We try so hard to pass our values down to our children, and honesty is right at the top of that list. So when your toddler’s teacher tells you that your son lied, you are horrified. He has never, ever lied to you. Or has he? Look for the clues.
Like most parents, Alissa Marcus, the NJ mother of 3 kids between the ages of 6 and 11, has eyes in the back of her head. She says can tell 100 percent when her kids are lying, although the clues each child provides differ from one another. When her fifth grader can’t look her in the eye, that’s the telltale sign that he isn’t telling the truth.
Her third grader becomes emphatic in her denials when she tries not to admit a wrong and her kindergartner starts to laugh. Case in point – the time 6 year old Jonah came out of the bathroom and Alissa asked him if he had washed his hands. “He said ‘yes’ with a big smile on his face,” she recalls. That meant he really hadn’t washed his hands.
If you haven’t figured out your children’s telltale signs yet, Melissa Brand, Psy.D., Equilibria Psychological and Consultation Services, Philadelphia, Pa offers some hints:
• Poor eye contact. They also may smile, look guilty, or even become defensive and angry because they feel “caught.”
• Trouble staying still. They may literally squirm with the discomfort of lying to you, or are avoiding your questions and stalling for time.
• React defensively. Always be suspicious when it seems that your child “doth protest too much.”
• Changing the story. Do you detect inconsistencies in your child’s story? Compare notes with the caregiver of the person your child is claiming to be with. Are you getting the same story?
• Long Pauses. Hesitation before speaking may be time used to fabricate an alibi.
• Facial expressions. Watch for a brief expression of guilt, fear, or even a smirk.
Lie Prevention Tips
• Give your children the message that they can come to you with anything.
• Be an open listener. Try to keep your own reactions in check until you’ve heard the full story.
• Reward the truth. When children confess, don’t immediately move to punishment. Acknowledge how much you appreciate that they told you the truth, then, decide together upon an appropriate consequence.
• Children lie to avoid punishment. Avoid being too harsh or too rigid, and have a few important rules that you enforce consistently.
Don't freak out the first time your child lies, but be sure he understands that lying is unacceptable. Find an age-appropriate punishment and stay resolute. It is best to nip this behavior in the bud early on.