How to Punish a Child for Lying

By Rosenya Faith
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You want to believe your youngster will always be truthful -- perhaps incapable of dishonesty and deception -- but it’s nearly inevitable that one day a falsehood will slip from your child’s lips. How you handle the infraction can help to determine just how many more lies you’ll have to contend with in the future. Punishment is one facet of discipline that can help your child learn from his mistake to make better choices in the future, but be sure to temper punishment with understanding, good examples and praise for good behaviors.

Step 1

Dig down to the underlying reason for the lie. While older children can deliberately choose to mislead or give false information, very young children sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between reality and imagination. Lying to get out of trouble, to avoid punishment or to impress or get attention from others often doesn't begin until a child reaches at least 5 or 6. Before this age, it’s possible your youngster isn’t aware of his misdeed, but is mistaking her own thoughts or imaginings for reality.

Step 2

Explain the natural consequences that come from lying if your child is old enough to lie deliberately. When she lies, talk with her about how she is feeling to be caught in a lie; likely, it makes her feel embarrassed, afraid of consequences and even a little ashamed. Be honest about how her lie makes you feel with statements such as, “It makes me feel very sad that you lied to me.” Explain that lies lead to distrust. If she continues to tell lies, you won't be able to trust her and neither will other family members or friends who catch her in a lie.

Step 3

Help her learn from your own childhood mistakes. Talk about a few instances in which you were caught in a lie as a child and the consequences that ensued. Tell her what you learned from the experience and why it is important to you to be truthful.

Step 4

Let the natural consequences help to correct your child's behavior. When she loses your trust or the trust of peers or family from his lack of honesty, she will have to earn back that trust.

Step 5

Enforce additional consequences for repeated offenses. If your child continues to lie regardless of the natural consequences, explain that there will be additional punishment for future infractions. Start by letting your child know there will be a separate -- additional -- punishment enforced if she is caught lying: First for the lie and then again for the original infraction, thus eliminating the benefit he might feel comes from lying. You can enforce punishments, such as removing a favorite techno-toy, grounding her from her friends or other logical consequences, but be sure to talk to your child beforehand to ensure she is aware of the consequences that will result if she continues to lie.

Step 6

Recognize your child's attempts at honesty in the future. If your child admits to a wrongdoing, praise her for telling the truth, even if the wrongdoing requires discipline.

Step 7

Be a role model of honesty. Children often learn through modeling their parents’ behavior. By letting your child see that you are honest on a regular basis and don’t justify lies, big or small, you are providing her with an example to follow.

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.