Yes, children lie. They make a mess and they blame the dog for it. They pretend they didn’t have anything to do with that broken vase in the living room. This is normal behavior for children. However, lying can quickly become a habit–and follow them into adulthood.

Children growing up to be liars often has a lot to do with what they see, and learn, from their parents. Ultimately, it all comes back to what the little ones see and hear from their authority figures around them.

As a parent, you can unconsciously fall into bad parenting habits that could potentially harm your child’s development. This is what you should be mindful of, if you want to avoid raising an adult liar.

The dangers of the wrong punishment

“Most children experiment with lying at some point in their development,” said Eliza Kingsford, a licensed psychotherapist and behavior change specialist.

One thing parents should be aware of is that research shows the more punitive parents are, the more likely the child will develop skillful lying habits in order to avoid the punitive punishment.

Dr. Eliza Kingsford

This only necessitates a perspective shift in your approach to teaching your child to do better. Parents who focus more on the benefits of honesty, and how honesty plays a crucial role in relationships with others, rather than focusing on how lying is bad tend to raise children more prone to value honesty.

“Children raised in an environment where it is safe and encouraged to have a broad range of emotions will be less likely to lie in order to protect themselves from shame or punishment,” said Kingsford. 

If a child feels safe to express himself, even when he knows he has done something wrong, and is not preoccupied with the threat of punishment, he will be more inclined to be honest. 

1-Role modeling

If we can build more honesty and truth by role modeling, we can encourage less lying.

“Being transparent about how you feel with what you are being told and encouraging your child to take a moment to think about how it may make others feel, allows us to foster more empathy with our children,” said Global Parenting Expert, Jo Frost, also known as Supernanny.

Go through different scenarios with your kids and discuss how they may feel and what they would do in those situations. That way, it expands their ideas and encourages a richer understanding of the importance of honesty.

2-Reward truth telling but make consequences non-negotiable

When we merit the positive in truth telling but make sure our children understand it is not negotiable for consequences, I do believe it can bring a child nearer to acceptance and accountability for their own choices and actions,” said Frost.

Go deeper to understand why these lies were told and figure out, as a parent, what you may need to work on together. Perhaps, there are underlying self esteem issues in your child, or you are being too lenient with their behavior.

4-Build trust

This one is a given, but stop promising and never following through.

Ultimately building more trust is key to a healthier relationship with your children.

Jo Frost

If you know you’re not able to keep the promise, then don’t make it. It will avoid bruising your child’s trust in you. And if by any chance, you are not able to keep a promise (it happens!) then make sure you apologize and explain the situation to your child with honesty.

Here’s a quick guide of what to do when your child just lied

Young children never want to disappoint. As a parent, Frost says it’s important to learn to be more:

  1. Be calmer in your conversations
  2. State your disappointment but not in a hostile manner
  3. Get the whole truth and state what you know so it gives chances for your child to give you the truth. 
  4. Don’t back down if consequences are needed, but do discuss how one could do so differently if found in the same position.

Get to the bottom of the need to have lied in the first place and recognize it is a very common situation for every child to do so for many different circumstances; however, defining how we change that and move forward is what makes the difference!

Jo Frost

More helpful articles: