Never hear another lie from your child again!

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So, your child just lied straight to your face. Before you give him the sermon of the century, you may want to rethink that strategy. Wouldn't it be best to dig deeper into the problem instead?

Being lied to stings because it's inconceivable how someone is so willing to break the trust we bestow upon them. It hurts even more when our children, whom we love the most, are the ones telling fibs.

However, it is important to know that when children lie, there's usually a reason behind it that you can both address to eliminate telling untruths altogether.

Why children lie (and how to curb it)

1. Inability to shut off their imagination

They simply let their imaginations run wild and don’t quite know how to separate truths from non-truths. Sometimes this is unintentional, but there are times when it is done on purpose.

How to prevent kids from lying:

Children who lie because they are unable to turn off their imaginations and fantasy should not necessarily be punished or disciplined.

Instead, you will see better and quicker results by teaching them how to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

To do this, there needs to be a dialogue between the two of you. Talk about what they watch, read and play; what is and isn’t real.

If your child has trouble grasping this concept, limit the amount of fantasy they are exposed to until they can understand the difference. Lies told as a result of the reality/fantasy issues should be handled calmly without making your child feel ashamed or fearful.

Honest and non-accusatory conversations about the right time and place for fantasy and imagination are usually all that is needed to help your child stop lying.

Consider this: if your child is telling you something make-believe that doesn't involve him being dishonest (e.g. he tells you he's a superhero), simply go along with it. Imaginary play is important to your child's development.

2. Avoid doing something they don’t want to do

“Yes, I brushed my teeth,” rolls easily off the tongue when a child is too engrossed in playing to go do something so mundane and "unnecessary."

How to prevent kids from lying:

When your child lies to get out of doing something he doesn’t want to do, the most effective way to curb the problem is to require him to do the "undesirable" task several times consecutively. And allow him to have fun while he's at it!

For instance, if your child lies about cleaning his room, give him a reasonable amount of time to do the job, empty his toy box and have him do it again… and again, if needed. Play his favorite music while he is doing his chore or create a game out of picking up all red items in the room.

You can also print out a schedule of tasks to help your child have a routine. This way, he knows when he is expected to do certain things so there's less resistance from him.

Continue reading for more tips on how to prevent kids from lying

3. Lying out of fear

When a child lies out of fear, it is important to first figure out the reason for their fear.

How to prevent kids from lying:

If they fear getting in trouble for what they’ve done and lie to "protect" themselves, it is of the utmost importance that you stress to them that no matter what they’ve done or said, telling the truth will always be looked upon with favor and respect.

Lying, on the other hand, will result in punishment for the lie, and for whatever was done and lied about in the first place.

But avoid severe punishments for telling untruths - kids who fear such may start to purposely keep you out of the loop. This could hinder communication between you and your child.

Another fear that may drive a child to lie is that of being bullied. In this case, you will need to reassure your child that no real harm can come to them as long as they put their trust in you.

4. To protect someone else

You need to determine who they are protecting - a sibling, friend, a bully or even an abuser - and why they are doing so.

How to prevent kids from lying:

If the lie is told to help a friend stay out of trouble, similar disciplinary actions for lies told out of fear need to be taken.

If your child has been threatened in any way to lie for another person, you need to treat the situation compassionately. Remember that the fear of being harmed or bullied is real, so your child may be feeling a tremendous amount of fear and guilt.

In all cases, be your child's advocate and encourager, letting him know you will always be there to protect him and to remind him that his trust in you and your trust in him is what really matters.

Remember, too, that lies told in haste (speaking before thinking) are usually simple, silly things that really aren’t worth lying about.

When this happens, don’t dwell on it — let it go and simply reinforce the positive aspects of telling the truth, reminding your child that yours is a home where only the truth is acceptable.

Continue reading for more tips on how to prevent kids from lying

Encourage the truth

This is one of the best tips on how to prevent kids from lying, which includes changing your perception and how to handle an undesirable situation.

  • Always be truthful yourself.
  • Never punish your child for telling the truth.
  • Remember that lying (at times) is your child's misguided attempt at autonomy. Try saying something like, "It’s fine if you go to your friend's house after school. Just leave me a message." According to experts, this is a very positive message that says you respect your child’s growing independence, but are still concerned about his safety.
  • Keep the conversation on the matter at hand, rather than placing blame and humiliating your child.
  • Don’t be accusatory. Give your child the opportunity to "fess up" in a non-threatening environment.
  • Don’t put your child on trial. Grilling him with questions only puts him on the defensive--when that happens, your child will tell you whatever they think you want to hear to get the conversation over with.
  • Honor your child for telling the truth and let him know you respect his truthfulness and appreciate how hard it is to always be truthful.
  • Approach the situation as a teaching opportunity. You could say, "I'm pretty sure that's not what happened. Do you think it happened that way?"
  • Avoid telling your child that he is a liar. This may affect his self-esteem, or lead to even more lying.
  • Always tell your child you know when he is not telling the truth and how much you appreciate honesty. But do try to avoid asking him all the time if he is telling the truth.
  • Fix the problem together. If your little boy has scribbled on the wall, tell him gently that "We only draw on paper," then ask him to help you clean up the mess.
  • Avoid getting your kid into situations where he feels he needs to lie. If you see that he spilled some milk, don't ask if he spilled it--this may put him in a situation where he may feel he has to say "no" to avoid getting into trouble. Instead, say, "Look, there's been an accident with the milk. Let's clean it up together."
  • Exaggerated stories that involve bragging can be a child’s way of getting admiration or respect from others. If this is happening often, think about ways of boosting your child's self-esteem through encouragement or praise when appropriate.
  • Teach your child the repercussions of repeated lies by telling him the story of "Peter and the Wolf."
  • Stay involved in your child's life and encourage him to talk to you about any problems he might have. If your kids are comfortable enough to talk to you about anything, the need to lie is automatically erased.

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Also read: How to stop your child from telling little white lies!

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