Have you ever fibbed about how much you like Aunt Betty’s gift? Or how you like your mother’s new hair cut? It’s harmless right? After all you’re only trying to protect their feelings… this isn’t really lying is it? And how does a child interpret this?
This very funny clip with Jim Carrey in the movie “Liar Liar” demonstrates, in a light hearted way, the exact struggles we have with “white lies”.
Lies are not simple, so let’s break this down a little bit.
Lying is defined as the telling of lies, or false statements; untruthfulness(Dictionary.com). It’s not defined as black or white, and the dictionary also forgets to mention the nuances of lying. All lies are not the same, and understanding lying is in fact confusing and complicated.
So how do parents start to address lying with their kids? I’m going to share with you one of the most useful parenting tips I received about truths and lies.
“Don’t ask a question you know the answer to.”
Me: “Did you break the lamp?” Why was I asking? I saw it happen. I already knew the answer.
My son: “No” looking very sheepish...
When kids lie it comes down to fears and wishes…
- They are afraid they will get into trouble;
- They wish it hadn’t happened; OR
- They want to do something they are not allowed to do.
I thought to myself. I’m not setting out to trap my child in a lie; I’m looking to resolve the issue, whatever that may be.
So instead of asking “Did you break the lamp?” I now say something like “I see that you were playing with your ball in the living room and that you broke the lamp.” This way my son no longer has to deal with the thought of lying.
Now kids may still be tempted to deflect blame and answer “No, it just fell.” But simply say “I saw you playing with the ball and it hit the lamp. Let’s clean this up.” Then you can also calmly talk about consequences. The great thing about this approach is that you don’t need to also deal with lying behaviour.
So what happens if you didn’t witness anything or have clear, undeniable evidence? It is still okay to ask. Remember to:
- Be factual.
- Teach them right from wrong.
- Discuss consequences of lying, including the fact that people won’t believe you when you do tell the truth.
By not labelling your child as a liar it helps teach them to take responsibility. It creates an environment where he will feel safe telling the truth. No shame or blame for mistakes.
As children grow they will learn the subtleties between an “acceptable” white lie versus when to say and do the right thing.
Do you think this will work for your family?
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For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.