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In all honesty, is fibbing harmful?

Is your child a storyteller? A child’s storytelling is an important part of development. It’s how he or she sorts through what’s real and imagined in life. Kids learn the boundary between dreams and wishes as opposed to truth and facts. Fibbing is part of this process, and even though it’s also normal behavior, you need to take action and nip it in the bud.

‘I cannot tell a lie’

Fibs are motivated by everyday needs, such as the desire to please parents or avoid punishment. Whatever the reason, effective parents use a child’s fibbing as an opportunity to teach the value of honesty. These tips will help convert fibbing into truthfulness:

  • Don’t set traps. Interrogating your sticky-fingered kid over who ate the gumdrops only sets up an “I dunno” fib. Get to the point: “You ate candy without asking. Next time, please ask me first.”
  • Take it easy. A nonthreatening approach is the best fib-stopper. Try asking, “What happened?” instead of commanding, “I want an answer this minute!” Fearful children will try fibbing to avoid your scorn. They also learn the wrong lesson—telling the truth hurts and causes trouble.
  • Shut down the dungeon. When fibbing requires discipline, explain why the behavior was wrong. Use time-outs instead of tongue lashings, spankings or threats.
  • Drop all charges. Rather than make Johnny tearfully confess to fibbing about soiling the carpet, talk about the real issues instead: Honesty, responsibility and, most of all, that it’s OK to make mistakes.
  • Shoot straight. Cajoling the truth from a child with offers like “If you tell me what really happened, I won’t punish you” translates into kid-speak as “I can do anything and I won’t get into trouble.” Instead, remind your kids to own up to their behavior and that they’ll wind up in big trouble if they lie.