Although lying is often a normal party of development (preschoolers, for instance, are prone to tell a variety of "tall tales"), it is very distressing to parents and some children may become more "compulsive" in their lying. Generally, I think of lying a really bad self-preservation technique. The child is lying in hopes of avoiding a consequence that they don't believe they can tolerate or they worry that they will lose the love and approval of their parents with their misstep. Overall, compulsive lying is coming from a place of vulnerability. Thus, I believe that compulsive lying should be handled sensitively. Below are some concrete suggestions for managing this type of behavior:
1. In a quiet moment that doesn't have anything to do with previous truth-telling situations, talk with your child about the value of honesty and why telling the truth is important. Explain to them that people who tell the truth are viewed as someone who can be trusted in friendship and all domains of life. People like others who are honest, and they want to be close to them.
2. Praise and reinforce truthfulness. When your child tells the truth, praise them for their honesty and let them know how much you appreciate them being straight forward with you.
3. Model honesty for your child. If you have a situation in the day when you were presented with a difficult decision involving honesty, share this story with your child at dinner or before bedtime. Let your child know about your internal experience and how hard it was to tell the truth, but how glad you are that you told the truth and why.
Over time, your child will see the value of telling the truth and gain the courage to be honest and a person of integrity.
Laura Kauffman, Ph.D.
Education.com JustAsk Expert