You catch your kid in a lie, and you don’t know what to do. Sooner or later it happens — even to the best of parents. The good news: lying is not a sign that your child lacks a moral compass. But all the same, the truth is a better choice, so here’s how to encourage honesty in your kids.
My daughter’s lie was an act of self-preservation. She knew we wouldn’t be happy with what she had done, so she felt like she had to lie to avoid punishment. Kind of like when you tell your spouse that the dent in the car was there when you exited the mall and you have no idea how it happened. (Okay, maybe you wouldn’t do that, but as a 20-year-old newlywed, I totally did. Came clean an hour later.)
Catch them in the truth
When it comes to kids (and husband, frankly), the trick is to only respond to behavior you want to encourage and ignore everything else to the extent possible. So when your kids tell you the truth, make a big deal about it. Let him know you “appreciate how difficult it was for him to tell the truth when he knows he would get in trouble for doing something he shouldn’t have,” says Eybergen.
Teach the safety of the truth
Help your kids understand that sometimes people can suffer real consequences — such as physical hurts — when someone withholds the truth. For example, if your son and a friend with a nut allergy eat a bagful of cookies and lie about it, the friend could become gravely ill.
Model the right behavior
Let your kids see you telling the truth — and talk about it, especially when it’s hard. Say things like, “It was really hard to tell my boss I didn’t finish that project on time. He was pretty mad, but I learned that I need to manage my time better.” Let your kids see you make mistakes and grow from them. They’ll be less afraid to admit their own flaws.
For more on teaching kids how to be honest:
- Children and lying: Age appropriate advice
- When kids experiment with lying
- Confronting your child’s bad behavior