Lying - Chicago,IL

Updated on November 09, 2012
J.G. asks from Chicago, IL
9 answers

My 4.5 year old has been lying a lot lately. I even tell her "I won't get angry if you tell me what happened," and she still lies. I am feeling really torn up about it, because I don't feel like I can trust her. Her favorite lie concerns washing her hands. I've tried to figure out why she doesn't want to wash her hands, but she just says, "I'd rather be doing X."

I know she is old enough that these aren't wish fulfillment lies anymore, she knows the difference between truth and falsehood, so when I catch her lying, how do I turn it into a big learning moment? We've discussed just telling me what happened, but she still picks lying.

I should note that my daughter is super, super smart, with an amazing memory. She remembers the midwives office --with spot on detail--- before her brother was born, and she was only 20 months. Nothing gets past this girl, and I know that I tell white lies frequently to her little brother (in the name of distraction or whatnot).....

What can I do next?

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answers from Chicago on

I think once kids tell a lie, most kids feel they have to stick with the lie rather than tell the truth. Especially if she is smart.

It sounds like she doesn't like to wash her hands because it interrupts play or whatever she's doing.

I would stop asking her if she washed her hands. You're just making it possible for her to lie. She's smart (and believe it or not, it takes a smart kid to lie) so she's decided it's best to keep playing and lie about washing her hands because there is a chance she will get away with it.

You just have to make it easier for her to comply with the hand washing.

Give her a 5 minute warning that playtime is about to be over. My daughter always worked better with a 5 minute warning rather than just the order to stop playing and to do something else (that she might not really want to do).

You can even set a timer.

At that point, walk her to the bathroom and watch her wash her hands. You'll have to do this for a long time. What you're doing is establishing a habit.

I guarantee, it will become a good habit. You just have to help her make it a habit.

At her age, rather than focusing on the lying, you just need to make it so she doesn't have the opportunity to lie. She's going to lie if she gets the chance. As she gets older, you can introduce a harsher consequence for the lie.

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answers from Washington DC on

Are all the lies on the level of the example you used -- like "I washed my hands" when she did not? Are they a constant stream of similar fibs or more occasional? And do they, like the "I washed my hands" lie, tend to be associated with her having to do something that interrupts her play or is, to her, a chore that takes her away from other things?

I'd sit down and really think through those questions and the pattern of her lies. If they are mostly of the "I told you I washed my hands because I didn't want to stop doing X," and if she's smart, then she needs to be told about how sick she will get if she does not wash her hands, etc. In other words, the results. She also needs to learn that you won't believe her about other things if she lies to you about little things. (Have you told her the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," for instance? She might find it hard to relate to wolves and shepherd boys, so you could update it in ways with which she could identify.)

Look online and at the library for books aimed at kids her age that talk about lies. They are absolutely out there! Get several and read them with her and talk to her about trust. Remember, this is not just about creating lies -- it's about losing your trust. Books that put it in a fictional context, together with discussion, really could help. "Why do you think (character) told (other character) this thing that was not true? What happened to (character) because she told a lie?" Discuss what trust means, putting it in her terms.

It is very typical for smart, busy kids at this age to toss off "I did that" or "I didn't do that" lies which they don't even see as lying. They aren't even thinking that deeply about it. But ask them if they would be upset that a friend lied to them about, say, having a certain toy, and they'll say, "Yes!" but they don't connect that to their lying to you about boring things like hand-washing.

And of course, you can also institute some form of positive reinforcement (a chart where if you KNOW she has washed hands or done some other chore, she gets a star or check leading up to a small reward after not too long--don't make her wait a week!) as well as some form of discipline (if you catch her in a lie, she loses something she values, instantly, and has to tell you WHY she lost it).

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answers from Kansas City on

i do the same as you, i try to keep the lines of communication open. i tell him he'll get in less trouble if he tells me the truth (as opposed to, in our case, having to ask his teacher, who WILL tell me exactly what happened) and i stick to that. (i never tell him i WON'T be mad, or he WON'T get in trouble - just less lol). i also try to eliminate all opportunities to lie if possible. rather than asking her if she washed her hands, ask to see and touch and smell them. if you're not satisfied, back she goes to the bathroom. i don't ask any more than i have to. i work with facts.

i know you are convinced she is a super smart amazing child - and i'm sure she is. but at 4.5 i got a lot of stories that i realized my son WISHED had happened, or what he thought was the "right" answer. i don't think they fully realize truth vs fiction. honestly. maybe your child is the one that does. but just be patient with her, and be her partner not her adversary. be on her team and set her up so that lying isn't an issue anymore. good luck!

