My eight-year-old son has gotten into a bad habit of lying. I know all kids go through this. They usually tell lies to get attention or to out of trouble. But my son lies even when the truth would make it easier for him. He’s told some whoppers at school that have the other parents thinking I’m some kind of criminal. How should I address this?
Tired of the Lies
You’re right that for young children, the line between reality and fantasy is very nebulous. What they imagine is very real to them, so when they tell you about it, they aren’t actually lying. As far as they’re concerned, the teddy bear really DOES sing them to sleep at night and there really IS a fairy living in their closet. This is one of the charming qualities of young kids.
But by the age of eight, kids should be getting straight on the concept of what is truth and what is fiction. Have a serious discussion with your son about the negative consequences of telling lies – innocent people get into trouble, and no one believes a word you say, even when it IS the truth. Tell him the old story of the boy who cried wolf.
Then let him know that, because he tells so many lies, you can’t trust him now. He is going to have to earn back your trust and also that of the world at large. You could enlist the help of his teachers and any other adults he is in contact with (Sunday school, karate, band). Let them know about the lying problem and to check with you if anything sounds fishy.
Question everything your son tells you. (Are you SURE that’s what happened?) I used to tell my sons something like this: “Okay, so that’s your story, is it? I’m going to give you a few minutes to think it over and then ask you again. You know that if you’re lying, I’ll find out eventually and you’ll be punished so be very careful what you say.”
If he comes clean, don’t penalize him. But if the story he sticks to proves to be a lie, let the punishments begin! Also, be on the lookout for any examples of “lies gone bad” that come up to reinforce your stance. He needs to learn that a good reputation takes years to build but that it can be destroyed in a matter of minutes.