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How To Get Your Kid To Stop Lying

Do your kids ever lie to you? well, I'm Nicholeen and I have 4 children of my own and I have fostered 12 youth ages 12 to 18. And the majority of them had problems with (guess what?) lying. And here's news for you: I was a liar myself in my childhood. And I remember vividly how I conquered it. 

In this article, we're going to talk about the skill set, how to control the impulse to lie. I'm going to tell you a story from my life that hopefully will give you some ideas and it will gain gained greater insight into why they lie so that hopefully we can stop it for good. 

So, I was a liar. Yeah. In fact, I started lying probably when I was age 6. And I didn't stop until probably around age 14. Now, there are certain reasons why I didn't stop. One of those big reasons was no one hardly ever confronted me about it. People did not say, "Well, Nicholeen, you're lying to me. It just didn't happen very often." And it didn't happen occasionally but I didn't feel like it was enough to stop using my skill, right? I knew lying was wrong. My parents did their job. 

They taught me that lying was not a good thing, that people wouldn't trust you, that it was bad for relationships. They even told me a little story about Danny in the lying monster. And that if you keep lying then you have to make other lies to cover up those lies. And then soon you turn into a lying monster. And I was convinced it was true. Yet, I still lied. I didn't want to lie. There were years where I tried to reform myself yet it was a habit. 

I would lie before I even knew I was going to talk. It was like the lie that happened in my head and came out and I thought that it was the truth. Was a terrible habit. And try as I might I wasn't able to break the habit. I think it's because it served me so well. I was able to cover for myself when I make mistakes. I was able to get out of chores that I didn't want to do. I was able to impress my friends with cool stories. All of this lying seemed to have a purpose and it fits really nicely in the comfort zone of my life not having to take full responsibility for my mistakes or who I really was. 

Then one day, it all changed. I was playing ball with some of my friends. And I'm not going to just say ball randomly. We were playing basketball. I was a sporty kind of a girl. And after our game of basketball was really going, we started laughing and talking while we were shooting hoops. And I remember I said something. I don't know exactly what the lie was but I know it was a lie. It was one I had recognized. 

It was some sort of grandiose type of lie that would make me look cool to my friends. I don't remember the lie but I remember the words and the actions that happened immediately after the lie. So, what happened was I said the lie, and then it went quiet. All the girls looked at each other and I knew they knew. And that's awkward. But I just tried to keep going and pretending I didn't know. And maybe pretending they didn't know. 

So, I started lying to myself. It was that bad. So, then the girls started talking to each other and saying, "Hey, how about you come to my house?" "Oh, yeah I'll go ask my mom." "Yeah. Oh, you come to my house too." "Okay." So, they all started talking to each other and they ran away. And there was one girl who was there. 

It was her house. It was her ball. She had to put it away. And I remember she had the ball on her hip and she was turning to put the ball away and then she turned forward and she said, "You know Nicholeen, we all know you're a liar. And we don't believe a thing you say. You should choose to tell the truth." She walked away from me. Just like that. That hit my heart so deep. I was cut to the quick. I thought I had friends and that moment proved to me at age 14 that I didn't. 

That they were just putting up with me. That I was just some neighborhood kid that their parents that I had to be they had to be nice too. They didn't like my company. At least whenever I lied, I walked home worried. "What was I going to do? How was I gonna solve the problem?" I went into my room and I sat there thinking deep, deep kind of reminds me of the Pooh Bear. If you've seen the Winnie the Pooh movie, he's sitting there going "Think, think, think." 

That's what I was doing. Think. How do you fix this? I was too proud and still, my lies were too hidden for me to approach my parents. Tell them what I'd done, tell him my problem asked for help. And so, I tried to solve it myself. And as I sat there and thought about the problem, I realized that I had to stop myself from lying. I said I will not lie ever again. And then I went "How am I going to do that? Every time I open my mouth, I tell a lie." And that I thought, "That's it. I just won't talk. I will not talk and then I will not lie." And then I went, "How am I going to not talk? That's impossible." I mean I am kind of extroverted after all. And that was going to be very difficult. 

But then it came to me, "Wait, what if I could recognize that craving to talk and I could stop myself before I say anything and make sure for sure that it's going to be true before I even speak. What if? Then maybe I could stop myself from lying." So, that's what I resolved to do. That any time I felt this craving within me to say something to be part of a conversation, to get out of a problem, any craving to open my mouth that I would tell myself, "Stop." I would take a small step back and then I would ask myself a question.

 So, disengage. Ask a self-question. "Is this the truth?" And if the answer was yes, then I would step forward just slightly and I would tell exactly what the truth was. Being very careful to say the truth exactly. But if after I had taken the step back, I said to myself, "No, this isn't the truth. This thing I'm craving to say is not true." Then I would turn and I would walk away. Not allowing myself to say anything at all because I knew myself well enough that if I stayed there, I'd say it anyway. And I didn't want to do it. 

Essentially, what I did was I developed a skill for myself. A skill that involved stopping and evaluating the words that I was going to say before they came out of my mouth. It seems like that should be easy to do. But for me, it was hard. I made a skill set. What was the skill set? It contains certain steps. Step number 1: Recognize the craving that I want to say something. Step number 2: Stop yourself. Step number 3: Analyze. The question "Is this the truth?" Step number 4: Say only the truth. So, it's taking action. Or turn and walk away. 

