A child’s reasons for lying are often dependent on her age. CNN Health quotes Dr. Elizabeth Berger, author of “Raising Kids With Character,” as indicating that a 9-year-old most often fibs to escape negative consequences or an unpleasant situation. A youngster may also lie to protect herself or someone else if the consequences of telling the truth are more than she can face. Stopping the pattern of deceit takes time and consistency, but it is possible.
Set a good example for your child. By the time he is 9 years old, he should be fully aware that lying is wrong. But you might inadvertently teach him that it’s OK under some circumstances if he catches you in your own little white lies too often. Don’t let him hear you tell your best friend you love her haircut, then tell your spouse at dinner that you think it’s hideous.
Make it as easy as possible for your child to tell you the truth. If she lies, remain quiet for a moment to allow her to consider what she just did and to come clean. Remember that she probably lied to avoid consequences, so try to neutralize the truth to a point where she’s no longer frightened or distressed by it. Instead of demanding to know if she did her homework, suggest that if she didn’t, maybe you could help her with it.
Reward your child when he does tell you the truth. Let him know that the result of honesty is more pleasant than escaping a circumstance through a lie. Tell him you appreciate his honesty, and refrain from getting angry or punishing him for the deed or situation that might have led to a lie in the first place. If he broke your neighbor’s window with an errant baseball and he confesses, thank him and tell him you’ll help him deal with the repercussions. Don’t threaten to withhold his allowance for a month until he pays the neighbor for the damage.
Refrain from labeling your child a liar. Calling your child a liar is a putdown and you risk your child beginning to identify with that label.
When dealing with your 9-year-old’s lies, ask yourself if your own behavior plays any role in causing them, and be honest about your answer. If you’re a very strict parent and your child does not feel that he has much “wiggle room” between an infraction and punishment, he may be more likely to cover up deeds that will get him in trouble. If he doesn’t feel that he can talk to you without you flying off the handle, he may be more likely to lie.