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November 10, 2016

Help! My kid keeps lying!

For today’s Pause, I’ve chosen to address a very common parenting question, one many of you have sent in over the years. This one came in earlier this week:

“Hal, we have recently had a problem with our 8yo daughter lying to us, and to her teacher at school, about things…anything really—topics both inconsequential and troubling. I am finding myself afraid. We’ve given her consequences, and made our expectations well known, but it’s not working. Any suggestions?”

I love this question, because lying is a very difficult issue, perhaps the most difficult for us parents. It’s also almost universal. Almost every kid experiments with the truth at some point.

While this is nowhere near the full word on the subject, here are two principles to consider, one specific and one general:

1st principle: Don’t take your kid’s lying personally, especially from an 8-year-old. Her lying is not a targeted affront to your leadership, nor a specific slight at you. Eight years old is an interesting cognitive time, transitioning from a world of wonder and fantasy to a reality that’s a little more concrete. As this transition happens, kids often test the leaders in their lives to see what’s real, what’s not, and whether their leaders know the difference.

2nd principle: Go out of your way to believe whatever your kid says, regardless. I know this sounds really counterintuitive, or maybe even nuts: “Why would I believe a kid who keeps lying to me? What am I? Stupid?” Here’s why: The truth, almost always, comes out eventually. When that happens, where do you wanna be? It may feel good to trap them, expose their deceit, and stand over them claiming “I knew you were lying!” But does this inspire your kid to tell you the truth in the future? No, it does just the opposite; it leaves him feeling shamed, so he simply gets better at hiding the truth–especially if she thinks you’re not gonna believe her regardless. When you overtly believe them, even praising them for their honesty upfront, then it gives their conscience the chance to guide their behavior, and rise up to the level of person you clearly believe them to be.

Peace begins with pause,

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