Nip That Lying in the Bud


What are some practical ways you can make your child stop lying?

Q. My 6-year-old has recently started lying. His favorite sentence is "I didn't do anything." Even when I catch him in a lie he denies being at fault. I calmly and consistently punish him for it by depriving him of toys or fun, but that's not working. He is neither an only child nor is he deprived of attention. What now?

Once the "lying machine" is up and running, punishment rarely works to shut it down. The fuel for lying is questions parents ask like "Did you break the window?" when they already know full well that, yes, the child did it.

Questions of this sort set up a cat-and-mouse game that puts the child squarely in control. Even though the cat usually catches the mouse, the thrill of the chase keeps the game going on and on.

The old adage "Ask them no questions, and they will tell you no lies" means that when parents know or are reasonably certain they know what has happened, they should make statements, as in, "You broke the window." Period. If the child still denies, pay no attention. Simply say, "Because you broke the window, you will stay indoors for a week." Then, ignore protests. Refuse to discuss it. Simply enforce, and repeat as often as necessary.

Will that stop the lying? I can't guarantee anything. I do know that it takes very little time for a child to become hooked on lying and that the demon of this particular addiction has to be starved for a long, long time before it decides to leave its host and move on. In short, you have your work cut out for you.

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