So I have a six-year-old daughter who constantly lies. It has gotten to the point where I can't believe a word that comes out of her mouth. I've tried very hard to teach her how important telling the truth is and that it is a safety issue, but nothing is helping. I've just set up an appointment for therapy to see if a professional can help me out.
Who else has had this problem? How did you teach your little one?
My grandson, 8, is the same way. Sometimes it's to get out of trouble, sometimes it's because he wants it to be true, but nearly as often it seems he lies just to be lying. He'll do something wrong right in front of me, knowing I'm watching, and claim he didn't do it.
So far, little we do makes any difference. He knows we seldom believe him, but keeps right on lying. If you find an answer, post it here!
I never had this problem, because from when my children were really small, I told them they would go to the Bad Fire for telling lies. In fact, the Bad Fire was a good threat for a lot of misdemeanours!
At six, it is not too late for you to instil some good values in her. If you have tell a few lies yourself, well so be it.
Even if you are not a Christian, you can tell your child that God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and that he sends everyone who breaks any of the Ten Commandments to a Bad Place.
Children do listen and take it all in. Now that my children have grown, I am somewhat surprised at just how much!
The psychology is sound. Your child will listen to you, but test what you say out. So, you say that must tell the truth, they tell lies to see what happens, and nothing does, because you didn't know they were lying.
So, you have to invent a superior power - make it God, make it the bogey-man, make it anything you like so long as you can make your child believe that such a being exists.
So this 'power' sees everything, knows everything, and has the power to do something about it. Don't make it too scarey, obviously, else your child will have nightmares.
Keep it simple - just say something like "I hope you are telling the truth, because if not, you will go the Bad Fire" or whatever words you choose.
After a while, even though no Bad Fire exists, your child will start to get a bit worried about the whole idea, and start to show tell-tale symptoms of their discomfort when lying.
Bingo! You have now taught them not to lie, and learned how to tell when they are lying (and all children do and will at some point, but they get over it).
She doesn't need a psychologist. Her mother knows best
OMG!?!? How am I supposed to teach my daughter not to lie while lying through my teeth!?
You lost me with the mom part. Dads don't get primary custody for no reason...
My suggestion is this:
You have to be very proactive on this and really set the boundary of no lying! Tell him if he lies you will not speak to him until he tells you the truth or some sort of consequence you can follow through on. Let him know how it feels to be lied to...( mention the value of the Golden Rule) Let him know that No Lying is a boundary which he must follow and you will see to it that he does. He will get it as you stand very firm on it. Never let him get away with ANY lie. Remember that children want to please the adult in charge. Let him find ways to please you and make sure you are responding to his desire to please you in positive ways. Could it be that he or she is just trying to get ANY kind of attention even if it is in the form of anger?
This is a very serious issue. You are right in scheduling an appointment with a therapist. Now is the time to find out what is causing the child to constantly lie.....it could be a warning sign of what is to come.
Thanks for the advice. We have extremely consistent boundaries and punishments set up for her behavior. We use mostly positive reinforcement, but punish as well. We always (99% of the time) stand firm on our punishments, so much so that my daughter knows EXACTLY what is going to happen after she gets in trouble.
Basically, she says that she wants things, but she doesn't want to wait. That no matter what the punishment is, it is worth it. I started spankings a month ago thinking that those had to be a big enough punishment, but they weren't!
I asked her what the things that she wants are and all of them were pretty small, mostly sweets. So I took a picture of everything that she said and put 1 to 5 boxes underneath each picture and put them in her room. For each item she had to do something for 1 to 5 days or not get in trouble ecetera. She can do one day, sometimes two, but never finishes.
I am a full-time dad. I run my own business from home and go to school full-time, but I do almost ALL of it at night. The only reason I can do this right now is because she is in time out. I play with her every day, listen to her, take her on vacations. I have primary custody and her mom sees her a few times a month.
She is acting out, but not for my attention.
Be careful to let her have flow time where she does her own thing... no TV or technology. These devices and even your attention may be too much. I did this to my son. I addicted him to me from the time he was a baby until he was about 31/2. He ended up having to have my attention because he did not know how to entertain himself. Does she? Do you have things she can do at home in freedom?.
It is very subtle, the setting of boundaries. Punishments are not needed or even effective in general. Just the set the boundaries. Children will listen to adults because they want to please the adult in charge.
Usually the problem with the child is that their needs are not understood and they are not being met. More flow time and maybe even more mom time is my recommendation...Try to Discover her Needs. Observe her more and punish her less. Set the boundaries and make sure you let her know you will not accept lying. Use the I word. " I will not have you lying." or even just "no lying." Don't pinpoint or criticize. You are the force in her environment to stop her form lying. Eventually she will understand... and believe me she loves you enough to please you!
