All children lie at some point in their lives but there are varying degrees of lies. Kids naturally want to see what they can get away with and, of course, their first concern is to protect themselves if they feel they could get in trouble. Sometimes they are trying to impress their friends, teachers or others. Through honesty and example, you need to reassure your children that, no matter what, you are always there for them.
Children do learn from example and the first step in teaching a child not to lie is by being a truthful role model. How many times have you lied to a salesperson or telemarketer, as well as another adult, and your child is standing right there? A child does not understand why those little white lies are allowed in the adult world when you are trying to set an honest example. A child will not learn the importance of being truthful if you do not model that behavior yourself. Children look up to you when you least expect it. It is also imperative that you have an open relationship with your child. If a child is fearful talking to you because you may explode, it will refrain from being totally honest with you. An open relationship will create the environment where your kids will feel comfortable being truthful with and to you.
Dishonesty in children can take many forms from boasting, denial, cheating and extremely stretching the truth. This is normal behavior at some point in a child’s life. How you react to these little untruths can have an impact on your relationship with your child while you are trying to build trust.
It is important to start teaching your child at a very young age that being truthful is the only acceptable behavior. Avoid making a fuss over a child’s simple story or exaggeration as you are encouraging that little one to stretch a story just to make it sound better. In order to tell a lie, a child has to know the difference between what is true and what a lie is. Research shows that a child under age four does not understand this.
Talk to your child often from a young age the difference between a lie and honesty. Use specific examples to make your child understand why fibbing and stretching the truth can be harmful for all concerned. Continue to explain how untruths can damage all relationships and friends. Stress how constant lying to you will hinder your ability to further believe your child – it will be difficult to have any trust. Your child needs to understand how important honesty is and that you can always count on each other to always tell the truth despite how difficult it may be. Mutual trust and respect are built through family relationships. Children must understand that there is nothing you would not do for them to care for and protect them; yet if you find out you are lied to, it would change the whole dynamic of your relationship. A broken trust is very difficult to repair.
From the early years in teaching, praise your child for telling the truth and give consequences when not. An older child can learn that privileges and responsibilities are given only when they show honesty and can be trusted. Put more emphasis on the benefits for the child being honest rather than the punishment for a lie. Positive reinforcement always gains better results. However, if you do have to punish for dishonesty, do it with tenderness and respect so that your child knows you love them very much and appreciate their honesty at any cost. Teaching your children to be truthful is the key in raising respectable, responsible adults – being mindful of being truthful in your own life as a model parent.
About the Author: Brianna Kelly has over 5 years experience publishing articles on childcare education and parenting. She writes on a regular basis for Giraffe Childcare Dublin, who have 18 locations based in Dublin, Ireland.