Exaggerating the Truth
Why you shouldn't ignore it: It may not seem like a big deal if your child says he made his bed when he barely pulled up the covers, or if he tells a friend that he's been to Walt Disney World when he's never even been on a plane, but it's important to confront any type of dishonesty head-on. "Lying can become automatic if your child learns that it's an easy way to make himself look better, to avoid doing something that he doesn't want to do, or to prevent getting into trouble for something he's already done," Dr. Wyckoff says.
How to stop it: When your child fibs, sit down with him and set the record straight. Say, "It would be fun to go to Disney World, and maybe we can go some day, but you shouldn't tell Ben that you've been there when you really haven't." Let him know that if he doesn't always tell the truth, people won't believe what he says. Look at his motivation for lying, and make sure he doesn't achieve his goal. For example, if he said that he brushed his teeth when he didn't, have him go back and brush them. When 5-year-old Sophia Hohlbaum started stretching the truth, her mom, Christine, told her the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf," in which a boy who'd been lying cries for help for real and people ignore him. "Storytelling helps kids view the problem from the outside in," says Hohlbaum, author of Diary of a Mother: Parenting Stories and Other Stuff. "Now Sophia's very straightforward with me?and she's very self-righteous if I don't believe her."
Copyright© 2005. Reprinted with permission from the March 2005 issue of Parents magazine.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.