In a calm and respectful manner, talk to your child about lying. Explain that you know she’s not telling the truth. Then ask very specific questions to find out why she’s lying so you can deal with the root cause of it.
Kids often lie to avoid criticism or punishment. Other reasons might include wanting to get out of doing tasks that are hard or that make your child very anxious. Your child may lie to try to impress her classmates and adults. Sometimes she may lie just to get a reaction from you!
Try to get to the bottom of things quickly while the situation is still fresh in your child’s mind. Tell her you love her and that she should always feel comfortable telling you the truth. Help her understand that mistakes are OK and that they’re often the first step toward mastering a new skill.
Work together on other ways your child can respond to challenging situations. Practice these strategies together rather than blaming or criticizing your child for lying.
What you can say
“Sofia, I know you have a great imagination, but sometimes you tell your teacher things that aren’t true. Mrs. Gleason told me she saw you dump paint on Willy’s picture today. When she asked about this, you told her you didn’t do it. Why did you say that? Did you say that because you were scared of getting in trouble?”
“OK, I hear you. But you need to understand that lying won’t keep you from getting in trouble. In fact, lying can often make things worse. When you tell people things that aren’t true, they will have a hard time believing you in the future.”
“I want you to understand that everyone makes mistakes. I make them. Your big brother makes them. We all make them. But it’s important that we learn from them. Mistakes help us get better at everything from learning how to draw to learning how to be a good friend.”
“I love you and want you to know it’s really important to tell the truth, even about mistakes like pouring paint on your friend’s picture. Let’s talk about what you can say the next time you do something and are scared of getting into trouble.”
Why this will help
Children need to understand that lying won’t make a difficult situation go away. You can show your child how lying can make things worse by pointing out that people often need to keep lying to cover up the first lie.
Talking about lying will help her realize that most lies are eventually found out and this hurts relationships. Working on alternate strategies together and expressing your love and support will help your child tell the truth.