By Lisa Witherspoon
“Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!” We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf, but what do we do when our own children “cry wolf?” Here are some suggestions:
First of all, it is important to understand why children lie. There are several reasons that children may not tell the truth:
•Fantasy: Children, especially younger ones, may tell made up things or things they have imagined and present them as truth. This kind of lying really does no harm as long as children can separate reality from make believe.
•Fear: This one is classic. Two children are playing; a lamp crashes to the floor; they both point at the other and say “He did it!!” This kind of lie happens because children are afraid of the consequences they will face for their actions, so they blame it on someone or something else.
•Avoiding a task: Pretending to be sick so he/she doesn’t have to go to school; faking an injury to sit out of P.E. – these are classic examples of lying in order to avoid an unpleasant task.
•For love and approval: Let’s face it – we all like to be praised and told how wonderful we are. Sometimes, kids will stretch the truth in an effort to get this praise. Some children my claim to like a particular sport because they think their father will be proud of them. Others may lie to classmates about having a fancy home or expensive toys in order to impress them. These are typical examples of lying in order to get approval.
Now that we know why children lie, what do we do about it??
•Always model being truthful. Try to avoid telling others “white lies” and don’t lie to your children.
•Talk about values and explain why lying is wrong and that it leads to mistrust. (i.e. Tell them the story of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf!”)
•Enforce logical and consistent consequences for lying such as loss of a privilege.
•Don’t forget to punish the original misbehavior as well. When children lie, parents get angry, but don’t lose sight of the misbehavior that started the cycle to begin with.
•Get to the underlying problem. What are the kids afraid of when they pretend to be sick so they don’t have to go to school? Do they think Daddy won’t love them if they don’t play soccer?? If you can address and fix the underlying problem, the lying is likely to go away.
•Praise them when they tell the truth. Telling the truth can be a scary and difficult thing to do. When your child does the right thing, give them the credit they deserve and praise them for taking the high road!