“Honey, why are you sitting under the dining room table eating an entire cake?” a mom told me she had to ask her five year-old daughter in the middle of the night. “Satan woke me up and told me to come eat it, Mommy!”
All children experiment at some point with lying. Don’t worry, when yours does. She needs firm, consistent boundaries, no matter how cute she is or entertaining her lies are, like the girl in the previous story. She needs consequences every time. Take away something that’s meaningful to her. Give her some type of chore or task to repair the relationship. If lying becomes habitual, make the consequences grow in severity.
With girls, we also want to be on the lookout for manipulation. Manipulation is on the lying continuum and girls become adept early. She’s intuitive. She’s aware. She learns quickly how to work the situation and the people involved. Call her on it—both parents. Girls will often try to target their dads with manipulation. She may be cute when she lies or manipulates at 5, but she won’t be at 15. Catch the behavior now. Give her an opportunity to say what she means honestly and without manipulation.
Boys are equally vulnerable to lying, but often not as savvy. As boys are prone to acting before thinking, they’re likely a bit more clumsy in their attempts. I encourage parents to talk openly about how they’ve prayed for them to be honest and to have integrity. I believe boys benefit from knowing their parents have prayed specifically for them to be exposed early in an attempt to hide the truth.
I talk often with boys about a gift God gives moms called “intuition.” Over the years, countless mothers have told me they woke at 3am (despite being sound sleepers) and felt prompted to check their teenaged son’s bedroom, only to find he’d snuck out of the house. Or a mother who was cooking dinner and felt prompted to go to her eight year old son’s room and look at his iPad history.
Most children discover lying for the first time somewhere between two and four years of age. If we can see experimentation with lying as a normal part of our child’s intellectual and emotional development, we are better prepared to respond appropriately. Avoid setting the stage for your son to go deeper into a lie by asking questions like “Did you break the vase?” when you’re aware he did. Respond to the behavior rather than setting him up to say “no, I didn’t,” when he very clearly did. Define integrity with your sons as doing what’s right when no one else is watching.