How to Talk to Your Kids About Lying

Nope, wasn't me - no way, no how!

That uncomfortable and trigger-producing behavior which freaks you out is actually a natural step on your child's development track.

When it comes to our kids lying - I think we should be - aware of it - but not in fear of it.

Kids lie for lots of reasons --

  • to be noticed
  • to protect themselves
  • to ease uncomfortable feelings
  • to experiment as their higher order thinking expands
But even when their lies are self-serving, they aren't for the reasons adults typically assume... to be manipulative or to take advantage of someone

I want us to shift out of the habit of assigning such negative attributes to our kids when in reality - kids lie as a way to meet their needs.  

This behavior strategy may be unacceptable but it is more important that we address the root cause of the lying [the needs], rather than focus on inducing guilt as a way to teach consequences or making blanket assumptions of right and wrong.

Yes, lying is wrong

But lying also supports kids in the development of their independence, autonomy and self-sufficiency. The same skills which help kids lie also support their more complex thinking.

When we attack their strategies (lying behaviors) with anger and threats, we tend to undermine their blossoming self-confidence and skills - because as parents - we can't make sense out of it.

We have to remember our children are ruled by immature brains and easily fall prey to risk-taking behaviors.  

As kids mature, they also need more than an abstract concept of "What will happen if..." and they may meet this need for more understanding by trying out behaviors which they "know are wrong."

It's not about knowing - it's about feeling, experiencing - living.

Sometimes, kids need to see and experience the results for themselves, and then the consequences which naturally follow. 

When lying becomes a habit it is likely a call for attention to something deeper:

  • a sense of isolation
  • feelings of unfairness
  • lack of validation
  • relationship disconnection
You can be sure repeated lying - especially when the lies are obvious - is telling you your child is grappling with something more difficult and personal than just avoiding pain or punishment. 

Anger + Accusations = More Lies

So in this TEACHable Moments, video I'm going to share some ideas and language examples for talking to your kids about lying without using shame, blame, judgment or guilt.

I remember lying as a child. It was always to cover up the shame I felt. Denying reality or altering it to hide my pain was way easier than owning my ugly truth. 

"Just tell the truth and it won't be as bad," my mother would say. 

Yeah sure! - that's easy for YOU to say.

Feeling cornered rarely led to me reflect on my behavior but only deepened my feelings of shame which affected my self-worth and taught me that to be acceptable - I needed to hide certain parts of myself.

With all the focus on how shameful it was to lie - no one ever asked about what led me to lie - only letting me know it was an unacceptable behavior and had no place in our home.  

"And neither did I" - was the underlying message I intuited - however unintentional.  

Sure it was easy to insist, "I'd never lie again." 

To pledge my allegiance to a skill I was unprepared to display by writing out "I must not lie" 100 times.

But, eventually the shame led me to hide more than share.

This was an unintended goal.

I want you to know it is your faith in your children, rather than your disappointment in them, which will teach everything they need to know about meeting expectations and repairing their mistakes. 

And now I'd love to hear from you! 

Have you been triggered by lying?
What's up with that? 
What belief or fear-story is in your subconscious causing you to be triggered by your child's lies?

Leave me a comment below - your story might be just the one to enlighten someone else on what's going on for them!

To your honesty and theirs, have a great week!


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About Lori

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