How to Stop your Child from Lying – Part 2

Teen lieingIn part 1 of this post we took a look at some ideas to implement when a child lies regularly (not normal developmentally appropriate lies). Part two of this post takes a look at some creative ways that parents can try to change the behavior.

If you try to implement these interventions, do so with love and compassion, not sarcasm. The purpose is to remove the reason that these children may lie, not shame them or degrade them for their behavior. These interventions may or may not shape their behavior, so if one doesn’t work, try another.

Option 1: The Boy that Cried Wolf

If your child lies regularly, assume that if his/her lips are moving that they are lying. Help them to learn that the natural consequence of lying is that they lose credibility and trust. Don’t enable their misbehavior by trying to figure out when they are telling the truth, just assume they are not.

To drive the point home with your child ask them if they would like a bowl of ice cream (or some other treat that they like) or a bowl of vegetables (or something they don’t like). If they say, “ice cream,” then give them the vegetables. Explain that  you wanted to make sure they got what they wanted so you just assumed they were lying and gave them the opposite. Don’t lecture, just let the object lesson speak for itself.

Option 2: The Scorecard

A fun way to deal with it is to have two people with 3 x5 cards and pencils. When the child lies, the adult smiles, says nothing and puts a mark on the card. Sometime during the day one adult says to the other, in another room from the child, “He can’t hear us can he?” This will insure that the child is listening. Then the adult asks, “How many marks do you have?” “You have more than I do. I’m going to go get another one.” The parent then promptly asks the child something they usually lie about, smiles with no comment, puts a mark on the card and then returns to the other adult. Pretty quickly many of the children will stop lying because they don’t want their parents getting points in some strange game for their lies.

Option 3: Save the Whoppers

One of the positive things about lies is that is shows that the child is creative. Praise the creativity. I once parented a liar that made up stories about working at Sea World and dating Brittany Spears (he was 9). With these types of lies, praise the child for their creativity, “Wow you can come up with some good whoppers, you could write a book someday.” Have the child write down the story and put it in a box, review them at bedtime. In all of this the child should be aware that you know the story is not true.

Option 4: Pay per lie

Have the child do an extra chore to earn money. For a younger child a couple of dollars will do. For an older child make it $10 or $20 depending on the severity of the problem. Get the money in coins. Younger children use nickels and older children use quarters. Get two piggy banks or jars. Clear ones are nice. When the child lies they pay the Mom for the hassle with one coin for each whopper. At the end of the week the remains in the child’s jar are spent on something fun, like ice cream. If the child is in the hole at the end of the week, they owe Mom another chore.

Use the comments section below to report your own ideas or to report how these worked in your family.

Lynn Owens

Mental Health Counselor at Canyon Lakes Family Counseling Center
Lynn Owens is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor Associate at Canyon Lakes Family Counseling Center. He specializes in treating children and teens who have experienced significant trauma. He and his wife Jennie have parented over 100 children in group care, residential care and foster care. They are the proud parents of three amazing children who were adopted from foster care.

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