Parents are biased.
Now that I’ve put that out there, let me just say that my daughter is an amazing artist. See how that works? No, seriously she has the ability to put onto canvas images that grab your attention. She just perceives things in ways most do not.
Ashleigh started her art career early by practicing often. Sure, she would color like any other child, but she also loved the expressive freedom of a blank canvas. One such canvas was the white headboard of her bed. It was convenient, accessible, and primed. So on one particular day, after she composed a masterpiece on said headboard, my wife confronted her about the deed, “Ashleigh, did you color on your bed?” And, without hesitation, her answer was “no.”
Before we move on, let’s review: our goal as parents is to create a great normal for our children when they are young so that it will stand when they move into the dreaded teenage years. Lying is not a part of a great normal.
Having said that, our kids are going to do things that don’t fit into the expectations we may have for them. They will disobey us and at some point lie about it when we confront them. This happens to most kids before the age of five.
If our children are still in the pre-talking stage of life, this concept is beyond our scope of understanding. We believe when our child gets older, we will have an open and honest relationship with our child and they will be able to talk to us about anything. We believe our child will be the exception to the rule and never lie to us. Though we may not express this, every parent hopes for it.
We must teach our children that lying is never an option. If you do this effectively, they will grow up with honesty ingrained in their minds as the only acceptable course.
On the other hand, if lying is allowed to linger, just consider where your cute little innocent child might be headed: a life of deception, cheating, hiding, secrets, and telling lies on top of lies to cover their tracks. That is the type of teenager parents are praying that they do not end up with. It is not pretty, it will haunt you, and you will lay awake at night wondering where you went wrong.
So what should you do when your child tells a lie?
1. Check yourself. The first thing we must do is take a quick look inward to make sure that we are ready to deal with this. Pray and ask God for His wisdom to take over your mind. Make sure you are not angry, because this offense is huge and will require punishment. You are probably aware of this, but it bears repeating: never punish your child when you are angry. You might need to send them to their room in order to buy some time to calm down. The other thing that you need to check is to make sure you’re not laughing. When Kellie asked Ashleigh if she had colored on her headboard and it was so obvious she did, we had to fight off the desire to laugh at Ashleigh’s response.
2. Set them straight. There needs to be an explanation of the situation. Our children must understand lying is not normal and not a part of our family. They need to understand our family is about honesty and telling the truth. They also need to understand that lying will always deserve punishment. Obviously explain these things in terms your child can understand.
3. Make them cry. I know that sounds a little harsh, but from somebody who has watched this play out time and time again, the punishment for lying must hurt. I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking about a subject that needs much more space to discuss, but whatever punishment you decide on must be remembered. Clearly, I am not advocating any form of abuse. As a parent you should be aware of what type of punishment gets your child’s attention. This is an instance in which that type of punishment needs to be used.
4. Give them time to think. Your child needs some time alone after punishment to process all that has happened. They need time to let their emotions settle and deal with their conscience and the guilt they should be experiencing.
5. Love them big. Finally, there needs to be lots and lots of hugs. We need to reaffirm to our children that we love them and that we just don’t want them to make bad choices. This is a great time to ask if they understand why they received punishment for lying.
I have to admit this was not an easy post to write. There is not one single time that we will ever enjoy disciplining our children. It really does hurt us more than it does them, and they will never understand that until they have children of their own…and then you become the grandparent that spoils the mess out of them.