Maybe she is literally addicted to sugar?! I would Never let her have Sweets. Take them out of the environment. They are as bad as a drug. Read up on the detrimental effects of sugar!
Also, don't be afraid to say No, you can't have (what she wants) now. Then you can give it to her in five minutes.. let her cry... let her pout.... do not give in. When you deem it is okay for her to have what she wants, with your position of authority you can give it to her. A child should not feel that she is in charge. I am just suggesting general principles which are based on the Montessori training I received from a woman who mentored with her. I learned from her and was able cure my son of his addiction to outer stimulus. Children need to tune inward and be in touch with their own inner life. The Secret of Childhood (book) by Maria Montessori is an excellent reference in understanding the true nature of the child. Most therapists don't really understand children, from what I have witnessed. Most just put them on some drug. Do not do it!
The flow time concept is very interesting! I never thought that I might be giving her too much attention because I am constantly trying to make up for her not spending more time with her mom. In fact, I'm always trying to compensate by being super dad all the time. This dad is always ready to play and have fun, but will bring down the hammer when you step out of line. I do let her play with my tablet sometimes and we go to the movies once a week, but I always figured that the downtime was good because we do a lot of outdoor activities as well. I'm going to switch it up so that she has more time to play by herself.
I've set boundaries and have stayed consistent with enforcing them. I think a lot of the problem has to do with the fact that her mom's house has different boundaries. She sees her mom three out of four weekends, but her mom does not have the ability to give her very much one-on-one time. She has three other younger kids with another man. My daughter has been having problems with her for years while I have enjoyed very good behavior. About a month ago my daughter came back from lunch and told her teacher that she had thrown up in a trash can. The teacher sent her to the nurse. Since the nurse had been told that my daughter threw up, she went to call me. My daughter convinced her that her grandparents were supposed to pick her up so the nurse called them instead of me (I'm still throwing fits at her school)!!!!!! I found out three hours later from my dad who had picked her up and spoiled her rotten! I'm pretty sure that since that worked, she has just been going wild. The problem is that I have been addressing it in every way possible for a month with no success!
I think her need is for her mother, but there is nothing that I can do. I have expressed to her mom that there is a possibility that more time with her might help, but its just not in the cards.
Sugar is not it. We are 100% sugar free (i don't worry about aspertame in the least bit). At first I thought that my sugar nazi behavior had caused everything, but after giving her the opportunity to earn sugar items I knew that it was not the case.
I have always been very good at saying no. In fact, my parents used to hound me about how I say the word "no" too much. She wants to be an adult sooooo bad, so it is definitely some form of power struggle, but it is not from a lack of boundaries or consistency. She is very smart and very strong-willed. She has articulated that she wants things and she wants them now and that the punishments are worth it.
I'm going to check out the montessori book. I was going to get her into one of those schools, but they are so damn expensive. I settled for the Irvine public school system (one of the best in the country).
Thanks for your insight. You've given me a lot to think about.
My two are much older, but I had to chime in...
We adopted our oldest from Russia when she was 9. Part of the Russian culture is that adults will lie to the kids in order to get the desired behavior. We did not know of this till afterwards. She did tell some lies in the first couple of years, but when we asked her about (blank) and provided evidence, the offense did not repeat. She has lied too, about writing emails to her sister (still at home). "Little" compared to some huge ones, but still lies.
The trouble with lies of course, is that once one is started another has to follow in order to cover it up.
Therapy is definitely a good choice, but if he is lying to you all the time, would he be honest with the therapist?
Best of luck, it's hard..
Thanks for sharing.
I think therapy is a good choice because it gives her a person that she feels that she can truly confide in. We have a very good relationship, but its starting to feel like she needs someone else in the mix.
She might lie to the therapist, but I think it will help either way. Hopefully the therapist will see something that I don't.
I'm glad that you are taking her to a therapist, and I'm hoping to hear that you have selected a reputable person who has a specialty in children. I once had a teen nephew who was told by his Aunt that he doesn't need to see anyone but an adult therapist b/c there was no difference, which is not true.
With therapy at the age of six there should be plenty of play therapy and not cognitive therapy. Children do understand right and wrong at this age, but I am not sure they understand why it is wrong to lie or steal or some of the other things kids do.
The questions I would ask myself as her parent are the following:
1. Is this a copied/mimicked behavior? Look around your environment and see if there are adults in her life who lie to get out of trouble, or who manipulate to get what they want. Actions speak louder than words, so this would include any behavior she can observe that is less than being honest.
2. Does she fear the retribution of telling the truth. I used to tell my kids that they would get into more trouble if I asked for the truth and they lied to me. Far better to tell the truth and face a consequence that matches the crime without any shouting or drama that will exaggerate the crime.
