Sunday, August 23, 2009

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

My son is four and a half and about 15-25 % of what comes out of his mouth lately is a lie. I know that some lying is normal {I think} but I am really stumped on how to handle it the right way. I don't want him to be afraid to tell me the truth but I am not going to omit consequences to win a popularity contest either. I have read about some experts saying that lying is a good indicator that your child possesses enough creative brain power to lie. Hmm. I don't know about that, but I do know that I believe lying should be discouraged. I need help in doing it in a positive and empowering way.

So far, I have just sat down with him and grimly expressed how much lying really bothers me. It is on the top of my list of no no's. If you hit your brother I am disappointed, but if you lie about it, it makes the situation worse. Lying hurts others and makes them not believe what you say. Lying is a bad choice. I say that ALL the time, but I just can't tell if my words are sticking since his behavior doesn't really change at all. Sometimes I get really frustrated with him over it and I KNOW that is counterproductive.

I really need ideas. I wonder if I am worrying too much over little lies. Where do I draw the line?

What do you do when your children lie?
How do you help them internalize what you are teaching them?
What consequences do you set for lying if any?
What thoughts do you have on children and lying? What is healthy and to be expected?


Alyssa Harper said...

When he lies, put him in time out (yes, EVERYTIME..some kids might sit out a lot) and tell him that you'll come back in 2 minutes and that he's to tell you what he did wrong when you come back. (You might want to up the time-limit if he's older.) If he gives you a childish response, give him another 2 minutes...over and over again until he gives you a good answer. Something like, "I lied, and that's disrespectful to you." (Maybe not that big of words.)

He'll learn. The moral consequence of lying is that someone else feels bad. That's a pretty sophisticated understanding, but surprisingly, even young children can grasp it with practice.

If he honestly doesn't know what he did wrong, that's when you can sit and teach him...but at some point, he needs to be able to admit by himself that what he did was wrong.

Alyssa Harper said...

Oh, and I know it's close to impossible to pounce on EVERY lie...especially the ones that seem relatively harmless. I think the trick is to determine if the lie is 1)for no reason at all or 2)has malicious intent or to get out of trouble. If the lie falls in the second category, DEFINITELY pounce on it every time...even though it will be time-consuming for you at first.

Anonymous said...

I've heard that sometimes kids lie because at such a young age, if they think of something long enough, they truly do believe that it happened. Just think about how some children have imaginary friends. My 4 year old does. I think in her mind, she honestly thinks this person exists. And it is fun. When she lies, I know that sometimes she is doing it to not get in trouble. But she is also doing it to please me, because she wants me to be happy. And there are sometimes where I really have to sit down and convince her to come to grip with what really happened and what she wished happened. I'm not sure when the age is when they can understand the difference between the two, but I would give him time.

Heather said...

I really appreciate Alyssa's ideas. It seems like there should be a consequence even if the child doesn't quite understand exactly what he or she is doing. I always try to find a natural consequence with my daughter, but lying is pretty tough that way because trust isn't a concrete concept. We've talked about trust and being able to believe what people say. I'm not sure she really understood.

The Berenstain Bears have a great book entitled "The Berestain Bears and the Truth" that you could read and talk about. This puts the conversation in the framework of the story rather than focusing on the child's misbehavior. As such, it may be easier for the child to discuss appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. I love the B. Bear books because so many of the situations are exactly what we deal with as children and parents.

Jared and Delia said...

We love those books AND we are going to the library tomorrow. Thank you for that idea!

Another idea that came to me after writing this post is to use scripture stories and include it in Family Home Evening. Tonight we addressed another issue we are dealing with, but it is along similar lines. We talked about obedience and what kind of son we can choose to be like in the story of Lehi and his family. We re-enacted the story of the Tree of Life. When Lehi beckons his sons to come and partake of the fruit so they can be happy too, Nephi and Sam obey and Laman and Lemuel don't {of course story is simplified greatly for four year old comprehension and attention span}. All he wants is for them to obey so they can be happy as we do for our children. My son was WAY more into than I thought he would be. He sat quietly, understood, asked pertinent questions, and could recall the story when I asked him about it. To cement the story into his memory, we acted it out and had cookies at our "tree" at the end.Having the Spirit testify of truth to him is invaluable and the scriptures are a great way to teach him truth. Some of the greatest lessons I learn are from the scriptures so why not him for as well.

So this is just an idea I have had since then. I am REALLY looking forward to more ideas PLEASE! I need all the ideas and "tools" I can get. Thanks!

Amanda said...

I, too, have read the experts' opinions on lying. The first time Kallie told a lie, Ryan and I high-fived because her little brain was working like it should! :) I have to say, age 4 is really a time of imagination and creativity. It can be hard to reconcile the truth and imagination sometimes. But, there are those times when you know your child knows what is right and just isn't doing it. With Kallie, we have talked a lot about what is real and what is make-believe. (In cartoons, movies, etc., we often ask her if it's real or make-believe.) This concept can also be applied to lying. For example, if a lie is told, you can say, "Is what you're telling me real or make-believe?" For me, it helps me gauge what Kallie's understanding of the situation is. Another option is to say, "What you're telling me is not true. In our family, we tell the truth. Will you please tell me the truth?"

I guess my overall perspective is that a child has a hard time telling right and wrong when they're still so young. Yes--they do know in most instances, but they are still learning and won't be held accountable until they're 8. With that perspective, you've got at least another 4 years of teaching the difference between truth and lies. :)

harmony001 said...

A book I've used to teach the honesty lesson in Sunbeams is "I'm Telling the Truth: A first look at Honesty." This gives lots of "reasons" people lie. It also talks about the consequences: people lose friends when they lie because friends have to trust one another. This is a great book for preschool aged kids. The words don't describe the pictures; they just talk about the principle. So there is a lot of room for parent/child discussion. During the "I can be honest" sunbeam lesson I also give personal examples of times I have lied and also when I have told the truth. I think it helps the children to understand that their teacher/parent isn't perfect, but they have learned from bad choices. I completely agree with your point about teaching the gospel in FHE. The Spirit and the good word of God is what will change hearts.

Another approach to take when you know your child is lying, is to say, "That doesn't sound quite right. Would you like to try again? It will make me happiest if you are honest."

Whatever you do, just be consistent. All kids lie, but they should certainly know that what they are doing is wrong. You are doing right in teaching him so.

Diane said...

I obviously am not to this point yet, but I know my SIL has been here. Her son was lying all the time and finally they told him if he lies he is in big trouble!!! I don't know what they would do - time out, grounded, whatever. But if he told them the truth about a bad choice he made, he wasn't in trouble. I'm sure they still had some consequences for the bad behavior, but I'm thinking that they may have even held off on that until he learned to tell the truth. I know they did a really good job at not getting mad at him when he was being honest, and I think their actions/reactions really helped him see the difference of lying vs. honesty. It's definitely a tough situation. Good luck!!