Lying is something is something every kid discovers and parents quickly jump in to correct the behavior. Coping with the lies kids and parents tell can be easier by using pop culture and Netflix to bridge the gap.
In a rare, but still insightful moment, my eleven-year-old son schooled me. While my parental ego was a bit wounded, those moments when children teach us something or check our morals are so precious. It started while watching one of the many holiday movies Netflix offers. While the secret about Santa was blown for him when he was younger, he suddenly muted the show and looked at me with an eyebrow raised asking, “So, all those years you and dad claimed Santa delivered presents to ‘good boys and girls’ – it wasn’t true.” I started in my explanation that Santa isn’t an actual man, but more of a spirit of giving that lives in everyone. He nodded and raised his hand to interrupt saying, “I remember and understand that. BUT, you lied. For years, you and dad lied.“
He was right. Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny are just a few typical lies we tell children. Sometimes it’s not as complex and the lies are, “Oh, sorry honey, they were out of candy, so I got you carrot sticks instead!” or “Timmy didn’t invite you to his birthday party because I already told his mother we’d be out of town and couldn’t make it.” Parents lie to children whether it be to give them the magic of Santa or a Fairy, to make a difficult situation easier to handle, or spare their feelings. Children typically use lying to get out of trouble. My 3-year-old is infamous for getting into candy and vehemently denying it while sporting a chocolate mustache.
So, how do you cope and help your child understand the lies kids and parents tell?
*First, help your child learn the difference between lies that are harmful and lies that are meant to spare feelings or ease a bad situation. Debbie Nystrom, manager at the Mothercraft Brookfield Place, Centre for Early Development in Toronto, explained to Today’s Parent that children don’t really understand lying until the pre-school age range. If your child sees you lying and then you tell him or her not to lie in a different situation later on, your authority is questioned. Talking about the differences in creating imaginative stories, lying to get out of trouble, and the face-saving lies you tell will help a child understand why one form of lying is harmful while another is accepted.
*Avoid severe punishments. Kids lie to get out of trouble and you might have a harder time ever getting them to admit the truth if there is a severe punishment waiting when the truth does come out. Instead, convey the negative outcomes the lie will have and ask your child how they’d feel if the roles were reversed. Example, “How would you feel if Tommy lost took your toy and lied, telling you he didn’t have it?” The practice will take some time, but if your child comes to you, confessing a lie and asking for help, and you freak out and punish them, they will only fear telling the confiding the truth in the future.
*Explain how lies break your trust. Example, “If you lie about whose house you are hanging out at, how am I supposed to trust you and give you permission to go to your friends’ house in the future?” Once children see that honesty will earn trust and the coveted permission they are seeking to do their desired task, and lying breaks that trust and doesn’t earn the privilege, they will learn a life lesson.
The common threads with all of these tactics are dialogue and understanding. An easy way to open the gates on the topic is with pop culture. Movies and TV shows can give families a topic or common ground to start on. Thanks to Netflix, you have thousands of programs to choose from!
For little tikes and tots try:
1. The Gruffalo
2. Care Bears: S1E8, Untruths and Consequences
3. Veggie Tales in the House: S1E9, Lie-monade
4. Little Princess: S1E9, I Didn’t Do It
For your bigger kids give these titles a whirl:
1. Totally Spies!
2. A.N.T. Farm: S3E9, Pants on Fire
3. Spy School
4. Jessie: S1E14, World Wide Web of Lies
Teens and parents can find a common ground with:
3. The Bling Ring
4. Pretty Little Liars
How do you handle lying? Do you have a favorite show, book, or place that helps you start a dialogue when it comes to lying? Share your tips and thoughts on lying in the comment section below!