Then step number 5 was reported. I chose to report in my journal how I did with this lying problem. I chose to give myself praise for when things did good and to make new plans and resolve to do better when things were bad. I also am a praying person. So, I reported to God each day how I did with my desire, to be honest. 

I hope my story about the skill set I taught myself at age 14 it's helpful for you while you're trying to teach your children how to overcome their lying behaviors too. What I'd like to share with you right now are 2 reasons why children get in the habit of lying that we might not have considered and then also help you know how to have a good meaningful conversation with them to conquer the lying problem. 

So, first, why do children lie? About age 6, 7 up until about age 9 children experiment with lying. So, if you have a seven-year-old or an 8-year-old who has just started lying that doesn't surprise me at all. Because this is a normal time to experiment with lying. To see if anybody catches it, to see if it does good, to see what kind of stories they can tell. We should not call them stories just so you know. There are a lot of parents who say, "Oh, so-and-so is just telling stories." It's not really stories. 

If they're trying to manipulate the situation with it, it is a lie and it actually is bad behavior that needs to be addressed. So, that's one reason that children start to lie. But some of the other reasons might surprise you. The other reasons have to do with the parents. Many children start lying because it's a defense mechanism. Because their parents teach them to lie. Because their parents are aggressive or scary and the children don't want to deal with it. 

So, they come up with the defense which is to tell a lie. If you have a child that always tells lies when they're getting into trouble, that's a good thing for you to recognize because maybe your tone as you're doing your teaching is not calm. 

Maybe you are reacting emotionally instead of talking to them logically. Which can help change their hearts. Especially if you're looking in their eyes and talking to their hearts at the same time. Another way that parents teach their children to lie is by setting a bad example of lying themselves. I had a child tell me one time, "My mom always tells me to tell people she's not home when they call." And I was like, "Oh." That's good to know. Because you know I've been told that before, right? Like I didn't tell her that. I was like, "Oh, interesting." 

So, the mother doesn't want to talk on the phone for whatever reason. So, she tells the daughter to tell a lie to somebody else. I've seen parents tell their children to pretend they're not with us and you go and get a different discount and we'll get this discount. You know, just to try to save some money, they teach their children to lie. Ah, it makes me so sad that people would put money above character development, above a person's future integrity. 

That's amazing to me. So, those are some reasons people might not factor in why children lie. So, let's talk about what to do if your child has chosen to adopt the practice of lying and you need to put a stop to that right now. Years ago, my oldest son when he was about 8 years old adopted the habit of lying. He started doing it. 

I told him that's not a good idea. Don't do it. And we corrected it. But he did it again. We corrected it. He did it again. I knew this is a problem. He's starting to do this regularly. And I also noticed that he wasn't doing his chores well. That's another sign of lying. If you say, ""I need you to clean your room" and they stuff it all under the bed. 

Especially if they've been taught how to clean a room before, that's not an honest chore. So, we call that a dishonest chore in our family. So, he was doing dishonest chores and also telling lies to different people. At that point, I knew we needed to analyze the situation and have a planning meeting. So, there are types of meetings that I have with my children called parent counseling sessions. We had a parent counseling session. 

I pulled him aside, it was just me at him and we had a discussion about what I had noticed was happening with his behavior. And the effects of it. I talked to him about trust. I talked to him about how people won't take him as seriously if he's not saying honest statements. And I told him how I used to be a liar. And what happened to my life and how hard it was to overcome that problem. Then I said, "We need to make a plan." 

Well, actually before we made the plan, I said, "Do you recognize that feeling that happens before you choose to lie?" And he said, "Yeah." And I said, "What we need to do is we need to recognize that feeling and then tell ourselves to stop." I taught him the same skill set that I already taught you. Then I asked him, "What can we do, what type of positive consequence or negative consequence could we put in place for you, son so that you would be motivated not to lie anymore." And he thought for a minute. And then he said, "Well if I had to do 30 minutes of work every time I told a lie, I would choose not to lie." I said, "Okay. I can do that for you." 

We will have it be 30 minutes of work every time. Because he helped me make that decision, he was personally invested. In fact, he was so invested, he thought he had made a decision for the entire family. He went to all of his siblings and said, "Just so you know, we have a rule in our family. If you tell a lie or do anything dishonest, it's automatically 30 minutes of work." Well, it wasn't a rule for the whole family. 

It was just for him. In the end, our family adopted it though because all of the other children believed it. And said, "Well, I'm not lying." And so, that's been our rule ever since. If a person doesn't dishonestly chore or tells a lie or steals something, it's automatically a correction with mom or dad and 30 minutes of work that they have to accept. 

He only did 30 minutes of work twice. Before he decided to lie just wasn't worth it. So, then we had some checkup meetings with him regularly for a little while. And we were able to praise him for how well he was doing in correcting the problem. He did correct the problem. That doesn't mean it didn't surface again at about age 15 because that can happen. But he did correct the problem then. And he ended up learning a lesson for life. 

Honesty, integrity, a vital lesson of character that we need to teach our children. Parents are the best educators for their children. In fact, they're the most natural educators for their children. The relationship between education and family is a vital one to understand.

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