Overcoming Lying

sadHave you ever noticed that some kids are hard-wired to tell the truth? When they do try to lie, they are really bad at it. Their faces turn red. They sweat, and they stumble over their words.

Other kids are naturals, but for them, telling the truth can be challenging.

For whatever reason, the kids who are more prone to lying seem to avoid shame at all costs. It’s like their kryptonite, and when faced with shame or condemnation, the child learns to become an even better liar so he does not get caught.

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Here’s the tricky part for parents: it can be so deeply upsetting when our child lies to us that our gut reaction might be to freak out and say something like, “How could you lie right to my face? How can I ever trust you again?”

But that kind of reaction can bring immediate shame, and kids who struggle to tell the truth seem to have conditioned themselves to avoid shame at all costs. That is not to say we should ignore it. On the contrary, if a child has a lying habit, we should make an effort to confront even the smallest veering from the truth, but it is how we confront it that makes all the difference.

First, it is helpful to shift our perspective from that of a parent, who might be worried about all the implications that lying could have for our child’s future, to a coach assigned the job of helping a kid overcome a bad habit.

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As soon as we smell a lie, we should confront it but without shame. Our goal is to empower the child to think through the situation and find words that convey what actually happened.

A good way to confront a lie or an exaggeration without shaming the child is to explain that everyone has things they are naturally good at and other things that are more challenging for them. For some people, telling the truth is easy, but others have to work at it. Then we need to let them know that we will help them try again and that we are willing to stick with them until they get it all out, just as it happened.

It is no small feat to remain calm in the face of lying and to handle it without condemnation, but that is what it takes to reach the heart of a kid who struggles with telling the truth.

They have highly sensitive shame radars, and the fortress protecting their delicate souls is designed to keep out anyone who threatens to condemn them.

At the end of the day, it is their hearts we are after because if we can reach their hearts, we can change their thinking and behavior patterns.

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Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are super moms with nine children between them, from an attorney to a toddler, and one on the autism spectrum. Together they host Parenting On Purpose with Jenni and Jody, a one-hour weekly talk radio show. They are parenting experts and leaders in the homeschool community, as well as weekly newspaper columnists and freelance writers.
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