Every parent wants to raise a child they can always trust (Even the worst criminals would like to trust their kids). But what happens when your child starts lying to you? What do you do? What most parents do is to start a series of lessons on the ills of lying. But while giving a child lessons on telling the truth is definitely part of what should be done, it is NEITHER the only thing NOR even the first thing to do.

Before you start giving those lessons, ask a few questions…

1. Have You Been A Good Example?

This is something many people are often hypocritical about. But your child mirrors you more than anyone else (That is, unless you have been a very distant parent in which case, you have no major influence on your child — Pitiful as it may be).

If daddy or mummy does it, then it must be right or, at least, ok. Bear that in mind. Be what you want your child to become.

What if a lie slips out of your mouth?

Don’t you ever try to justify it by your words or actions. If you are caught lying, own up and apologize (Of course that’s something most parents would rather die than do). Even though it is clear to your child you’ve lied, by admitting you lied and apologizing, you establish that it is NOT acceptable to tell lies.

2. Have You Been High Handed?

Everybody weighs the consequences of their actions or reactions. Yes, your child knows he or she has done something wrong. But can he or she cope with the level of punishment that you are likely to mete out? Punishments should be commensurate to the offences committed (You don’t get a death sentence for parking in the wrong spot — You get a ticket).

Yes, parents should ensure that their kids learn that every misdeed attracts a repercussion. However, you should ensure that you do NOT get your kids scared to the point that they’ll do everything within their powers NOT to get caught.

Help them develop the strong resolve to always speak the truth. Reward them sometimes (Yes, much to their own surprise) when they tell you the truth (even though they expected to be punished). The truth in life is that you eventually get rewarded for being honest.

3. Do You Have Unrealistic Expectations?

Every child craves his/her parents’ approval. So if you expect your child to pluck a star before you praise him or her, you are sowing seeds for deception. Your child may begin to lie to you just to impress you. So check if you have unrealistic expectations. This is almost always the case if the nature of the lies is to impress.

Let your child know you adore him/her even for the very little good deeds.

4. Do You Have A Lying Adult In His/Her Life?

Since you are NOT the only influence in your child’s life, it’s important that you check to see if there’s a lying adult in his/her life. The bigger the authority figure lying, the bigger the problem. Confront such an adult and help them change if possible. If the person is someone you really can’t confront or help change, remove your child from his/her sphere of influence.

This may prove very difficult if your relationship with such a person is very important to you. But then you’d have to choose between raising a liar and keeping such a relationship.

Also take your time to explain to your child that such an individual’s behavior is unacceptable. This shouldn’t be difficult if you’ve cultivated the right relationship with your child.

5. Does He/She Have A Liar As A Friend?

Evil association corrupts good manners. It is particularly true when dealing with peer pressure. If your child has a group of friends that think it’s cool to lie, he or she would soon start lying. So always try to find out the core values of your kids’ friends.

Now after you’ve answered these questions and made the necessary adjustments, you can start the lessons. But never make the mistake of talking to your child without asking these critical questions. That is, if you really want to see a positive and lasting change.

I recently read this article titled ‘Why do people lie?‘ and it certainly got me thinking about lying and denial in our human nature.