Have a question, concern or problem regarding your child's behaviors? Send me an email and I will do a blog post about it! You will always remain anonymous! tkmiller81002@yahoo.com

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Liar, Liar pants on fire!

There are very few things that I have a hard time forgiving, the top two things I struggle to forgive are Stealing and Lying. The reason I have such a hard time forgiving these two things are that they both deal with trust. When you steal from me how can I trust you? When you are constantly lying to me how can I trust you? It is impossible. Trust is the core of every relationship, it is the first stage in Erikson's eight stages of man and without trust you cannot have a relationship.

With all of this being said, I do not have a hard time forgiving a child who lies or steals because every child goes through a lying/stealing phase, and the length and severity of the phase depends on us as adults! Now when an adult lies to me it is an entirely different situation because they are adults and know better!

When it comes to lying the main thing to remember is that people lie to protect themselves. They lie because they don't want to get in trouble, they don't want you to judge them, they don't want you to dislike them, etc. When it comes to kids it is important to realize that kids will lie to get out of trouble, especially when parents over discipline and punish extreme regardless of whether or not the child is honest! Take the following scenario for example:

Cassie got into mom's make-up and made a huge mess and completely ruined her lipstick, she knows she isn't supposed to get into mom's make-up without asking so she tries her best to clean it up which only makes a bigger mess so she leaves it and hopes her mom doesn't get too upset. Cassie's mom then goes into her bathroom and sees the mess that is made and becomes very angry, she yells for all of her kids to get in her bathroom and demands to know who made the mess. It is obvious that mom is extremely upset and the kids are afraid of how she is going to react so the natural reaction for them is to lie and act like they do not know who did it. Eventually after mom yells and threatens and yells some more Cassie admits to making the mess. Mom is now even more upset that Cassie didn't confess earlier (even though it is completely mom's fault for her not feeling safe enough to confess her wrongdoing) so she punishes Cassie for not only making a mess of her make-up but also for lying to her. Cassie has to clean up the mess, work to earn the money to replace mom's lipstick, write 100 times on a piece of a paper that she will not lie and spend the rest of the day in her room.

Now what are the chances that the next time Cassie's mom asks her if she did something is she going to be honest right away? She isn't because her fears were reinforced and there was no benefit for being honest. Now let's take the same situation and change mom's reaction

Cassie got into mom's make-up and made a huge mess and completely ruined her lipstick, she knows she isn't supposed to get into mom's make-up without asking so she tries her best to clean it up which only makes a bigger mess so she leaves it and hopes her mom doesn't get too upset. Cassie's mom then goes into her bathroom and sees the mess that is made and becomes upset. Mom knows it isn't going to do anyone any good for her to allow her emotions to run rampant and so before she confronts any of the kids she takes a deep breath, counts to ten, and realizes that had she been paying better attention to her kids the mess wouldn't have happened in the first place (after all it is our job as parents to keep an eye on our kids and when we aren't paying attention to them and they make a mess it is partly our fault because well kids are kids and they are going to make messes when unsupervised). She then calls her children into the bathroom and says, "Does anyone know who got into my make-up?" when no one answers mom then says, "I am not mad, I just need to know who made the mess and I promise it will be a lot better for you to be honest about it now than for you to lie to me" (In that one sentence you took care of two of the child's main fears the first being your anger and the second the reassurance that it is better to be honest.) Cassie then admits to making the mess, and mom gets down on her level, looks her in the eyes and says, "Thank you for being honest. Now you know you aren't supposed to get into my make-up without asking, and I am very disappointed that you chose not to ask me first so I need you to help me clean up this mess." Mom and Cassie then work together and clean up the mess.

Now what are the chances that Cassie is going to be honest right away the next time? 100%! Why not, she was thanked for being honest and was only given one consequence that related directly to the crime that was committed. Now for those of you who may be thinking - yeah right like that happens - to those I say, come and spend a day in my house and you will see that happen over and over again. In fact M says to me before she tells the truth, "it will be better if I am honest than if I lie right?" and the answer is always yes. The lying phase in my house lasts at most a week because I constantly reinforce to them that it will be much better for them if they are honest than if they lie.

Now what do I when they lie? I tell them that I am sorry that they chose to lie and I am disappointed in their choice, I then give them their logical consequence for whatever misbehavior there was and then I will add a little more to it that is still in conjunction with the crime because they lied. For example, in the case of the make-up I would say "you now need to clean up this mess and I was going to help you clean it, but because you chose to lie me about it you will now have to clean it up by yourself and I am going to watch you." This way it is still logical and I have stated that because they lied their consequence is worse, but not much worse. They also hear what would have happened had they chosen to be honest. Then when the cleaning gets "hard" I say, "I am so sorry it is hard to clean up, I really wish I could help you, unfortunately you chose to lie to me and so now you have to clean it up all by yourself. Maybe next time you will tell the truth right away and I will be able to help you"

This is all wonderful when you handle the lying right when it begins (which is typically between ages 4 - 6) but what about those of you who didn't know how to handle it and now your kids constantly lie? You need to realize that not only do your kids need to earn your trust BUT they need to earn your trust. You need to do the above suggestion, consistently over and over and over again until they feel safe enough to be honest. Kids lie because they are afraid of your reaction to the truth, so control your reaction and make sure you make a HUGE show of how much you appreciate their honesty every time they are honest, even if they are being honest that they poured all of their legos down the toilet!

