How to Talk to Your Kids About Lying

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

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

When it comes to our children 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 whether they be developmental, relational, or self-regulatory.  

This behavior strategy may be unacceptable but it is more important that we address the root cause of the lying (the needs motivating the action), rather than focusing 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 because we can't make sense out of them, we tend to undermine their blossoming self-confidence and skills.

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

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As kids mature, they 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 satisfying their curiosity and desire to learn through their experience.

In order to appreciate the natural consequences as they mature, kids need to feel the results for themselves.

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
Repeated lying - especially when the lies are obvious - is telling you that your child is likely struggling with something more difficult and personal than you may realize. 

Anger + Accusations = More Lies

In this TEACHable Moments video, I share a few ideas and some language examples for how to talk 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. This negatively 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 it had no place in our home.  

However unintentional, "And neither do you [have a place in our home]" was the underlying message I took away from the lesson I was supposed to be learning.

Sure, it was easy to insist that "I'd never lie again," but eventually the shame led me to hide more than I was able to share.

This was an unintended goal.

It is our faith in our children, rather than our disappointment in them, which will teach them 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 and thank you for reading!

Talk soon,

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