31 answers

What to Do About Children Lying to Their Parents

I have a 7 year old who has recently been caught lying on a number of issues. We have tried to tell her that under no circumstances, lying is not acceptable. Her punishment has been no dessert for a month, including dessert after lunch at school. I just looked on her lunch acct., which I have told her that I can access online, and found that she has been purchasing ice cream over the past week almost every day, the very same week that she started her punishment for lying. How should we handle this???

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I disagree with some of the other posts. A child shouldn't do the right thing because they get a reward; ei. ice cream. They should tell the truth and other good things because it is right in and of itself. A child should get punished when they are caught lying, stealing, cheating.....Explain what why it is wrong to lie..(the story of the boy who cried wolf), why it is wrong to steal and so on. Then send the child to their room. Take away computer priveldges. No more video games and so on until your child understands the ramifications for her actions. She is old enough to understand right from wrong, and to follow through with the right. I'm not pretending it will be easy. You have to be on her all the time. But it is our job as parents to form our children into Good adults. Good Luck!!!!

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Adjust her school account to "lunch only", "no extras". Then sit her down and tell her how much it hurts your feelings that after you asked her to be honest and during a punishment she continued to lie. Then set a new punishment...one that she can'y get around...cancel an up coming playdate or rsvp no to the next birthday party she gets invited to, explain to her that unless you can trust her to follow your rules and be honest she can't go places without you. Explain to her why you expect honesty and ask her how she would feel if you were lying to her...give her examples...She is trying to assert her independance and make decisions on her own...once her punishment is over give her money once a week to buy icecream...Most of the times that kids lie it's to avoid trouble or they think what they are going to ask would be told no...try to remain calm and explain the punishment is for the lie, not the action...good luck!

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You have plenty of good responses to this question. I've read Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn three times and highly recommend it. Also, I agree with the previous posts that punishment, especially food, is not the best tactic.

It is totally normal for your child to be telling stories. She's made a cognitive leap. This is a teachable moment. One definition of discipline is a system of rules of conduct or method of practice.

Lying presents the parent an opportunity to teach the appropriateness of storytelling and I wanted to add to the discussion a thought about trust.

As a parent of a nine year old I did some deep searching while I was going through the lying phase and realized that I enjoy trusting my child. It allows me to give her more freedom and age appropriate independence. When she lies to me, it takes the joy of trusting each other away and we are in an opposing power struggle. It is a much more joyful experience to me to be powerful together.

L. :)

1 mom found this helpful

I agree that you must consider what she is lying about and why. Perhaps she has really just "found" the strategy and is testing it out. Tall tales were actually part of the curriculum when I taught 7 and 8 year olds and for good reason. No matter what the reason she is lying, maybe she would enjoy and learn from reading tales together (there are several collections - I like Steven Kellogg's illustrations)- and either talk, write, or draw more about them.
The consequence needs to be more related to the lie or the reason. Don't consider a "punishment" as much as something that would give her the structure and support to choose to tell the truth. Is she only lying to you? Maybe she's afraid to tell you things? You could also have her tell you at the end of the day what "she wants to have happened" = tall tale and then tell you "what really happened" = the hard truth.
Also, approach this as a behavior rather than a character trait. She is telling lies - she is not a liar. If she thinks she's "a liar", there's no reason for or maybe hope for her to stop in her mind. This is a difficult age socially (isn't every?!). Give her a hug and be understanding. As mature as these kids try to be - they are still very little and just learning.

You are making a very big mistake...no punishment should everlast a month. Children will not understand this and it is way too long! I think that you would do much better with taking something away for a day or 2.
I love to use a chart with a child this age. They can earn rewards or lose . I often use a point system. Take 3 things to focus on at this age. Lets say: makes bed, does homework without behavior, tells the truth. Each day, have your child put a star on the chart for Monday...when they make their bed, they put a start, do their homework put a star then if at bedtime you talk and ask if they told the truth all day, if yes then they should get a star. If you have found they did lie...immediately tell your child how disappointed you are. Put a sad face on this box. It will be very tangible for your child. Let them look at the chart in the morning and talk about what they willget today. Set the tone for success not failure...if each day is not a new start then why should they tell the truth? What do they have to gain? You can set the rewards together. Keep the carrots special so that you can chage the target behaviors...brushing teeth...loading dishwasher...setting the table....Keep it a simple number of target behaviors....Good luck. I have found this to work even with older teenages...the key is to do it together as a team for success.
Good luck! Thanks,

K. Simons any ? ____@____.com

What sort of lies is your daughter telling? Is she making up stories, because she lacks confidence in the truth? Is she lying because she will get in trouble for telling the truth? Is she experimenting with her words or people's trust in her or testing some boundaries. Teaching her not to lie can be easier if you understand why she is lying.

I worry about her punishment being food based. My dessert was often taken away from me for bad behavior and now I have terrible food issues. Food should be about sustaining ones body, socializing, and savoring. Life shouldn't be about being "good" and eating this or being "bad" and eating that.

A month also seems like a long time for a seven year old. The time frame is so long that she can't look forward to it ending. For her a month, two months, three months they may all feel so far away that she'd rather get in more trouble than wait an incomprehensible amount of time.

How about using a more natural consequence to lying? When people lie they also hurt those whom they love. People don't trust people who lie so now you can not trust her to [insert something she does independently and enjoys]. People who lie have to earn the trust of others. You can give her responsibilities like extra chores to earn back your trust. The natural consequence of sneaking ice cream might have to be food related. If she can not be trusted to purchase the foods she is allowed to purchase then maybe she needs to pack her own lunch for you to inspect each day for a certain amount of time before she earns her lunch account back.

I hope this helps!

I have to say that I believe that lying warrants a bigger punishment than losing desserts. Now that she has not followed your punishment, it would have to be longer and more severe.

First, go to the online lunch account you can restrick any purchase accept the actual lunch (do it today before she goes to lunch and give her a surprise). You can tell the account that no snack or extra item is allowed by blocking that.

Second, I would tell her that her punishment just got longer and harsher, then take away a phone, computer time, tv time etc and give her chores to complete during that time.

My daughter also has serious issues with lying, hiding the truth, not doing as she is told (both with punishments and chores). It is a constant battle, but as you do, I also feel this is a very important ethical trait. If you include chores during that punishment time, this may foster responsibility for her own actions.

Whatever you decide, stick to it and be consistant. They have great ways of creativity to try to get out of something and make us feel bad that it is our fault instead of the actions of their behaviour. A good book 'Smart Discipline' by Larry Koenig (local library) helps put the behaviour on them not us.

Best of Luck!

Show your child the difference between "good" and "bad" lying. Remember, what is great fiction but imaginative lies? Encourage her to make up stories, tape them and write them down, have her illustrate them. Ask her to make up her own punishment for the dessert lie and follow through. I would not be surprised to find that her punishment would be more severe than you expect. I would be concerned about using food in this way, as it could lead to food issues in her life.
S. Striker (author PLEASE TOUCH, Simon & Schuster) elaborates on this idea

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