The other thing to be aware of is your own level of honesty with them. Are you keeping your word to them? Are you always honest with them? Are you honest with others around them or do they hear you lying to your spouse/friends? Kids will do what they see you do and if they watch you lie then they are going to lie.

Speaking of adults lying - my husband likes to say random things to the kids that make them question if it is true or not, it is always off the wall unimportant stuff but it jacks my kids up and they always look to me to see if dad is telling the truth or not. One night he told the kids that the hamburger for tacos were our dogs - we killed them and used them for the meat, I have no idea why he would think that would be a funny thing to tell the kids, but he did; and of course they looked to me and I told them that daddy was being silly and that it was hamburger not the dogs. So now M tells T all the time . . . "Don't tell naughty lies dad!" He never thought of them as being lies, he thought of it more as being funny and telling stories but to the kids he is lying! Kids are very in tune and very aware of the importance of honesty and lying, especially when it is reinforced the value of being honest!


  1. you know.... it makes me feel like a horrible mom, doing the exact (as I am sure you know) things you advise not to do.

    I do have one more question and that is what happens when the punishment seems to "easy" and the child doesn't really care about what they did. Sometimes it seems that if the punishment isn't "tough" enough they will think "oh, well that was easy so why not do it again." (and I use the words "tough" and "easy" carefully.)

  2. Amazon_mom don't feel like a horrible mom! Remember I went to college to learn a lot of this stuff and I am still imperfect, writing this blog heros remind me to be better! There is no such thing as a perfect mom, we all make mistakes, we all overreact at times, we are human and we have to allow ourselves to be imperfect. every day my goal is to be better than I was the day before, so please never feel like you are a horrible mom because you did what you felt at the time was best!

    As for your question I think that this is where people struggle the most with discipline and using logical consequences, the goal isn't to make sure the kids are miserable and really have to sweat it out, the goal us to teach them that for every choice they make whether it is good or bad, there are consequences and so I never worry about how hard or easy a consequence is, but rather on how appropriate it is, are they learning anything from it, etc. and even more important than that is how consistent am I? If every time my kid spills they gave to clean it up,eventually they are going to spill less. Does that help?

    Give me some examples of what you feel your kids think are too easy & maybe I can help you figure out appropriate consequences

  3. So frustrating! I made a comment on this the other day, but it didn't post. Here is the way the Clarke family handles lying.

    When the children are young (around 3-ish) we start really focusing on the differences between telling the truth and lying. We let the child know that we will go through a period of time (for example, 6 months) where no matter what the child has done wrong, as long as they tell 100% of the truth, THEY WILL NOT GET INTO TROUBLE. No matter the crime, there is no consequence. Now, let’s say that during this time the child hit another child. We will still talk to them and let them know that what they did was wrong, but we constantly (and I do mean CONSTANTLY) emphasize that because they told 100% of the truth, they will have no consequence.

    We spend a great deal of time during this “trial period” talking to the child about the extreme importance of always telling the truth, and the full truth. The full truth is very important for them to learn. We praise them constantly whenever they do tell the truth, ESPECIALLY when they are telling of something that they have done wrong.

    During this time frame, the child learns that they can trust us because we don’t give any consequences (other than talking to them). Therefore, we keep our promise and they realize that they can trust us. Towards the end of the “trial period” we will let the child know that soon he will no longer have zero consequences. We start to explain (still without consequences) that after the trial period is done, their consequence would have been XYZ. We make the punishment fit the crime. No more, no less. The consequences change as they get older. You discipline an 11 year old far differently from a 7 year old and a 7 year old far differently from a 2 year old.

    During the trial period, we also let the child know that as long as they always tell the truth, their consequence will be far less than if they lie. In fact, our family rule is that if you lie, your consequence is double what it would have been if you had only told the truth.

    After the trial period is up, we have never had problems with our children lying to us. Now, that doesn’t mean that at times they consider the lie. In fact, #2 has lied to us recently. As a mother who knows her children well, I can tell the second that one of my children is considering whether or not to tell the truth. As I watch them mull it over in their heads, I will always gently remind them that if they lie, the consequence will be greater than if they tell me the truth. With this gentle reminder, more than 90% of the time, we are told the truth.

    In addition to teaching the great importance of always telling the truth, we make the consequence fit the crime. If #1 is watching something on TV that he’s not supposed to (i.e. too violent, etc.), he loses his TV privileges. If #2 refuses to clean his room, I remove the toys for a specified period of time. I do joke often about spanking/beating my children, but honestly, I can’t remember the last time that I officially “spanked” either of my older boys. Now, I did pop #2 in the mouth when he stuck is tongue out at me last week, but that was where the offense came from…. Which is a whole different topic.

    I think it is also important to mention that if you want your children to be truthful with you, you must ALWAYS be truthful with them. They know when we are lying as parents as well. There are times when I don’t want to answer the question, and I have told them that I felt uncomfortable (or whatever my reason is) and explain my reasons why. But Dave and I try to always be completely honest with our children. The example is so important.

    Great post, Kim!

  4. Jen I'm sorry it didn't post :(, but I'm glad you re-posted! Just out of curiosity how long is your typical trial period?


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