Knowingly making an untrue statement, either by reversing the truth, blaming someone else for something you did, exaggerating, making up a story, or telling a story which is partly true and partly false is lying. Preschool children often confuse reality with fantasy, and tell innocent lies. School-age children, however, usually tell deliberate lies to avoid punishment or embarrassment, demean others, feel better about themselves, or gain peer approval.
o Avoid negative consequences which are unduly harsh. Children often lie just because they don’t want to get into trouble.
o Be prepared to listen to the bitter truths. Stop yourself from hitting the roof over what children tell you. Remember your reactions determine whether children believe honesty is the best policy.
o Help children build up their self-images by making a habit of praising their accomplishments. This makes it easier for them to face up to their mistakes.
o Discuss with children the significance of giving their “word.” Explain how lying makes people think their word isn’t worth much, and gradually people will stop listening to them. “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” is a good allegory.
o With younger children talk about the differences between a true and a made-up story, using examples from real-life and stories they have read.
For cover-up lies, children must be held responsible for both their lie and the misdeed they lied about. You can reward children for telling the truth by being more lenient with them if they admit to their misdeeds.
o If a child continually lies, but you never accumulate enough evidence to say, “I know you’re lying,” point out to him the widening credibility gap and explain how this is making it harder for you to trust him.
o For children who like to tell TALL tales, ask them to write out the most fantastic story they can think of. When they’re finished ask them if they would believe anyone telling them that story. Let them know you and other people feel the same way about their TALL tales.
o Turn the tables by doing something the child knows is wrong, like taking a pen out of her desk. When she confronts you, pretend you don’t know what she’s talking about. After she goes through a moderate degree of frustration, ask her how she felt when you out-and-out lied to her. Ask her if other people might feel the same way towards her when she lies to them.
o Refrain from interrogating your children to get at the truth. THey don’t like being worked over, especially when children suspect you already know the answers. They hate questions which are traps, or being forced to choose between an awkward lie or an embarrassing confession.