George Washington's Cherry Tree
After putting our children in bed tonight, my husband and I headed downstairs to get some work done. Dishes for me, research on televisions for my husband. (Our power went out today because of a May snow storm, and ever since, our t.v. won't turn on, irritating.)
After about 15 minutes we heard foot steps upstairs. Our kids are usually pretty good at staying in bed once the lights are out, but we could hear someone coming down. It was our son, he walked over to me and held out his finger.
"I have a really bad hangnail", he said.
"Could you get it off?"
I told him "sure", and went upstairs to get my clippers.
I came back down and we sat on the couch as I got the hangnail, and a few others off.
I couldn't help but notice that he had started biting his nails. Really biting them. I said, "why are you biting your nails, you don't want to do that..."
Before I could say anymore he says, "I don't bit my nails!"
You can envision the rest of the conversation. He points out that he doesn't know how that happens, his nails must just flake apart. Flake apart, really? What do I look like, an idiot.?
Now I realize biting your nails is a habit we all probably cycle through now and again. I never told him it was a big deal, I just tried to suggested he stop before they got any worse. Never the less, my husband sat him down and a lllooonnnnggg conversation ensued. Why? Because lately our son has been telling fibs, lies, justifying excuses. Call them what you will, they have got to stop.
All kids tell lies. Young children tell fibs based on fantasy, and they are usually made up stories of who they wish they were (princesses), or what they wish they could do (today I ran across the road and didn't hold anyones hand).
Elementary School Children start to tell "smarter" lies to avoid punishment, to sound "cool", and to get what they want. If at a young age they find that their lies do get them what they want, the lies will become habit. Stop them before they reach this point.
Your teenagers will tell manipulative lies to protect their friends and themselves, and to avoid punishments and arguments and to get what they want.
An occasional lie is nothing to worry about. You just don't want it to turn into a habit.
So what can we do to stop the "story telling"
First, Be the type of parent that sets fundamental rules with reasonable expectation, and be willing to listen to your children. If you do so, your kids will feel more comfortable talking to you, less likely to hide things from you, and more likely to be open with you because they feel respect and therefore will give respect.
With our son, lying is a very new behavior. He hasn't really done it before. I can blame it on the kids he plays with at school, or his age, or look inward, am I too hard on him? Is he always afraid of getting in trouble? Is he testing us to see what he can get away with?
Regardless the reasons, it was time for us to "nip it in the bud".
- Pay attention to why your kids are not telling the truth. I noticed that tonight it was because our son didn't want to get in trouble. I will watch the way I deal with him, am I being to hard on him? Are my expectations too high lately? Am I stressed so I take it out on him? It could be because the child is frustrated, wants attention, has low self-esteem, wants to gain approval, is trying to get what they want, to avoid a chore, to protect themselves or a sibling/friend, to please their parents. Sometimes if you can pinpoint the why, you can stop the lying before it goes too far.
- Be an honest parent. Kids will primarily do what they see us as their parents doing. Do we ever fib. Sneak into a movie, lie about ages to get lower prices, pretend no one is home so you don't have to answer the door. Kids will pick up on these lies. We have to honest so they will be honest.
- Teach your children that in your house honesty is the only policy. Teach them that you will be honest with them, you expect honesty from them. Emphasize that this is a family rule and that they, just like you, are expected to follow it.
- Don't be too harsh. If you are, children will not feel safe talking to you about what they have done wrong because they will be afraid.
Don't accuse them of lying, this will only make them feel trapped and make the situation worse. We used this on our son tonight. Instead of continually emphasizing, "I know you are lying, I can see your nails", which is what I wanted to say. We explained that "you probably don't even realize your biting your nails. That happens to mommy and daddy sometimes to. Do you think that could be what is happening?" This also means you don't call your child a liar. Always avoid giving your children negative labels.
Don't overreact. If you child knows that you are going to stay calm, they are more likely to tell you the truth. They don't want to tell the truth if they think it is going to get them in a bunch of trouble. Stay Chill.
Be sure there is a reasonable consequence for telling lies. Yesterday when my son told me he had picked up his backpack and his shoes, and he had not, I made him go back and finish the job. Like he had been asked.
Stick to what you know. The facts. "Your backpack is still on the ground, be honest, did you pick it up like you were asked?" "I can see that your nails are very short and that your fingers are red, I expect the truth, have you been biting them?"
After the fact, teach...
Tonight, as we talked with our son we told him some personal stories about telling the truth and telling lies. He was able to relate to them and see the blessings and consequences that come from our choices. Use stories to teach your children. If you don't have any, use George Washington and his Cherry Tree. Teach your children that people who are honest don't lie, you can count on them, they keep their word, they admit when they do things wrong, and they stand up and tell the truth even when it is hard or unpopular.
Teach your children what happens when they lie.
You get in trouble, people don't want to be your friend, it could hurt other people, etc...
Teach what is real and what is fiction. Kids need to understand the difference between make believe and real life.
When your child is honest, praise them, thank them. Reassure them that honesty is always the best policy. I sound just like my dad, "Remember Heather, honesty is always the best policy." I heard that a few thousand times growing up.
Any fibbers in your house? (Is fibbers a word?)