Q: How can I get my 12-year-old son to stop lying? He lies right to my face about everything from getting his homework and school projects done, to who he’s talking to on the phone.
A: Let’s face it, children lie (so do adults), even when they’re sure to get caught. Every parent seems to have a cute story about their child denying that they’ve eaten something, even though it’s smeared all over that angelic face. But it stops being cute when it impacts the relationship between the parent and the child.
Do you promote a culture of honesty in your house? Do little white social lies tend to fly? And can your child tell the truth without being punished for it? If the truth is going to cause negative consequences, your son is more likely to lie.
I would suggest two courses of action. The first would be to make sure that it’s in your son’s best interest to tell you the truth, which means not punishing him for honesty, even if you don’t like what you hear. If he admits not doing his homework, you don’t take away privileges – you have him do it before you move to the next activity.
The second course of action is more direct – he can’t lie if you don’t ask, so skip the questioning and find out the answer for yourself. If you want to know if his homework is done, walk into his room and check it. If you want to know who he’s talking to on the phone, pick up the extension. When your son is outraged by these invasions of his privacy, your calm response is, “Sorry, son, but you forfeited your privacy privileges when you lied to me. My job is to keep you safe at all costs. When I am once again convinced I can trust your word, you can have your privacy back. The best way to get me out of your business is to be honest with me.” And assure him repeatedly that he will never be punished for telling you the truth.
Nurse Rona is the host of Childhood Matters radio show, a nurse for 44 years, a temperament specialist, parent educator, and mother of four. To hear previous shows, go to www.childhoodmatters.org, and tune in Sundays 7-8AM on 98.1 KISSFM. She is also available to do individual temperament consultations and workshops.