Kids can start lying as young as 3, and it can make parents wonder where they have gone wrong in raising them. The truth is that all kids lie at one time or another, just as adults do. Kids may lie to protect someone's feelings, or to get out of trouble. Discipline should focus not just on punishment for lying but also on getting to the root of the lying to prevent it from happening again.
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Understand the reasons your child is lying. Dr. William Sears says there are several common reasons that your children could lie, including a fear of getting in trouble, a fear of rejection, low self-esteem, the need for attention, or to indulge in fantasy and pretend play. Once you understand why your child is lying, you can address that need and reduce the lying. For example, if your child is lying to get attention, focus on giving more praise for good behavior and spend more one-on-one time together.
Write a contract together with your children. Focus on the Family suggests writing a contract in which your child pledges to be honest that includes predetermined consequences for lying. Discuss your expectations for honesty, and have your children sign the contract. If they are in a situation in which you suspect they may be lying, or in which they may be tempted to lie -- such as coming home late or trying to get out of chores -- remind them of the contract to encourage the truth.
Create consequences and be consistent in enforcing them. Dr. Phil McGraw says that when children know what consequences they will face as a result of lying, they make the choice each time to either lie or to accept the punishment. Consequences should be age-appropriate and specific, such as loss of phone privileges, limited social time or removal of the TV from the bedroom.
Set your child up for success. Don't ask your child questions to which you know the answer and to which he might be tempted to lie, such as "Did you spill the milk?" when you see that he has or "Did you clean your room?" when you know that he hasn't. PositiveDiscipline.com recommends instead saying things like "I notice you didn't clean your room. Let's work on a solution together."
Focus on building closeness and trust. When you have a strong relationship with your children in which they feel loved unconditionally and know that you are there to help them work through solutions together, they will be less likely to lie to you.