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answers from Seattle on

If you know she is lying, don't ask her if she is lying. And, while you are not angry, aren't you very disappointed? Why shouldn't she know this - use your relationship leverage - how is she learning if she thinks that her actions do not create negative emotions in you? If it were me, as soon as she says she washed them when I know she didn't, I would just tell her that I'm really disappointed in her response and then walk her to the sink and watch her while she does it. If she protests, I'd tell her that I'd like to treat her like a big girl, but since she's decided to not be truthful all the time, I am going to watch her doing things until she has proved to me that she can be trusted. She's doing this because she can, so make it so that she can't and put the onus on her to prove herself to you instead of you having to convince her of something she should be doing. She may be smart, but she's only 4.5 ,and you are smarter - my guess is that you spend too much time discussing things with her and trying to spare her feelings, and not enough time implementing immediate consequences and showing her how she affects you and others.

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answers from St. Louis on

The only way I know to stop lies is to tie an extra punishment to lying and make it much better to tell the truth. Eventually telling the truth is associated with pleasure, good feelings, everything positive and then telling the truth becomes a habit.

Lying is more a bad habit that just bad.

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answers from Houston on

Well I am going through some things with my 5.5 yr old lately and I have been just pulling my hair out about it! I know the lying is just awful, he did that a lot at that age too. We usually just kept telling him the same as you, if you tell the truth, you may have a consequence, but if you lie it will be worse. Like tell the truth that you socked your brother in the face and you have to go to the naughty corner, lie about it and you lose a toy...that kind of thing. Today actually, I am about to make a chart for good citizenship. I am going to put things on it like 'helped with clean up' 'kind to brother' 'had a great attitude' etc. I am going to give him a check and minus system. Every time he does something awesome he gets to give himself a check, every time he does something that is disobedient of disrespectful, he gets a minus. At the end of each week we are going to count up the checks and minuses and if there are more checks, voila! Treat! Like stickers, cool pencils or something. If there are a lot of minuses though, the treat will be like one sticker, hardly any minuses, a whole sticker sheet etc and and I am going to talk to him about all of it so he gets the idea that less minuses equals bigger rewards. I mean, hey, I can practically see a math lesson in there! Telling the truth will definitely be on the chart as well :) Maybe since she is so smart something like this will help? I think will also be great bc he can have a goal of no minuses bc my son is VERY goal oriented. So, hope this works for me! Feel free to snag the idea :)

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answers from San Francisco on

She's lying about washing her hands because she doesn't want to bother washing her hands. There's no deep meaning behind it. There are lots of things we require our kids to do that they don't want to do.

She gave you the answer to why she doesn't want to wash her hands, and it was a good one. There are tons of things more fun to do than wash hands. I'm on this website because I don't want to do all the un-fun things I need to do today.

This kind of "lying" is nothing to worry about. Just inform her that you know it's not true, and make her wash her hands. You're smarter than she is, and she will figure it out if you keep calling her bluff.

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answers from Denver on

Everybody lies. You even admitted that you tell lies yourself. The important issue is to decipher why they are lying and try, if possible, to eliminate or adjust the cause rather than focusing on the lying. We tend to focus on a behavior rather than the underlying issue and that just creates tension and stress. Trying to tell your daughter that she shouldn't lie is obviously not working. Finding out why she doesn't wash her hands and addressing that issue might be much more effective.

"Parent Effectiveness Training" by Thomas Gordan gives great information about how to communicate with your child in such a way that you really listen to what they are telling you and you are able to really draw out of them the actual issue. The book also helps you to support them in coming up with their own solutions. If she had a different solution she wouldn't have to rely on lying.

Trust is a tricky word. I don't even recommend it. I say that trusting someone is a great way to give your power away. Too often what we are really "trusting" is who we want a person to be and not who they really are. Instead I suggest that you stay curious, gather information, listen to your intuition, and make choices according to the "what is" information that you gather not the "what I wish this was" information you imagine.

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answers from Wichita Falls on

This is not unusual, most kids go though a 'lying phase'. Not that they won't lie other times, but it seems to pick up speed around 5 and 13. You need to nip this in the bud, and no amount of explaining will do it. We have a standard punishment for lying, no matter why the lie, so we have relatively few lies.

But in the meantime, your white lies are going to have to stop. Kids learn sooooooooo much more from what we do than what we say. Inconvenient, yes, but a lot less so than spending your days distinguishing the truth from the lies from your daughter.

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