A few weeks ago, Michael James went with me to buy a few groceries at our neighborhood Albertson’s, and he spotted a large candy display right next to the produce! (Are you kidding me?? I’m trying to teach my kids how to eat right by staying on the periphery of the store, but the power-that-be know how to sell junk anywhere and everywhere! I remember seeing Peeps by the cash register last February – 2 months before Easter!) He had brought some of his own money, so I let him pick out a few treats to put in a little paper Brach’s sack. Having finished our shopping, we proceeded past one more last-ditch effort to make us obese (the Krispy Kreme display) on to the register, and MJ gave his coins to sweet Dee behind the counter, who contributed her own quarter towards his candy stash. (I don’t care what the 10:00 news says, people are kind and good!) When we got in the car, I helped him open some Smartees and an “A &W” root beer candy. I told him that was all he got for today. Yes, he could keep the candy in the “treasure box” in his room, but it was to last the whole week. It was nap time, and I went to rest, very pleased that he was staying in his room so quietly – duuuh, Mommy! You know what happens next because you’re a smarter Mommy than me! 30 minutes later, feeling refreshed, I peek in to check on him, and notice him sitting on the floor surrounded by candy wrappers, brown sticky all over his face. I asked him if he had been eating the candy, and while sucking and drooling, he shook his head “no”. According to NurtureShock, I should not have even asked the question, but stated the obvious myself, so as not to encourage the lie: “Oops! I see you’ve been eating the candy.” (Then proceed to deal with it.) However, I did remember another tip from the book: your kids don’t want to disappoint you by doing something you don’t want them to – they don’t want to get in trouble, but more so, they want to make you happy. So I said, as the book suggests, “You’re not going to get in trouble if you did eat all the candy. What makes me happiest is when you tell me the truth. You ate all the candy, didn’t you?” He mumbled “yes”, and I thanked him for being honest, saying, “In our family, we tell the truth.” He then helped clean up the wrappers, and I took the remaining three pieces to the pantry to place on a high shelf, acknowledging to him that it just didn’t work to keep the candy in his room, and Mommy will keep track of it now. (Who can blame the guy for failing that little test of will-power? Kinda like when I take the whole carton of butter pecan ice cream to the couch intending on eating just a few bites…Hey, it was only half-full!) I also acknowledged that he might have an upset tummy now from eating too many treats all at once.
Chap 4: Why Kids Lie: We may treasure honesty, but the research is clear. Most classic strategies to promote truthfulness just encourage kids to be better liars.
- Children learn to lie from us! Children start out thinking that all deception is bad, and slowly realize that some types are okay. To a child any false statement is a lie, and the child gets the message that the adult condones lying. We all tell little white lies in social situations, and children observe this and can detect our insincerities, as well. But other “lies” (to kids) include those times when you said you would do something, and then you don’t – circumstances changed or Daddy didn’t know what Mommy had promised, etc. No wonder they freak out!
- Smart kids lie. Lying is a developmental milestone, and takes intelligence, but parents still have to deal with it. It is normal behavior and to be expected, but should not be disregarded.
- Young children lie to cover up transgressions. By school-age, kids lie for more complex reasons: social situations, increase power and sense of control over parents or friends, coping mechanism if they are feeling inadequate. Any sudden increase in lying is a sign that something is troubling the child.
- If kids are still lying at age 7, they will likely continue to. It is a strategy that works for them.
- Explain the natural consequences of lying, don’t just punish. Increasing the threat of punishment for lying doesn’t decrease lying, but makes kids better liars at a younger age. The focus is on the potential personal cost (punishment) of a lie, not learning how a lie impacts others (hurt feelings, etc.)
- Parents should focus on the value of honesty, not just that lying is wrong. A 6-year-old wants to make the parent happy. So, it really works to say, “I will not be upset with you if you________, and if you tell the truth, I will be really happy.” Today when I asked MJ if he’d washed his hands with soap, he kinda hesitated and then headed back to the bathroom. I followed him saying, “It makes me so happy that you told the truth. Honesty is so important!” instead of scolding him for not doing it the first time.
- Parents are 10 times more likely to scold a child for tattling than lying, and while tattling might seem annoying to a parent, it represents honesty, and children coming to us with their problems: things that we should encourage. (And think on this: for every one time a child tattles there were 14 other instances where he was wronged and did not go to the parent. When the child tattles, he has finally had enough!) Becky Bailey teaches a great response for tattling that I use with my children and students. Respond to the complaint by asking, “And how did that make you feel?” Then, help them find and use the words, then say them in their “BIG voice” to the other child. (“When you hit me, it hurt. You may not hit me.“) If there’s another side of the story, let it be told, as well. Offer suggestions as to how the children could have handled the initial problem (taking turns with a toy, using words, etc…)
- Most of us think when children are young and do not yet understand what lying is, parents should let it go, realizing that they will grow out of it when they learn these distinctions. The truth is that most children have learned to lie by age 4. They can distinguish a lie from the truth, and the better they can, the more likely they are to lie, given the chance. And it is a habit they grow into.
- People (teachers and parents) simply cannot tell when kids are lying. Boys do not lie more, and extroverts have the social skills to lie more than introverts.
- NurtureShock does not mention this, but here’s another important point on lying…Sometimes children tell lies about what they “wish” were true, and you should empathize with them, while still drawing the distinction between fantasy and reality. “So, Daddy said you could eat cookies for dinner? That sounds like something you wish were true, but I know Daddy wouldn’t really say that. We’ve agreed to feed you healthy food because we love you so much! But while we’re eating dinner, let’s make up a story together about a land where people only eat dessert!” Keep encouraging story-telling and vivid imaginations!