3. Does she have confidence and self esteem in herself? I was a notorious fibber when I was growing up and did not outgrow it until I was probably over age 10-old enough to know better. My fabrications were whoppers that had the parents of my friends shaking their heads in disbelief, but my confidence was not real solid back then. I would also lie to avoid consequences. It wasn't until I was old enough to really understand the damage I was bringing onto myself that it changed.
4. Is there shaming or humiliation involved when she gets a scolding? Most children will lie to their death beds to get out of the feelings of being shamed or disappointing their parents.
Encourage her to be honest with you and all people because it will make her feel better about telling the truth. It will help her become a stronger person to know that people can rely on her. Perhaps do a reverse behavior mod program: reward her for telling the truth and forego the consequences of the actual bad behavior to reinforce the beauty of telling the truth.
At age 6 there is much hope and potential for change; all may not be lost or labeled into the category of 'pathological liar' but it certainly is a concern worth watching and dealing with. Best wishes to you and your daughter and family with this problem that affects everyone.
My daughter, who is now 20 years old inherited the gene of telling lies from her daddy. I'm not picking on him he actually agrees. Neither her or her father can explain why they find it necessary. Although in my daughters case she almost always lies in order to not hurt someone's feelings. Telling friends she was sick when they wanted her to come over when she just felt like staying home, was one of the ways she'd lie. The best where when she'd lie about little things that no one else could possibly have done other than a ghost or her, like marker marks on the wall, she was an only child so there was no other sibling to blame. I'm not an expert but, I think if you look at the reasons we all tell white lies I believe they start out innocent and once they have gotten away with it they can't stop. I think talking to an expert and maybe understanding why she does it so frequently would be very helpful! I wish I had gone that route early on. It's not that you don't know best, and it could be just a phase, either way an expert will give you some tools to discourage the lies and safe alternatives to disciplining, other than scarring the crap out of her with demons and fire! I think it's fine to say " I may not find out your lying, but God knows when you are not telling the truth, and that makes me and him very sad!" At her age she does not need to know about the fires of hell and burning for eternity. She should know only of God's love and forgiveness. Otherwise she could grow up like I did freaking out every time she hears a plane going over head at night, shaking in her bed thinking it's God coming to get her and he's pissed because she didn't eat all her veggies at dinner! Just like we shouldn't threaten our kids with the likes of policemen coming to take them away if they do something wrong, God shouldn't be used in that manner either. Especially at her age! Good luck and keep me posted, I'd love to hear what the experts have to say!
This probably sounds weird, but I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that almost all issues like these that parents face regarding their kids are issues of territoriality. (As discussed by the book, "No Tresspassing! Explorations in Human Territoriality"). We read this book years ago and are amazed how it answers these kinds of questions every time they come up. And it's not what you might think - it's not about people battling for power.
Basically, it boils down to:
Every human being has an optimal territory size - a physical/mental area of responsibility and freedom - that is, a mental/physical area that they are comfortable being responsible for and in which they can move with comfortable freedom. This can mean the places where they spend their time and which are under their control, but other things, too, like tasks they must do.
That territory should fall into a sweet zone - it shouldn't be too big (or it's too hard to manage effectively and behaviors will develop that indicate a lack of responsibility for the territory, like alienation, isolation, indifference, etc.) and it shouldn't be too small (or it won't allow room for healthy growth and development and will lead to undesirable strategies for gaining territory - i.e., contests of will, manipulation, lying, etc.)
Growing kids are constantly expanding their mental and physical territory but at a non-constant rate. Parents are called upon to give them the right amount of new territory in line with their developmental changes, but they often can't see when to give them the new territory, or how much to give -because that's very hard to do. Sometimes kids need their territory expanded quickly to match developmental changes; other times, their familiar territories should stay relatively stable while slower, deeper development is taking place; other times, they are granted territories too big for them to manage (such as during holidays, when they're flooded with gifts). They signal through their behavior whether their territory is too small, too big, or just right.
So I'd think about when the lying started, and what it's trying to accomplish, and then think about whether your child is possibly outpacing her allotted territory, so she's resorting to lying to match her new capabilities. Lying essentially follows the discovery that the truth is one's own territory - I'd imagine that chronic lying could be an indication that a person's sense of power/territory has expanded but had nowhere (along legitimate lines) to go.
Does that maybe, perhaps help? Or sound crazy-wild?
OK, this makes a lot of sense. Thinking about what you just wrote in terms of territory as I wrote above...it's sounding like visiting her mom and going to school force some changes in territory management which she is trying to adjust to. When she's at those places, her territory shifts. That means, specifically, that what she is responsible for shifts, and her freedoms (what she's allowed to do, and her number of choices), shift. I can't know the details, but I'll try some offhand guessing.
