- When your kids give you the impression they have completed their chores and schoolwork but they haven’t, do you treat this as lying? It is a form of lying called deceiving. To deceive is “to cause someone to believe something that is not true.” Isn’t that what a lie is? To trick you to believe something other than the truth? Once your kids are 8 yrs. and above and have received the monkey for a particular responsibility or behavior, when they become deceptive in dealing with it with you, it needs to be treated as lying and you need to pull that monkey back into the funnel, meaning it is your responsibility to oversee it with your authority again.
- If you continue reminding them vs. training them to remember and be responsible for these, then you really are giving your child a double message allowing them to lie to you while at the same time telling them outright lying is wrong and not allowed.
What can you do? When you find they don’t get their teeth brushed or feed the dog or do whatever else is on their list of tasks for the day, instead of reminding them, threatening or lecturing them (like we talk about in our book “Taming the Lecture Bug and Getting Your Kids to Think”):
- Ask them why they lied to you. With the shocked look on their face, ask them to go look up the word “deceive” in a dictionary or on the internet. Ask them how deceiving can be seen as a form of lying.
- If they say “I just forgot to do it. I wasn’t deceiving you”, ask them why you should believe them. It’s easy for kids to get in the habit of “forgetting” because it erases responsibility for them. So saying they forgot to do something is again trying to deceive or trick you. Ask them why you would want to be their memory.
When you give your kids an instruction, when you are finished do they say “Yes Mom/Dad?” If the task does not get completed, you want to go back to “Why did you lie to me by saying you would do it?” Your child might want to know when he told you he would do it. You can tell him when he responds to you with “Yes Mom/Dad” at the end of their instruction he is agreeing to follow through with it. When he doesn’t intend to do it, saying “Yes Mom/Dad” is another form of lying and when your kids are 8 yrs. and up, they need a correction for it.
Kids with the Sanguine temperament are prone to lying by deceiving, distracting and the other forms you can find out more about in the Mom’s Notes presentation, “Working with Your Child’s Besetting Sin, Pt. 2 Dealing with the Child Who Lies.”
Teaching our kids to be responsible is one thing, and it needs to come first. Teaching them to be honest with you as well as themselves by not lying in any way when they know they should be responsible is another matter completely.