Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Lying Game

Have you ever told a lie? When you did, why did you do it? Most people will tell a lie to protect themselves from embarrassment, punishment, rejection or disapproval. As adults, this is interesting to think about. Now, I’m not saying that most adults lie, I try to be honest in my life as I’m sure you do also, but as I think over my many years I have told a lie and they were for the above reasons. (Now is the time to be honest with yourself! You have too )

Now, about our children. How do we teach our children to be honest? Children are going to lie for the reasons we read above. If you put them in a situation to experience embarrassment, punishment, rejection or disapproval, they will lie. Is there a way to discipline without making our children lie to us? Let’s start with the following situation that happened with one of my grandchildren…

D.K. had been picking the paint off the walls by her bed. Her mother had asked her several times over a period of days, not to pick the paint off. One day mother walked in and more paint had been picked off.

Mother: “D.K., did you pick at the paint on the walls again?”

D.K.: “No, I didn’t”

Mother: “I can see you have, it’s not nice to tell lies. Lying hurts and makes you feel all yucky inside”

D.K.: “Well telling that lie didn’t make me feel all yucky inside!”

Although this was really a funny answer, Mom got caught in the trap that time. Now, I think my children are great parents, but we have all set up our children to lie to us at one time or another. Do we ask them a question when we already know the answer? This will invite a child to lie if they feel trapped. Here are a few ways to help children learn that lying really does hurt themselves and others, we do feel “yucky” inside and that telling the truth is best.

1. Don’t ask questions that can set up lying. As explained above, our questions often set up a child to learn to lie. They get caught in the thought
of embarrassment, punishment, rejection or disapproval. We can be disappointed in what happened, but our conversation around that will teach them how to handle a critical conversation. The best way may be:
“I see you have been picking at the paint on the wall again. Do you think we can talk about something else you can do with your hands while you are trying to go to sleep?” You could also tell them why peeling the paint off the wall isn’t good and there may even be a consequence of helping to repair the wall (what that may be will depend on age and what they can handle).

2. You can ignore the lie and continue on with the consequence for the action.
Mother: (after D.K. told her the lie) “I see that there is more paint off the wall. What can we do to fix this?”
Mom had set the situation up for her child to lie, but ignore the lie and went on with information or consequence. Nice recovery!

3. Deal with the problem, not the child. Help children learn that it is ok to make a mistake. Sometimes that is all it is, a mistake and they had forgotten. By using discipline and consequences they can learn from those mistakes and move on. If you don’t overreact, they will know that mistakes happen and they won’t have to lie to you when they do.

4. You don’t always have to find out what happened. Sometimes when it involves two children, you will never get the right answer. They have a tendency to blame each other (sound familiar?). Remember, you don’t have to question and you don’t have to know the answer. Deal with the problem at hand, teach a better way to do it or use a consequence for them to learn a lesson.

5. Watch what is going on in your child’s life. Are there outside influences that may lead them to lie to you or others? Are they lying to teachers at
school? Is it because of teasing or bullying or anything else that you may see? Does your child show signs of low self-esteem?

6. Watch what is going on in your home. Is your child tired, sick, lonely, sad, embarrassed etc?

7. Watch how you react to your children when they do something they shouldn’t. Do they feel like they need your approval for love? Children need to know you love them no matter what.

8. Teach the importance of telling the truth at another time. A family meeting is the best time to teach this. Get the children involved by asking them how they could tell the truth in different settings, even when they know that what they did wasn’t right.

9. Problem solve with your child if it is an ongoing concern. State your concern, listen to your child’s solutions, give your solutions and let them help you come up with a plan when they feel like they are going to lie. If a child is involved in the solution, they will be more aware of it and want to follow through with the plan.

10.Always tell your child you appreciate the honest answer when they do tell you the truth. Consequences may still be appropriate, but self-esteem is not lowered when you let them know you appreciate the honesty.

Now, think back on my first question. Have you ever told a lie? Did you feel all “yucky” inside? The ones I remember did hurt me, as I still remember them and the “yucky” feelings I had when I did tell them. I am an adult now and understand that I was trying to protect myself, but it doesn’t make it right. The hurtful part comes in remembering how I felt at the time. Lesson learned for sure. Let’s teach our children those lessons with understanding and acceptance. Teach them how to express the truth without worrying about the results.


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