Dealing With Lying
A young parent recently emailed me a question about how to handle lying. His daughter is in grade school, and has been testing the limits recently. I suspect all kids go through this - or at least all seven of our have!
When our children hit this phase, we sat down and talked about trust. We defined it. We found building the character quality of trust worked better than focusing on the lie or catching the child in their next lie. We shared biblical references on lying and trustworthiness, forming a common belief system with our children. We memorized these verses together. We prayed for wisdom.
We used an antique box of handkerchiefs as a trust visual. My grandmother gave this box to me, full of handkerchiefs, from her grandmother. Of all her grandchildren, she trusted me with it. It seemed an appropriate object lesson.
The box represented "trust." When a child was found lying, the box was emptied. Slowly, maybe over the course of a couple months, I added handkerchiefs back into the box, one at a time. A symbol that the child was trustworthy again. Adding another handkerchief would often be a ceremonious event, at least between parent and child, when we caught them being honest.
For us no trust equaled limited freedom. When we realized a child was struggling with lying, we cut out all opportunities to be with friends without our being present. This established early the idea that to have freedom with peers or away from home - mom and dad had trust the young person. With some of our children, we had to carry this to the extent of not letting them attend Sunday School or youth group for a few weeks. we received negative comments from our peers at church once about being so strict, but this was huge to me. We knew more and more freedom would come with the young adult years. We wanted to build a foundation of trust.
One key component of lying is fear. People often lie because they fear disappointing others, failing, or revealing their true selves. Each parent should do a little soul searching of their expectations of their children. Some questions to consider: Do you allow grace and freedom for your child to let you down without facing relationship issues like anger or a withholding of your love? Is the idea of disappointing you worse than the consequences for lying? Also reflect on your own trustworthiness. Are you keeping your word to your children? Be cautious not to take on more parental guilt that you should, but examine yourself for any parenting patterns that might be contributing to your child's behavior.
Two other ideas to focus on truthfullness might be to discuss oaths our government officials take, and learn about the job of bank tellers. Help your children understand lying isn't something just kids have to deal with, and trustworthiness isn't something they alone have to develop. Help your children see this is big, and it is for everybody, and it is life long.
Fox Catcher: Proverbs 13:5