What to do when your kid lies, explained by Kevin Spacey

When I was a kid, I learned early on the benefits of feeding my parents the occasional small white lie. A missed chore here, a skipped errand there — if I chose the right time to not mention it, I could avoid angry judgement from the Church of My Disappointed Mother.

As parents, we find that truth is not absolute. We tell lies — or half-truths — not with the intention to deceive but to help their developing minds better comprehend this crazy world around them.

But what happens when they become the truth-benders? How, where and why did they learn to use our presumption of their bright-eyed innocence against us? It often begins with covering up small mistakes or bad behavior. If this scares you for what may grow into a psychological ordeal, then you may want to identify the root causes of the small lies. In the fictitious political world, we can benefit from taking advice completely out of context. Take it away, Frank.

You’re creating an opportunity to lie

Drivers don’t speed when a cop car is within plain view. Monitor their performance and make sure to vocalize when they’ve done well. If not, let them know they won’t receive their allowance and/or will receive an appropriate punishment accordingly.

It’s important to ask why they haven’t completed the task; make it clear that you’re interested in the honest answer.

Your standards are inappropriately high

First I must play Devil’s Advocate: it is important to teach our kids the necessity of following through with doing things we don’t really want to do. When you were 7, you washed dishes, did laundry, mowed the lawn AND cleaned the gutters. But nobody knows your kid like you do — are you setting them up for failure? If that’s how they feel, lying may be the only way the compensate for underperforming.

If they’re burning out, try lessening the responsibilities until manageable. Once they’ve maintained a routine, gradually increase their responsibilities accordingly, paying close attention along the way.

Appropriate consequences

Different parents, different upbringings, different punishments. At lunchtime, the kid with immigrant parents compares his horror stories right along with John and Jane down the street. Our experiences shape our expectations, and after a short while we know what to expect.

They can’t and won’t care about following through if the consequences are inconsistent and not stringent enough. Draw a line where what is acceptable and make it loud and clear what may come.


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