In truth (pun intended), children live very much in the moment. They are largely motivated by either avoiding pain or experiencing pleasure. This is why telling kids that too much sugar will give them cavities has little impact on their decision to swipe that handful of brownies; the enjoyment of sweets far outweighs any later costs, like someday having to succumb to the dentist’s drill.
Here are some tips for helping your daughter speak more truthfully:
• Consider the payoff. What is your daughter getting when she tells a lie? It may be that she is avoiding the drudgery of boring tasks; this is often the case with kids who pretend they have showered or brushed their teeth when in fact they have created elaborate schemes to avoid doing so, like wetting the toothbrush or running the shower without getting into it.
• Avoid shaming and blaming. Putting a child on the defensive by “catching” her in a lie will not further your cause in any way; in fact, it may simply teach her to become a better liar. Avoid the temptation to step into lawyer-mode to prove to your daughter that she’s being dishonest.
• Speak from your heart. “Sweetheart, I know I sometimes get upset, and it may be hard to tell me what’s really going on because you might be afraid of how I’ll react. But it matters to me that we’re close, and when I think you may not be saying something true, it affects the trust we share.”
• Tell the truth. If your daughter routinely sees you telling lies, it will be hard to insist that she speak honestly. ‘Nuff said.
• Think Big Picture. Ultimately, you’re not raising a child; you’re raising an adult. While it may be tempting to focus on sending your daughter to school fresh and clean, it is far more important to help her learn that being dishonest is not a quality consistent with being the wonderful person she is meant to be.
• Make it safe to speak openly. Invite your daughter to share what is behind some of her choices, assuring her that you won’t get mad or deliver lectures or ultimatums. Be that the calm, confident captain of the ship that I talk about, focusing on solving the problem rather than speaking from your own anger or hurt.