Even though George Washington apparently could not tell as lie as a little boy, most youngsters will say something to their parents, teachers, or friends that is just not true. Children can sometimes get confused between what is real and what is make believe, but usually by the time a child is six years old they know the difference between telling a lie and speaking the truth. Little ones lie to test boundaries, to copy the behavior of others or because they are just plain scared of getting caught. Whatever the reason, parents and caregivers should be prepared with a plan of action to nip this behavior in the bud as quickly as possible.
Lying is NOT an Option
Children need to know that lying is just not acceptable and will not be tolerated. When a child has been caught lying, they need to be firmly told that this is not good behavior and reminded how important it is to always tell the truth. There should be consequences for a lie, based on what a parent or caregiver thinks is appropriate. If there are no consequences, chances are the child will lie again and see this behavior as acceptable and something they can get away with.
If a child has lied, rather than asking them if they lied, think about reframing the question to them. It can be more impactful to focus on the word “truth,” rather than the word “lie.” For example, a parent could ask the child, “Are you telling me the truth?” or “Did you tell me the truth when you said you did not eat crackers in the living room?” This can also provide parents with the chance to again remind their children how important it is to be honest and tell the truth, by using positive messaging and wordings instead negative ones.
Also, it can be very helpful to ask a child why they did not tell the truth. It is amazing what type of information one can find out by asking the simple question, “why?” It opens another door to talk about the importance of telling the truth and to remind children that they are loved unconditionally and, therefore, there is never a need to lie.
Place the TRUTH above EVERYTHING
Even if a child admits to telling a lie, they should be praised when they come forward with the truth. Sure, there needs to be some sort of consequence for the lying, but parents should acknowledge and even potentially reward the child for being honest in the end. It is important children know that even if they make a mistake, they are supported when they do the right thing.
Check the Facts
It is very important to give a child the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are telling the truth until it is proven otherwise. Trust plays a huge role in all relationships, especially those between parents and children. Little ones need to know that they can trust their parents to believe and support them at all times. They will remember this trust and, hopefully, not want to do anything to hurt it as they grow older and develop.
Silence can be Golden
Children need to be taught (and then constantly reminded) that they should not say anything to someone if it might hurt their feelings. Sometimes the truth can be painful to hear and during these times, it is better to remain silent. Almost every parent has experienced an embarrassing instance when their child said something to someone that may have been honest, but did not come across as very nice. These moments are bound to happen and parents can only embrace them as good teaching opportunities and move on.
When teaching children about honesty or anything else for that matter, parents and caregivers really need to practice what they preach. In all my years of working with young children, I truly believe that they are like little sponges. They soak up words and actions starting at a very early age. Therefore, if they see their parent telling a lie to another person, even if it may be just a little, white lie, or not following the rules and being honest, they are bound to think this sort of behavior is acceptable. Parents should be honest role models for their children and also remember to be honest with them, even if it may be difficult. For in the end, honesty truly is the best option.
About the Author:
Gladys Ruiz is the Director of Little Children Schoolhouse in Brookline, MA. After more than 10 years working in Early Childhood Education, Gladys opened the Little Children Schoolhouse to provide a nurturing, loving environment—an extension of her student’s home and family life—in Brookline. Pre-K, Preschool and Daycare programs for toddlers and infants include extra activities, such as weekly music, yoga, cooking, science activities, and field trips. Both full day and part-time enrollment are available.