Raising children is one of the greatest challenges we face in our world. We want our children to grow up and be contributing members of society, but we also don't want to have to beat it into them.
Sometimes the hardest part of raising children is understanding why they are choosing bad decisions. You know that they are good people and you want them to succeed, which is why you're so concerned when you catch them in a lie.
The main reason children lie is because they want to belong. Children have a deep desire to belong, whether it's to belong in their family or belong in a friend group (most children want both).
According to The Washington Post, "Humans are built to be together. Our primary desire is to belong to one another. This is a primal drive; it is not conscious. For children, the need to belong to their parents or caretakers is critical and drives much of the behavior we see."
You getting angry will not help the situation in the least. And yelling at your child is no incentive for them to tell the truth.
Today's Parent encourages parents to "react in a calm tone and approach the situation as a teaching opportunity." If you are angry, you are focused on punishment and justice instead of helping them learn and teaching them not to repeat the lie again.
Just admit the truth and let them know that you know they were lying. If you call them out on the lie, they'll know the lie didn't help them succeed or get them any relief.
Addressing it teaches them that lies don't last long and are very hard to cover up.
We know why they lied — they didn't want to disappoint you. Dig deeper and find out why they committed the bad, undesirable action in the first place.
Were they trying to fit in with friends? Were they in trouble? Did they think they were taking a shortcut? Did they think they weren't going to get caught?
Understanding why they made the bad decision will not only help you get to the bottom of the lie, but it will also help you to teach them how to better resolve the situation they felt they were stuck in.
If they are lying about buying lunch or which friend they are hanging out with, there are easy plans you can make with your child to remedy the situation. As you work with your child to fix the problem, you will show your child that you love them and value their opinion.
Working through the situation together and making a plan gives them skills to resolve conflicts now and in the future. They will learn confidence and the ease of an honest life. You will also teach them that you are on their side, which will help you when they go through their teenage years.
Teaching your children to be honest often feels like it's going to be easier said than done. With these four steps, you can teach your child the blessings of being honest as well as build a deeper relationship with your child.