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How To Handle Your Child Lying

Last week I talked about how problems that aren’t dealt with usually grow and get much worse. The example that I gave was a client whose son was lying. She didn’t know how to deal with her lying in children, nor where that problem would lead. Unfortunately, he is now in serious trouble with the law. Clearly, if she knew then where the problem would lead, she would have tried harder to get help. It is heartbreaking that he is now in so much trouble because of issues that would have been so much easier to deal with a few years ago.

So this week’s tips on parenting focus on how to handle your child lying. Most parents have to deal with children lying at some point. Many times toddlers will start to lie when they realize that they can. With some gentle coaching, they will usually admit that they were making the story up, and the problem will disappear. However lying can become a big problem, and be a sign that your child is headed for trouble.

Find The “Why”

Most parents, when faced with kids lying, look for some sort of consequence or punishment to get their child to stop. However, before you can solve the problem, you need to first understand why your child is lying. Unless your child is deeply troubled, your child is not likely lying because he or she is bad. Your child usually is lying either because:

  1.  your child fears your reaction and fears of losing your love or approval if he or she tells you the truth,
  2.  your child is not sufficiently attached to you and therefore it feels wrong to share

Fear

You may not realize it, but if you tend to react harshly to mistakes, or if you ridicule or otherwise make your child feel bad for making mistakes, you may create an environment where your child does not feel safe, to tell the truth. If you are a perfectionist who gets upset over every little mistake, your child won’t want to tell you when he or she makes a mistake, even big serious ones where your child needs your help.

Attachment

As to the attachment, you may have reacted as many great parents do and think that this point doesn’t apply to you. Did you say to yourself something like, “That’s ridiculous! I’m home with my child all the time, or I put so much time in, how could my child have any attachment issues?” The fact is that many of us, including myself, have had to work on our attachment with our children because of the times we are in, not because we aren’t great parents who are very dedicated to our children. (Next week I’ll talk about how to build the attachment.)

Underlying Problem

No matter what the problem is, the solution is essentially the same. You need to address the underlying problem in order to deal with the issue of your child lying. In both cases, your child needs to have the bond between you strengthened.

As one of my powerful parenting mentors, Dr. Gordon Neufeld says, if you want to solve a problem with your child, often you need to change how you see the problem. If you see and understand that your child’s lying is a sign that he is scared of your reaction, or isn’t feeling close enough to share with you, that can cause a powerful shift in you that will lead to the solution. As long as you stay stuck in seeing your child as bad and needing punishing, you will make the problem worse.

Don’t Blame Yourself

Of course, it is essential that you don’t blame yourself either. Neither you nor your child wanted to be in this situation. You certainly didn’t set out to create an environment that would encourage your child lying. Your child feels bad that he or she is lying and would prefer to be in a situation where lying wasn’t so tempting.

A Call For Help

Children lying is not a sign that your child is bad, it is a call for help. If you understand this and work on strengthening your relationship and monitor your reaction to mistakes so that you aren’t being too harsh or ridiculing your child for mistakes, your child will quit lying in time. In the meantime, try to shift the focus off of the offending behavior, lying, and on to all that you see your child doing right. That shift of focus will help change the environment so that your child is encouraged to trust you and become more honest.

Next week, in my tips on parenting series, I’ll go into more detail on how to build the relationship. In the meantime, think of what things you and your child love to do together and do more of those things. You’ll be on the right track.

Share your experiences with kids lying, and share this post with your family and friends. Lying in children is a common problem that is an opportunity to head off much worse problems down the road.

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