What to do:
Self-talk. Say to yourself, "I don't like it when my child lies. Instead of getting angry, I will try to understand why he lies and teach the value of telling the truth."
Empathy. Tell yourself, "I need to know what caused my child to lie. Once I put myself in his shoes, then I can help him learn to tell the truth...even if it's hard."
Here are the main reasons children lie: Reason #1: To talk about their make-believe world. Reason #2: To avoid consequences or getting "in trouble" for their actions. Reason #3: To get out of doing things that they don't want to do. Reason #4: To try to make themselves look better in someone else's opinion.
Teach. Tell yourself, "I can help my child learn how to tell the truth, the value of being truthful so people can trust him and to take responsibility for his actions."
When your child lies, think about his reason for lying. Once you know why your child lies, then you can know how to best help him learn to tell the truth. For example, if you realize that your child lies to get out of doing his homework, you can help him solve the problem by talking with him about why he doesn't want to do it. Ask him calmly, "What part of homework is hard? How can your teacher and I be helpful?"
Praise Telling the Truth. When you know your child told the truth, offer praise. Say, "Thank you for telling me the truth. When you are truthful, I can trust you. But no matter what, I will always love you."
Recognize make-believe. When your child tells you a made-up story about what happened when he played outside and you know it didn't, say," I love the story you made up about who played catch with you. We know that you imagined in your head that your favorite baseball player played catch with you. That's a fun story! Let's write it down and save it. You are a good story-teller and have a big imagination."
Teach that Lying Destroys Trust and To Accept Consequences. When your child is caught in a lie (like saying he didn't spill his milk when you could see that he did) to avoid getting in trouble say, "I'm sorry you chose not to tell the truth. Let's work on telling the truth, so I can always believe that what you tell me is true and I can trust you. Now let's clean up the spilled milk on the carpet together."
Teach Your Child to Accept Responsibility for What She Says and Does. When you ask your daughter to do a chore, such as putting the toys away in her room, she might lie to get out of doing the job by telling you that she already did it. Say, "I'm so glad you did what I asked. I'll go see what a great job you did."
If she says, "Oh no, Mommy, not yet," you can be reasonably sure she's avoided her responsibility. Check it out! If you discover that she lied, say, "I'm sorry you chose not to tell me the truth about doing what I asked. I know you didn't want to put all those toys away and didn't want me to be disappointed, but doing what I ask and telling the truth are important. Now let's go get the job done. I'll watch while you pick up."
Practice Telling the Truth. When your child lies to you about turning off the TV when she said she would, say, "I'm sorry you didn't tell me the truth when I asked you if you had turned off the TV when I asked. Let's practice telling the truth. I want you to say, 'Yes, Mommy, I'll turn off the TV when this show is over.' Now let's try it." Then check out that she told you the truth to be able to praise her for following through on her promise!
Play Make-Believe with Your Child. To help your child understand the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie to make him look better in someone else's opinion, say, "I know that you thought telling Sam that you had four dogs was fun to do because he thought that was cool. But the truth is that you have one, Lucy, whom you love very much. Your friends will like you for who you are-a kind, caring, honest boy-not how many dogs you have. That's fun to pretend you have four dogs. Let's make up a story about that!" Now tell me how many dogs you really have."
What not to do:
Don't Try to Trap Your Child Into Confessing. If you know your child has done something wrong, asking her a question to which you already know the answer forces her into a dilemma: tell the truth and get punished, or lie and maybe get away with it. Don't make her choose. For example, don't ask her if she took the cookie out of the cookie jar when you know she did.
Don't Punish. When you catch your child lying-for example, by saying that she didn't use a pencil to draw on the walls when she actually did-don't punish her for lying. Instead, teach her how to accept responsibility for making a mistake and to fix the problem it caused. For example, say, "I'm sorry the wall has marks on it. Now we're going to have to learn about taking care of walls. Let's get the cleaning stuff and start cleaning. I'll get the cleaner while you get the paper towels. Telling me the truth about marking on the walls lets us fix the problem. Now you know that walls are not for writing. When you want to write or draw, come ask me for the crayons and pencils."
Don't Model Lying. Avoid your own exaggerating or making up stories to impress people, to say what you wish was true, to avoid consequences, or to get out of doing what you don't want to do. For example, telling your child that there isn't any ice cream at home when she knows that there is, tells her that you also lie, which makes it okay for her to do.
Don't Overreact. Even if you've said to your child a hundred times that you can't stand a liar, going ballistic and getting angry when your child lies only increases her need to avoid telling the truth to keep you from getting mad.
Don't Label Your Child a Liar. Don't make lying a self-fulfilling prophecy. A child who's called a liar will come to believe that what she does is who she is. Your child isn't what she does. She's a child. You might not love her behavior, but you'll always love her unconditionally.