Parenting K-6 Kids/Siblings lying

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Question
My six- and eight-year-old girls constantly lie about things like which one did some bad thing or about who really hurt who, etc. As common as a problem as I imagine this is, I am shocked at the lack of advice on this online. I am continually faced with never knowing who to believe and guessing as to who to discipline. Please help!

Answer
Hi Alison,

Ultimately, there are a few things to think about with lying:

1) Don't get overwrought about it. The bigger the reaction from, the more likely the kids will try to lie better. Instead of seeing it as a moral issue (as many parents do), see it as a broken rule "no lying allowed."

2) Don't set the kids up to lie. If you do know who did what to whom, don't ask, "Who did that?"

3) Don't lie yourself. Adults lie all the time although we tend to call them white lies or fudging the truth. I'm not saying that you lie, but if you do happen to fudge the truth, and your kids see it, they'll think it's okay. Especially if you're doing it to avoid getting in trouble.

3) Figure out the payoff for the kids to lie. What do they get out of it? Avoid getting in trouble? Delay doing a chore or other task they don't want to do? Stir up trouble for each other? Often the solution is in the motivation.

4) Make it easy for your kids to tell you the truth by being calm and listening when they talk.

5) Let them know that you can't trust them if they lie and of course there can be consequences when you can't trust the kids. For example, if you can't trust them to play nicely together outside, they don't get to go outside. If they can't watch TV without fighting, they can't watch TV.

It's not that uncommon for kids to lie, especially around 6 years old. Kids are impulsive and live in the moment. That's not to say it's okay and you should let it ride, but it can be reassuring to know that it's fairly normal.

Usually the best solutions to recurring problems is to figure out what situations cause the problems and avoid those situations (i.e. you can't play together because every time you do, you fight.)

If no one is getting physically hurt, and the kids are tattling more than seeking intervention, you might ignore them. Sometimes attention from you reinforces the behavior. You just have to be sure that one child isn't actually hurting (physically or emotionally) the other child. If they're equal in the fighting, then you can tell them, "I'm tired of how you always fight when you could be playing and having fun. From now on, when you tattle over something little, I'm going to ignore it." If you choose the ignoring route, you have stick to it. Once you give attention to it, you've blown it. But again, only do this if you feel the lying and picking on each other is about getting attention.  

Parenting K-6 Kids

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Leslie Truex

Expertise

I am a parent of two, but also I'm a social worker with over 15 year experience working with children and families. I can provide many tips and techniques to help with child behavior, interventions for specific behavioral issues, ideas to help children through difficult times such as divorce or grief, hints on keeping the family running smoothly, and tips for developing confident, happy children.

Experience

I have a master's in social work and over 15 years experience working with children and families. I have worked in schools, public health, mental health and adoption agencies providing parent education courses and children's groups.

Education/Credentials
BA in Psychology and MSW.

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