Q&A: Taking control of dishonesty


Our daughter is out of control with her lying. It isn’t just big things; she lies about everything. We have taken privileges away and disciplined her, and nothing seems to help. Why does she do this? And is there something we can do to help her understand the deceit behind the lying?

Answer: Virtually every child lies at some point, but some seem to make an art out of it. We’re sorry for the stress this has placed on your family.

First, it’s important to note that preschool-age children do not fully comprehend the difference between lies and the truth. Parents with young children need to be sure they understand this difference before lowering the boom.

It sounds like your daughter is old enough to know what she’s doing, however. The question you need to ask is “Why?” Is she lying to avoid unpleasant consequences or to gain an advantage of some sort? Or is she using lying as a means of getting your attention? Dishonesty is never justified, but sit down with her and see if you can ascertain what might be at the root of her behaviour. Make sure she understands that it’s important for her to always tell you the truth, even when it hurts her to do so.

You mentioned that taking privileges away hasn’t helped. But maybe you just need to find out what’s important to her. There’s no value in barring her from the TV if she’s not really that invested in watching TV. When determining consequences for misbehaviour, it’s important to identify those things that will truly motivate a child to do better.

Finally, be aware of the example you’re setting in this regard. The best way to teach honesty is to be honest. If you find yourself taking liberties with the truth, you’ll have little authority in preventing your daughter from doing the same.

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