Mommy: “Honey, what are you hiding on the wall?”
Mommy: “Can I see?”
Daughter: “No” (cue - bottom lip pout and tear running down cheek)
Mommy: “You can tell mommy. Accidents happen.”
Daughter: “I didn’t do it!”
Mommy: “Ok, let me go check the wall.”
Daughter: “It wasn’t my fault!” (cue - full blown tears)
Mommy: “Did you put your footprint on the wall?”
Daughter: “No.” (cue - fall into mommy’s lap like her favorite doll (Sandy) was abandoned)
Mommy: “Accidents happen and mommy and daddy won’t be mad, but you need to tell the truth if we ask, ok? Now here is a wet paper towel for you to wipe the print off the wall.”
The good news… Studies today show that a successful lie told by a child can actually be a developmental achievement (had I know that back in the day!). By telling a lie, the child is realizing that their thinking is separate from the parent. It also aids in developing independence, talking in perspective and controlling emotions.
The bad news… While lying is a normal component of growing up, it still cannot be discarded as “no big deal”.
Below are some approaches you can use to teach your child the art of telling the truth.
• Exercise the behavior you expect your child to portray. As a parent, you need to start monitoring when and how you are untruthful. You need to practice what you preach, which is not exactly an easy task. One study showed that the average adult admits to lying 13 times a week!
• Try to communicate the old adage, “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” You have to make your tot understand the fine line between telling a lie and hurting people’s feelings.
• Examine the motive of the lie. Did your tot lie because they were trying to avoid the consequences of their behavior? Were they scared they were going to get into trouble? Often, you have to pull back several layers to get to the root of the issue. Remember, there is always meaning and reason in what our children tell us.
• Reward the truth when story evolves from the lie to the truth. Let them know that you are proud of them for finally telling the actuality. This will give them more confidence the next time something happens.
• Always stay calm and find a way for the child to correct the wrong. Have them help you clean up the mess, etc…
Children are not filled with malice or spite (except when you try to take their binky away). The most important thing as a parent is to teach them the appropriate way to handle situations.
If you are looking for a good book to drive the point home check out The Berenstain Bears and The Truth. http://www.amazon.com/The-Berenstain-Bears-Truth-Stan/dp/0394856406
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ~ Mark Twain