The following came in a Boston.com reader Q&A this week with Child Caring writer Barbara Meltz:
Question: Hi Barbara, Any advice for dealing with a 6-year-old boy who has become comfortable lying to us? He vehemently denies that he is lying, but we know that he is.
Barbara Meltz: Dear Gullible, basically, kids this age lie for different reasons and, because they are not cognitively fully developed, I'm not sure it's even fair to consider them lies in the adult sense of the word. But, for example, a child this age might like to avoid punishment, to get a material reward or to keep a promise.
By 9 or 10, kids like to avoid an overly intrusive parent. And sometimes kids of all ages lie just to see if they can get away with it. But what's most likely for a 6-year-old is that the lie is more what kids think of as "tricking," kind of a game they play with themselves: Haha, I tricked you! It's just that they leave that part off.
The problem of course is that lying can ultimately cause a lot of damage and an erosion of trust. It never helps to tell your child, "I know you are lying, and in fact, getting them to admit to a lie isn't nearly as important as establishing a fundamental value of honesty and trufulness. At this age, he's old enough to know that lying is unfair, and to label it cheating. So be sure to establish the high value you place, in your family, on telling the truth.
The next time you think he is lying, instead of accusing him of l ying, try this: "I'm not sure if you are telling the truth. Before you say anything else, I want you to think some more about this." Or this: "I don't think you are telling the truth. I'm not happy to have a rule broken, but I'm even less happy if someone lies about it."
Obviously the goal is not to trap or trick him but to help him understand that lying is not good, and that you are someone who is understandable and approachable. Reward telling the truth, don't punish lying.
Agree with Barbara? Have some truth-telling of your own to contribute? Let us know in our Comments section.
The author is solely responsible for the content.