What to do when your kid lies. This is an image of a child's mouth and teeth.

3 Parenting Tips for When Kids Lie

One of our Facebook fans wrote, “Is lying about brushing your teeth something to drop for my 11-year-old son? As we are pressing into the teenage years I am questioning what is worth not letting go because it is still lying which I don’t want to condone.”

Lying is unacceptable and wise parents don’t ignore it or condone it. Here are some things that can make these lying moments, teaching moments – reducing power struggles, and building a stronger bond between the parent and child.

#1. AVOID THE “DID YOU?” SITUATIONS

Very few humans, including adults, are like young George Washington in the cherry tree story. Most people, including children, tend to lie to protect themselves. If the youngster didn’t brush his teeth, and the parent asks, “Did you brush your teeth?” the answer will probably be a lie. So, why ask in the first place?

A better approach might be to say, “I hope you’re protecting your teeth by brushing. I’ve been a little worried for you since I pay for the good dentist reports and you pay for the bad ones. I hope you get a good report from the dentist.”

And yes, a Love and Logic parent would have the child pay for the bad report. We don’t make hollow threats. Remember that sincere empathy precedes the consequence. “How sad, a bad dentist report. Do you want to use your allowance money or what? Could you use a hug?”

#2. LYING EARNS CONSEQUENCES

In the event that a child tells a lie, the generic Love and Logic consequence, called the “Energy Drain” technique, can be used.

For example: “Son, I know that you lied to me about talking back to your teacher. That’s not acceptable in this family. I spent a long time on the phone talking with your teacher about your behavior, and didn’t get my own work accomplished. I’ll let you know later how you can replace the time and energy I used up dealing with this.”

This boy can do some housework to replace the parent’s “drained energy.”

#3. Don’t Accuse, “Feel” Instead

One thing that the handout below misses, is what Foster Klein always stresses: Unless you can prove the lie, you never accuse. Instead, say something like: “Suzie, it feels like you are not being truthful with me.” If you say, “You are lying to me or you are not telling the truth” then as the parent you have lost power. Most children will most-likely say they are not lying. If you say it “feels like” the child cannot prove YOUR feelings. Foster outlines all the details to the “It feels like” approach in this Love and Logic® CD that I highly recommend. This is good stuff and so much better for the relationship between you and your child!

Here is a great outline about how to deal with lying, cheating, and stealing with kids. Thanks for reading, and remember that the child will always test the limits, so it’s your job is to enforce them.

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