Are Your Children Lying? 5 Tips to Raise a Truthful Child
Have you ever told a lie? Most of us have practiced the art of lying, and we do it for many different reasons: to protect another’s feelings, for protection against monetary consequences (such as your taxes) or to avoid unwanted discussions or social interactions.
Since we all sometimes lie, how are we to teach our children to tell the truth? Children, like adults, lie to get what they want without repercussions. These lies can lead to activities such as going to a friend’s house with no supervision, sneaking into a movie they are not allowed to see or riding their bike in places that are unsafe.
As a parent or guardian, you can’t make your children tell you the truth. You have to show them how to be truthful. Punishment for lying is often not a deterrent. In fact, punishment may make children better at lying, because it teaches them what they are able to get away with.
Here are five things you can do to influence children to become people who tell the truth.
- Help your child become a person of integrity. Teach them that they are only as good as their word. Because children seek a parent’s love and approval, there is a great sphere of influence and opportunity to teach and talk to children about the importance of being truthful.
- Teach children the difference between telling the truth and telling a lie. Talk to them about the truth when they are not in trouble. Ask them about how they feel when telling a lie. Explain trust to them and how trust will provide them more freedom.
- Ask your children to tell the truth when they appear to be in a situation that lying is an option for them. Let them know that this might be a good time to be truthful and that you can work together to figure out what the next steps will be.
- Avoid lying yourself. Your children are listening, even when they don’t appear to be. Admitting to lying at work or to a friend while having a conversation with your spouse or partner in front of your children reinforces to them that lying is an acceptable behavior and a way to avoid consequences. Practice what you are trying to teach your children.
- Use your own experiences to teach your children that telling the truth is important because it builds trust and strengthens relationships. Cite examples from the meaningful relationships in your life.
As parents, we have many opportunities to teach children how to become better people. Sometimes the lessons are simple and require little effort. Other lessons, such as honesty and the truth, may take a lifetime of reinforcement. Remaining diligent, practicing honesty and being a good listener are the best ways we can teach our children how to tell the truth.
About the Author
Thomas Howard Kuhn, MD, is a Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Specialist at the Cone Health Developmental and Psychological Center