Emotionally Childproofing Your Home About Lies

Questions: My nine-year-old often lies. She has been doing this for a number of years. This problem drives her dad and me bonkers. We’ve scolded her, put her in time out, even told her that no one will believe her if she lies. In fact, her dad and I don’t believe her most of the time. What else can we do to stop her from lying?

Answer: Lying is often an attempt by the child to create reality on her terms. Children who lie often feel either fearful of or indifferent toward the person he/she is lying to. A fearful child may feel bad about what she does but not present the truth because she fears her parent’s consequences. The indifferent child lacks the sensitivity in how another person would feel receiving her lie, thus feeling free to manipulate the truth and the person.

Key ingredients to fostering truth-telling rests in helping children receive and express empathy and compassion. Empathy is the ability to get behind another person’s eyes and see an experience as they would. Parents who model empathy and sensitize children to empathetic understanding of experiences go a long way to increase truth-telling. Compassion is the ability to express concern to others about their feelings and needs. Children who incorporate the skills of empathy and compassion are less likely to be willing to lie because they wouldn’t want to damage trust with the one they lied to. Every child will lie at some time. Developmentally three and four year olds often find it hard to differentiate their feelings from reality. If an ongoing pattern of lying persists evaluate how you present empathy and compassion to her, and how you help her learn to be empathetic and sensitive about another persons feelings. A pattern of lying once established can be difficult to change. Other ideas could include sharing with her a difficult time when you were forced to choose between truth and lying. Express your belief in her about telling the truth while looking for opportunities to celebrate her attempts at openness. If you aren’t able to change this pattern of relating in your child you should contact us for further assistance and information.

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