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Kids Who Lie
Q: My six-year-old son has started lying. We can tell he's lying just by the look on his face or because he won't look at us at all. He's lying about things that he doesn't even need to lie about. We don't understand why he's doing this. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Some children go through a period around ages six or seven when they try telling lies to see what happens. Dishonesty is one of the most difficult behaviors to correct, though, because the fact that adults don't always know that something is a lie can be reinforcing in itself.
Make sure that your son knows that your family values honesty and that you expect him to always tell the truth. Tell him that just as with the boy who cried wolf, once people know that someone tells lies they don't trust him or her anymore. This means that when you suspect that he may not be telling the truth, you will check to find out.
Set up a positive reward system so that when you learn he has told the truth, he can earn computer time or a walk around the block just with you; when he has not told the truth he does not get computer time or a walk. The key to any system like this is to give the rewards consistently and over a long period of time.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.