Greetings Marvista Families!
This is Andrew Ritsema, your school counselor, and this week I would like to share some ideas on how to respond to your child if he/she lies to you. Our responses in situations like these have a powerful influence on their self-perception and so we need to be mindful of the things we say as well as our tone and emotional state.
First of all, many parents unintentionally make lying an issue by asking, “is that the truth?” when there is really no solid reason to doubt the child. If we are constantly doubting them, they will not think we trust them and over time they will start internalizing that they are not trustworthy. Of course we don’t want this to happen! I’ve found it’s best when I ask kids “what’s wrong?” when they look discontent, and I get the response “oh, nothing”, to follow up with “well, I’m here for you if you do want to talk. Just let me know.” This honors them, and shortly afterwards they will often come to me to share more.
Another common mistake parents make is to force their child to tell the truth when the parents already know the truth. This usually ends in a control battle where both sides end up not feeling good. The child will often continue to lie, getting more and more frustrated. It is better to assume your child knows that you know the truth, and not argue what the truth is. If your child continues to press the point, it is better to say “I don’t believe you” than “you are lying”, because the former cannot be argued with while the latter can be. This saves you and your child another battle.
A final tip, make sure to give your child more positive emotion for being honest than negative emotion for lying. Some children lie in order to get their parents’ attention because it gets their parents fired up. Don’t give consequences to lying with anger, because they will be more focused on your anger than on the lesson you are trying to teach. Try to be calm and cool (take a Meta-moment!) so that when they do tell the truth about a difficult issue we can say with enthusiasm, “Wow, I bet that was hard to say! Thanks for the truth!”
I hope this helps spark your thought process on this very common parenting challenge!