Have you had days when you just felt like an utter failure? Today was one of those days for me.
I discovered my daughter had lied to me, in front of her classmates, right in school. I was crushed. My parenting mantra has always been good character above good grades. Yet my child has chosen to disobey me and displease God. This is not the first instance she lied this year and we’ve used all methods of discipline: time out, withdrawal of privileges, writing lines and yes even caning. We affirmed her when her behaviour improves. Yet, today, when tested by a lying child again, I was filled with embarrassment, disappointment, betrayal and anger all at once….If I look into the mirror, I haven’t been a Godly-enough parent to our kids. I found the tips from this Huffington Post article both convicting and insightful. Let me share an excerpt here.
Excerpt from What to Do When My Child Lies? 13 Ways to Respond, Prevent, and Strengthen Honest Communication
When parents discover their children are lying to them, they are usually filled with keen dismay, sometimes incredulity, puzzlement or anger, and underneath it all, always, in my experience, with sadness. We know intuitively that truth-telling is key to building and nurturing a trusting relationship. We know that without it, we quickly enter slippery ground. It becomes harder to know one another, difficult to trust. Lies get in the way of closeness and connection.
What do we do when we find our child lying to us? How to deal with, prevent, heal and course-correct? In this article I share with you 13 ways to prevent, as well as to respond.
1) Listen to what is going on “underneath” the lie.
There is always a reason behind what they do. They don’t just do things for the heck of it. It is our task and responsibility as adults to decipher what that reason may be, to understand them more, to listen deeper, and to find out what are they saying when they lie? There is a communication in that too. When we hear the message tucked in the lie, we are much better equipped to respond appropriately.
2) Consider your child’s developmental age.
When dealing with a child whom we perceive is lying, it is important to include in our discernment and our response, where they are at in their developmental journey. When an 8-year-old denies having played on his iPad when he was supposed to be finishing his homework, he is well aware of the difference between what really happened and what he is communicating. Different developmental stages require different responses.
3) Pay attention to the many ways your child expresses himself, not just the verbal ones.
A child’s capacity to be honest is connected with his level of self-awareness and self-knowledge. Your child might say “I’m fine” or just “fine,” in response to your question, “How are you, how was your day?” not in order to fool you or to cover up what is really going on, but because the feelings are too complicated and confusing to put into words. He doesn’t actually know what he is feeling, so “fine” may be the best he can muster at that moment. This is another reason why it is so important to pay attention to the many ways a child speaks his truth — facial expression or lack thereof, gestures, body posture, art, music, energy, etc.
4) Make the connection with your child your first priority.
Connection is the foundation for truth-telling. It is the ground upon which honesty grows. A well-connected child wants to share her heart with you. She wants, even needs and is compelled to let you know what is on her heart and mind. Connection is the strongest, most reliable preventative measure you can take against lying. Make time for it. See it as the one thing that shall not be compromised on.
5) Walk the talk.
Show by example, model integrity yourself. Children learn primarily through imitation, or as Robert Fulghum says, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you. Worry that they are always watching you.” Notice whether what you say and what you do align. When you promise your child, “I’ll be back in just a few minutes,” how accurate is that? Are your speech and your actions in alignment? Try to be consistent with your integrity, and accurate in your language. View your speech as sacred and use it mindfully.
6) Teach your child that freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility.
The natural progression of growing up includes a growth in freedom and also increasing levels of responsibility. Let your children know that when they misuse their growing freedom of speech, there is a natural consequence: they become less trustworthy. If you find them lying to you, discuss with them how they can make good. How they can earn your trust back? Find ways for them to rebuild the broken bridge. Make it clear that being believed is initially granted to all, and then, as we grow older, it’s a privilege earned.
7) Be a safe haven for your child.
This does not mean you have to agree with everything your child tells you! It does mean that if your child senses you are closed, judgmental, anxious, or might overreact around a particular subject, she may very well choose not to divulge what is on her heart and mind. One of the best ways to ensure that your child will keep telling you what is going on in her life, is to to deal with those topics and feelings (be these topics of sexuality, money, power, religion etc) where you often find yourself ‘stuck’. One mother was telling me how she felt herself ‘freeze’ when her 15-year old surprised her with a sexual inquiry. She took a few deep breaths, remembered her commitment to want to be available for all of it, and then gave her daughter her full attention and discussed with an open mind so that she can be in touch and aware of what her daughter was curious about. The beautiful thing about this practice is the old adage, “And the truth shall set you free…“. The more we unfreeze, the freer the communication becomes.
8) Teach your children the value of truth-telling.
Passing on values is a huge part of parenting. If you don’t do it, everything else will — peers, media, the internet, society. Speak openly with your child, tell him about the sacred nature of words and agreements. Words mean something, we rely on them to know what is going on for each other. We need to be able to trust each other’s words. Teach your children how much more simple it is to tell the truth. As Sir Walter Scott said perceptively, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Point this out to them when it happens, and bring awareness to the freeing effect of telling the truth.
9) Dare to be vulnerable.
Tell your children that you rely on them telling you the truth. You are dependent on their willingness to share. You can try to guess, but really, their truth is something they can choose to give you or not. Building trust between you takes both of you. Apologize for any times you have been out of integrity. See it as a journey you are both on.
10) Realize that there is The Truth, and then there is subjective truth.
Sometimes there is space for more than one subjective truth. So, when you are feeling uncertain about whether your child is telling you the truth, don’t jump to conclusions and accusations. Inquire first. See if you can find out how and why they are “making sense” in the way they are.
11) Take time and make space to listen.
Listen to both the small stuff and big stuff. Sometimes the words don’t come, sometimes it’s easier to speak while walking side by side rather than sitting across from each other… find out what situation and environment works best for your child to share with you, and make time, carve out space for that.
12) Make a difference between the person and the behavior.
When you find your child lying, make sure to deal with the lying, rather than calling him a liar. Labeling the person boxes them in and is more likely to lead to shame. Naming the behavior calmly, and clearly, without added charge and judgment, leads to awareness, accountability and the possibility of change. Express concern and disappointment about the behavior and simultaneously reassurance that they are a good person, with capacity to speak the truth and show courage and integrity. This motivates your child to improve their behavior, and helps her internalize and strengthen her self-identity as someone who can become ever more trustworthy. It is OK for your child to feel guilt — which is the feeling that she has done something wrong, and can repair it. Regret is an important part of course-correcting as we grow up. Shame, on the other hand, comes from a negative judgment about her personhood, it puts her down and makes her feel worthless and small, stagnating, possibly even reversing her growth into an empowered, joyous, truth-teller.
13) Build your village!
As our children grow up and become adolescents, they may go through a period which they are less inclined to share openly with you. If you have helped them connect with other adults during their childhood, people who are like extended family for them, they can go to these aunts and uncles in times of trouble, decision-making or simply to share what is going on in their lives.
Source: Huffington Post
The husband in his SMS message to me reads, ‘Don’t over-react, let’s help her together, she’s our daughter’. So, dear God, help me to put down my own pride and disappointment, forgive me for failing as a Mom. Set my heart and priorities right so I can be a vessel used by you to train up this child to always speak the truth and in so doing, we glorify you as a family.
Some books from NLB on this topic:
5. Howard B. Wigglebottom and the monkey on his back : a tale about telling the truth by Howard Binkow, [illustrated by] Susan F. Cornelison.