Why (Step)kids Lie and What You Can Do

I think T has been lying to us since I’ve known him (since he was 3 or 4). Nothing ever serious but when you are dealing with lying what is serious and what is not?? Usually it is about doing chores or homework. Saying he did when he hasn’t. It’s hurtful and frustrating! Why doesn’t he feel like he can be honest with us? And what else is he lying about??

In my reading on the subject I found some good advice. Nothing too surprising but a great reminder.

From Why Kids Lie — Age by Age by By Juliette Guilbert on parenting.com

An occasional lie about homework, chores, or toothbrushing, while aggravating, is not unusual at this age. The best response usually is to simply express your displeasure. But if a tween lies chronically, he might need professional assistance to sort things out. “Children who are anxious, who feel that they can’t handle some kind of situation, may lie,” says Dr. Berger. “It could be a sign of any number of stresses that the child is under.” It could also be the sign of a smart kid who finds lying a convenient tactic.

“It could also be the sign of a smart kid who finds lying a convenient tactic.” I think this is my biggest fear. How wrong is that? Shouldn’t I worry it is something deeper but instead I’d rather it not be that he is just learning to be deceitful to get his way?

Juliette Guilbert continues with…

The best way to steer your tween toward greater honesty? Set a good example yourself (no fudging his younger brother’s age to get cheaper movie tickets) and talk to him about how lying can damage your credibility and relationships. “It’s the kind of lesson that doesn’t sink in immediately,” says Crossman. What lesson ever does, especially with kids that age? But chances are your child will grow out of his fibbing — and into an honest-to-goodness adult.

Personally we have tried the whole explaining why it is wrong and how it can damage relationships. It doesn’t seem to sink in. M and I try really hard to lead by example. We don’t lie and we don’t bend the truth (I can’t say never because we are human and probably have but we work hard not to). On the other hand… his natural mom has lied to us. And even encourage T to fib on occasion. That is super maddening. But what can we do? Nothing but continue to be a good example for T.

I like what James Lehman, MSW has to say in his article Why Kids Tell Lies And What To Do About It on empoweringparents.com. In fact our own mental health professional said basically the same thing.

I think parents have to deal with lying the way a cop deals with speeding. If you’re going too fast, he gives you a ticket. He’s not interested in a lot of explanations from you. He’s just going to give you a consequence. Look at it the same way with your child. He didn’t tell the truth, whether the truth was distorted, omitted or withheld. There should simply be consequences for that. The first time you lie, you go to bed an hour early. The second time, you lose your phone. It should be something that the kid feels. You lose your phone for twenty four hours. You lose your phone for two days. You lose computer time or TV time.

The consequences have to make the child uncomfortable or they don’t change anything. The idea is that the next time he’s faced with telling you the truth or lying, he’ll recall how uncomfortable he was when he did the consequence for lying, and he’ll tell you the truth instead.

The consequence should be about the lying. If there’s a separate consequence for the incident, that should come down separately. If you come home later than your curfew and you tell me the truth, you may still lose going out Friday night, but you won’t lose your phone. If you lie to me, you lose both.

The problem I have is that I feel like we have tried this and it doesn’t seem to make a difference. But maybe we haven’t given the whole just-dish-out-a-consequence-and-don’t-yell tactic enough time. If your child is in the habit of lying and you have some advice to share please leave a comment below! Share some hope!

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