Do you have a consistent problem with your child lying to you, even though he or she is normally a good child? Sometimes the lies are even about things that dont really matter or your child continues to lie in the face of overwhelming proof to the contrary?
It is my firm belief that we will not end lying behavior in our children until we take away the consequences for telling the truth. This is a concept explored in greater detail within Nancy Bucks book, Peaceful Parenting®.
How many times as a child were you told by your parents that you wouldnt get into as much trouble if only you would be honest and tell the truth? I think this must be a rule in Parenting 101 because almost every parent I know has uttered this inalienable truth at least once with their children. Do you remember what you heard when you were told that as a child? I do.
What I actually heard is: if you keep on lying, you are going to really get into trouble. You already lied so you are at pretty high risk of getting into serious trouble. But, if I stick to my story, then there is a possibility there will be no punishment. No one likes to be punished. So it is logical that most children will choose the path that is least likely to result in pain. This, to most children, means the lying route.
I am proposing that if you want to decrease your childs lying, then you need to say, As long as you tell me the truth, you will not be punished. This is a huge shift for many of you and you are probably asking yourself, But what if my child did something that requires punishment—something seriously against the rules? I still say remove the consequences for lying and you will more likely get the truth.
Before you come to this decision, though, you must decide whether or not you really want the truth. A few years ago, I was speaking to the mother of one of my sons friends. She was very upset that a boy had stayed at her home and slept on top of the same bed with his girlfriend. Now, this mother was aware that both the boy and girl were sleeping at her house but she did not want them to share a bed. The two disregarded her wishes but felt they were complying with the main issue by sleeping on top of the covers, fully clothed. When the mother discovered them early in the morning, still sleeping, she was livid. She called me to vent her frustration. In her ravings, she said, Well, I know I did the same thing and worse but at least I had the decency to lie to my parents! I asked her if she really preferred being lied to and she responded affirmatively.
Now, if you are a parent who would really rather not know, then this article is not for you. I am writing to those parents who want to know the real truth about what is going on with their children and who can handle the truth when presented with it, rather than feeling the urge to punish their child.
My sister-in-law came to me for advice in dealing with her 11 year-old daughter who has developed a lying habit, particularly around her school work. She tried everything. She had mentioned the universal law: If you tell me the truth, you wont get into near as much trouble as if you lie to me. My niece stuck to her story like glue. Then my sister-in-law began to take away extracurricular activities to hopefully impress upon my niece the importance of her school work. All of this was common sense but what do you think happened to the lying? It continued without impact.
When she came to me, I advised her to take away the consequences for telling the truth. She couldnt believe what I was suggesting she do. Now, I was not saying that she and my niece wouldnt have a conversation about whatever the problem was. And I wasnt saying that they wouldnt make a plan for more effective behavior in the future but there would be no consequence for telling the truth. Even though its in the beginning stages, my sister-in-law already reported improvement.
All she has to do now is remind my niece that there will no punishment if she tells the truth, and my niece has been coming clean. The advantage to this is that you, the parent, arent spending a lot of time attempting to get to the bottom of things! You dont have to play detective and go on a fact-finding mission. You get the truth up front and then you know what it is that you really need to manage.
The advantage is that you can take a collaborative approach with your child on how to do it better the next time. You can spend your time discussing what got in the way of your child being successful and how can you, together, remove those obstacles. This is so much more relationship strengthening than trying to figure out whos telling the truth and who isnt and then doling out the appropriate punishment for the lie. Wouldnt you rather put an end to lying and get at the real source of the problem?
Try it and see if it helps. But dont do it if you would prefer not knowing!