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Why Kids Lie and 9 Ways Parents Can Promote the Truth

By Jean Tracy, MSS

If you're concerned about your child's lies and want to encourage truthfulness, keep reading. First we'll see why young kids and teenagers lie. Then we'll share the 9 solutions you can start using today.

Why Youngsters Lie:

1. To avoid trouble and consequences.

"I did my homework but my baby brother ripped it up before I left for school." Teachers have heard this before. A phone call home can remove all doubt.

2. To win approval.

"I took Sally to the nurse's office and that's why I'm late for class." The teacher will know for sure when he checks out the child's alibi.

3. To tell exciting stories which are much more interesting than the truth.

"I rode my bike 10 miles and won the race but I lost my blue ribbon." This is highly unlikely. Fantastic stories are easy to spot.

4. To cover up the truth.

"I don't know who ate all the chocolate chip cookies." You'll know for sure, when dinner is ready, your child isn't hungry.

Why Adolescents Lie:

1. To get attention.

"My dad let me drive his brand-new Lexus from Seattle to Santa Rosa." It's not likely because the kid is fourteen and his dad is very strict.

2. To avoid hurting feelings.

"I broke up with you because I need to focus on my studies." The real reason is the girlfriend's drug habits.

3. To gain power.

"I'm a black belt so don't mess with me." The teen's clumsiness makes a black belt doubtful.

4. To protect privacy.

"I just went for a long walk last night." The teenager actually teamed up with friends to steal car parts from the local parking lot.

5. To manipulate others.

I'll do your homework if you tell the principal we were just playing around and I didn't really bully you."

9 Ways Parents Encourage Truthfulness with Family Meetings:

Family meetings are great for discussing values like truth, honesty, and caring for others. The family can discuss the problem of lying and come up with answers. Solutions are recorded. As in every family meeting, each member makes a specific commitment to make the family better. Commitments are posted on the refrigerator as reminders.

To discuss the topic of lying, parents must be good models and avoid lying, even white lies.

Here are 9 tips for discussing lying and encouraging the truth ~

1. Avoid holding interrogations. Grilling kids will seal their lips.

2. Ask the family, "What are some positive reasons behind telling lies? What do kids get out of being deceitful?"

3. Focus on the behavior. "How does the act of lying hurt you?"

4. Discuss why truth trumps lies. "Why would you want people to know you are truthful?"

5. Ask about the importance of trust. "Why is being trusted important to your reputation? Why would you want a good reputation?"

6. Probe, "How can you tell by a person's face and body language whether he's honest?"

7. Find out, "Should you reward kids who tell the truth with positive comments? What would you say?"

8. Question kids, "When should parents use consequences? What consequences would you use to help a child become trustworthy?

9. Create and design a family motto for telling the truth. Frame it and hang on the kitchen wall.

Conclusion for Helping Children Be Truthful with Family Meetings:

When you know why kids and teenagers lie, you'll be better able to encourage them to be honest. If you're too lenient or too strict you could discourage truthfulness.

Family meetings help because you can discuss the issue of lying in depth. Your children will think more deeply and give their true opinions because you listen well and respect what they say. Verbalizing their own ideas can move youngsters toward honesty. They'll know your views too, respect your values, and be motivated to walk in your footsteps.

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