By: Bev S
Of all the misbehaviors my three children exhibited during their childhood, I think lying and deception were the most difficult to deal with. When it happened, I would be angry, disappointed, hurt and discouraged. Believing that all parents have to deal with this sin at least once in our children’s lifetimes, I thought we might stop and look at this behavior and how to deal with it when it happens and how to prevent it from being a temptation for our kiddoes.
We know the traditional responses…washing mouths out with soap, spanking, removal of privileges, and I even had a friend who had his son look up every passage in the Scriptures that deals with lying and hand write every one of them. Do they work? I think they can be very effective. Let’s see what one of my favorite experts says we should do:
From Jim Fay and Foster Cline, Pearls of Love and Logic, p. 115
There are four basic rules for handling lying by children:
- Don’t try to force your child to tell the truth when you already know it! Generally speaking, trying to force the child—ever—to tell the truth is a control battle that the adult will lose.
- Give your child more positive emotion for being honest than negative emotion for lying.
- Consequence lying without anger.
- Children may be “consequenced” for circumstantial evidence.
So, what does that mean?
- Perhaps we tempt our children to lie by the way we ask questions. One of your children reports that their precious M&M’s are missing and that their sibling took it. Perhaps phrasing the question differently would promote a truthful response. Instead of, “Did you take __’s M&M’s?” A better question might be, “Where did you find that package of M&M’s?” This surprise question sometimes elicits a response like, “On the floor in the bathroom…”
- The response might be, “I just love it when you tell me the Truth. Since these are __’s M&M’s, you need to pay __ for them.” OR “What can you give __ to replace those precious M&M’s. It must be something that is precious to you.”
- Sometimes, when your child lies, you must walk away at first. You can tell him/her “I am very sad and angry right now. You need to go to your room/chair/etc., while I think about this. (I used this response often with one of my children. We really could provoke each other to wrath quite easily!!!).
- You might be able to respond to something like the M&M behavior like this:
“Yesterday I saw you eating M&M’s. Today I see you eating M&M’s again, although yours are gone. Because of this, I must believe __. (Again) Since these are __’s M&M’s, you need to pay __ for them.” OR “What can you give __ to replace those precious M&M’s. Also, because you lied to me about this, (choose a suitable consequence that fits your family discipline plan…i.e. spanking, loss of privileges, etc.).
While attending a women’s conference many years ago, I was powerfully convicted about being very careful not to model deception in any way, shape or form, to my own children. Some examples of that might be:
- Don’t tell Daddy I gave you this….
- The phone rings and you are busy, “Tell __I’m not here.”
- Keeping change, when I realized I had been given too much by the storekeeper.
- Telling a “white lie” to keep from hurting the feelings of a friend (or telling my child to tell a little lie in a difficult circumstance).
- Telling a lie myself to “save face.”
- Etc. etc. etc. Our life is a continual model every minute of every day to those little ones God has given us to prepare for life outside our home.
If you have a copy of William Bennett’s Book of Virtues or another book with Aesop’s Fables, look up the story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Read and discuss it as a family. Stop and ask your kids about the story and the decisions of the boy while you are reading it. Emphasize the consequences for his lies.
Also, share times with your children when you were and were not lied to and how these life experiences have impacted you. Tell about people you always knew you could trust and how there were some that you, unfortunately, learned you could seldom trust. Tell how that impacted your friendships with each kind of person.