Kids say such cute things… but, sometimes, we discover that they lie to us. According to a recent study, “Emergence of Lying in Very Young Children” by Angela D. Evans and Kang Lee, it’s a common issue.
“Sixty-five 2- to 3-year-olds were asked not to peek at a toy when the experimenter was not looking. The majority of children (80%) transgressed and peeked at the toy. When asked whether they had peeked at the toy, most 2-year-old peekers were honest and confessed to their peeking, but with increased age, more peekers denied peeking and thus lied.”
There are several therapists’ theories out there on WHY kids lie. On his blog, Dr. Phil said that children lie in both permissive and strict environments—it’s not limited to certain kinds. Dr. Phil advises parents,
“Know that lying is a learned but changeable behavior. People do what works. If lying has gotten your child what he wants while escaping accountability from you, the payoff is a luring incentive to continue. It’s a parent’s responsibility not to let it continue by creating consequences.”
Other experts agree. “Rather than asking ‘Did you break the vase?’ say, ‘Look, the vase got broken,’ “said Michael Brody, M.D., a child psychiatrist. “If you make an angry accusation, you’ll get a lie.”
But, what do we do about it? Here are six sure-fire ways to manage the lying and get the lies to stop.
1. Take Emotions Out Of It
In this Lifehacker article, writer and parent, Melanie Pinola, gave an example of her daughter lying about having brushed her teeth.
“…My emotional reaction was just teaching her to not get caught in a lie, rather than not to lie. A better course is to focus not on ‘your lie hurt me,’ but the more logical aspect of ‘why did you say that and what did you hope to achieve?’”
2. Remember To Stay Calm
You’re probably so mad/disappointed/etc. that your cute, little, innocent child lied—right to your face, without averting eye contact, even. Experts say staying calm is key. Practice calming down (meditation, breathing, going for a walk etc) before confronting your child about it.
3. “Train & Explain”—And Encourage Honesty
Don’t be accusatory, but do talk about how pretending is sometimes fun. However, emphasize that pretending and real life are not the same things. See if your child admits it (for example, not brushing their teeth) without you pointing it out just because you still see chocolate syrup all over their face and teeth from dessert.
If you find out the reason he or she did it, you two can discuss what they could—and should—do differently next time when tempted to lie.
4. Do Not Label Them As A “Liar”
Labels affect kids’ identities, and we don’t want to encourage them to keep lying if they’re labeled as such. “People live to their labels,” said Dr. Phil. “When you label your child a liar, you run the risk of that label becoming an identification and mode of behavior for your child.”
Therapists across the board agree on this and that the kid in question may feel they have nothing to lose if they keep lying.
5. Create Predictable Consequences
Dr. Phil also believes that creating predictable consequences is key. “Your child needs to know that if he chooses the lying behavior, he also chooses the consequences. Also, your child needs to be able to predict with 100 percent accuracy what the consequences will be if he lies—not just in words, but in deeds.”
6. Enforce The Rules
“Enforce your own rules,” Dr. Phil says. “As a parent, you have to be willing to choose the punishment and then police it. For example, if you say there will be no phone privileges for lying, there truly need to be no phone privileges, even if you have to take the phone out of the house.”