So to address her visits to her mom...it may be that she's allowed more freedoms (an expansion of territory in terms of gaining more control of her life, due to lesser surveillance) and have fewer responsibilities (a contraction of territory due to sharing territory with more people in the household and being the short term "guest" or "visitor"). When she comes back home to you and her school environment, she might push to keep the new freedoms (people don't readily give up gained territory, unless they're truly not ready to handle them or incapable of handling them). Simultaneously she might have trouble resuming control of her old territory, because she's now responsible for much more than before and needs extra guidance with how to manage all this responsibility.
It sounds like she's struggling to expand her territory by necessity - she must do so in order to have a relationship with her mom. It also sounds like she is, for a 6-year-old, stupendously competent managing the creativity and freedom part, but having a hard time managing the "responsibility" part of this new expansion. She probably knows what she's supposed to do in her old territory, but she doesn't have your guidance in terms of how to troubleshoot new problems at school or her mom's, because you can't be there.
If this is on track at all...it might help if you try to give her some additional freedoms at home (since that's the only arena you have power over) so you can work with her on this kind of navigation. Kids - especially creative kids - are pretty good at extrapolating. So for example, if you give her some new class of toys, emphasize some new associated responsibility with them. If you give her access to a place that was formerly denied to her, make an extra point of associating a new set of responsibilities with that access. Make it clear that to hold onto gained territory, she has to be responsible for it. That's partially bluff, because you can't stop her going to school or visiting her mom - but at home, make it clear that if she wants those same freedoms she enjoys elsewhere, then she has to be responsible, too.
Another key thing is to pinpoint the problems she's having that she's trying to solve with the strategy of lying and discuss them with her. Show her how to navigate the problems. Before she goes to visit her mom each weekend, and each day before school, remind her of what problems may come up, and her choices for how to act, and what will result with each choice. Map her territory for her and she will manage it beautifully.
Anyway, I could be totally off track with these examples - there are so many different interpretations that might be applicable to her. It's so hard to talk about all this without specifics. I'll just say that this system has been VERY useful for solving problems quickly in ALL relationships - not just with kids! Bosses, spouses, relatives, friends...My explanation probably sounds very hodgepodge and mumbo-jumbo, but I hope some of it makes sense...
With a 3 1/2 month old at home now, my husband and I recently discussed how we will approach our son about many topics, to include lying.
For those parents out there, do you tell your children never to lie ever under any circumstance?
I don't mean to bring up an ethical debate, but is there EVER any instance where a lie could be neccessary and/or acceptable?
I know this could be "worst case" scenario, but, what if someone said to tell a lie, or the alternative would be that an entire village would be massacred?
Granted, these situations don't happen everyday, but they COULD.
Do you tell you encourage your children to think strongly about their actions and weigh outcomes constantly?
I admit...I'm really struggling with how to approach this topic with my children...
I have a bit of experience in this area. My greatest challenges came from foster children. Their lives were in chaos, their self-esteem in tatters, and they had no expectations of happy things to come. They were fully expecting threats and punishment and bad outcomes, so they would just toughen up and convince themselves they didn't care. Anna was a classic example, a little older than your daughter and therefore with even more ingrained habits to crack.
I started typing the story about Anna's transformation here, but it was getting so long it was ridiculous. I have copied what I wrote and will go and quickly put it in a hub. I think that will be much more useful to you than trying to compress it into this comment.
Before I go, however, I will offer you another suggestion that I hope you will follow. Please have your daughter tested for food allergies. Lots of food allergies, not just wheat and dairy.
I have written about my horror at discovering one of my now-adult daughters has food allergies. She is allergic to potatoes and honey, among other things but there was absolutely no hint for me .... other than her unexplained behavioural issues. I never linked the two.
If someone had suggested food allergy testing for my seemingly healthy daughter with a good appetite all those years ago, I may well have thought they were crazy. But I like to think I would have looked into it. I know it could have saved a lot of tears in my home if I had.
Give me a few hours and I'll write as much as I can about Anna. I'm thinking her story might help your daughter.
I've written a hefty hub. Hope it helps you. I'll stick the link in here so you can access it before waiting for the process of it ending up on my profile page.
http://longtimemother.hubpages.com/hub/ … everything
I'm sure it won't hold all the answers for you but there should be some good food for thought.
As someone who grew up with the kind of parents who were completely unable to deal with the truth about any important issue, I would assert the the right of children to the self-defence of lying when they feel it is appropriate.
And also the right of children to exercise the appropriate levels of contempt and despair in a hostile environment.
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