Parenting children

The Truth about Lying

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Lying is one of those things that’s as old as Adam and Eve. And whether it’s a little white lie told to spare someone’s feelings, or a biggie – everyone, at some point or another, has fallen prey to the temptation.

So when I noticed my 6 year old foster daughter lying outright, I wasn’t too upset. In our house, there’s a zero tolerance policy about lying. The kids know that as long as they tell the truth, they won’t get into any trouble (beyond the natural consequences that would normally occur from their actions).

Up until now, simple consequences and consistency have worked wonderfully with her and her sister. So I figured the same would work now: explain to her lying is not okay, and then a consequence each time she lies, no matter what. And of course, praise when she tells the truth, even though it may be have been difficult for her.

So I was really surprised to see that not only did that not work, but she was lying even more than usual! And not just lying, but lying complete with tears and protestations – a real dramatic performance. And it wasn’t only about big things – she was even lying about things that didn’t matter to anyone at all, things which she knew I would never even blink an eye about.

After watching her and thinking about it for a day or so, I finally figured out why she was lying, and why there was suddenly such a downturn in her behavior. I think you’ll find it interesting, because it shows how critical it is that we understand how our children’s learning deficits affect how they learn in school, and at home.

Here’s what I realized: N.’s sequencer is still out of whack.

To help you understand what I mean, let me explain what the sequencer does, and why that had a critical impact.

Think of the sequencer as a train that goes from one station to the other. It’s job is to help us bring information – usually auditory, from one part of the brain, to the next one in line.

All language, whether spoken or written, is sequential. Whether you’re reading one word or ten, hearing a song, or telling a story, you need to do it in the right order in order to understand or be understood.

But kids whose language development is weak, are stronger in association. Their minds work like a bumblebee on speed. Their thoughts seem to be everywhere but where they should be – sharply focused on the task at hand. That’s great for creativity, but lousy for learning consequences.

That meant that every time N. received a consequence – positive or negative- about lying, she didn’t connect it directly to her behavior.

Picture this:  I ask N. “Did you do it?” She insists, with tears and beseeching worthy of an Emmy, that “No! I NEVER did that!!” Whereupon incontrovertible evidence presents itself, showing that she told a lie.

I then gravely tell her that she told a lie, which she ruefully admits. That of course leads to a consequence, and an explanation (brief) afterwards of why it wasn’t okay. Sounds fine, right?

Well here is how N. interpreted it:

I told a lie  - I told the truth- I got punished.

Well of course this wrought havoc, since according to that reasoning she lost out either way: tell the truth, and you get punished, tell a lie, and you get punished. Of course she should have realized that she didn’t tell the truth at first, and that’s why she got punished. But she didn’t.

After a bit of thought, here’s what I did:

First, I took away the consequence, and simply reminded her that she has to tell the truth.

Second, I stopped asking her if she was telling a lie if I knew the truth already. I realized that it simply confused her or tempted her to lie. (Hint: do as I say, not as I do J).

And that was it! Problem solved! It took about two or three days until “the truth and nothing but the truth,” was being proclaimed throughout our not- so -quiet halls.






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  • Rachel Sep 9,2012 at 11:41 am

    Thanks Zachary!

    If there’s anything specific you want me to write about, just let me know!

  • Zachary Sep 9,2012 at 4:46 am

    I have not found many blogs that contain such consistently readable and interesting content as is
    on offer here, you deserve the time it takes to share my admiration of your hard work.
    Bless you.

  • Rachel Sep 4,2012 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks Tobias! Glad you found it useful.

  • Heel Lift Sep 4,2012 at 11:15 am

    It makes a change to find good content for once, I was getting sick of the constant
    drivel I find of late, respect.

  • Rachel Oct 31,2011 at 8:48 pm

    My pleasure Sandy!

  • sandy Oct 31,2011 at 7:27 pm

    Thank you, Rachel. Once again, really helpful. I think reframing this as a discipline issue instead of trying to convince her of the truth and get her to remember really simplifies things.

  • Rachel Oct 27,2011 at 11:07 pm

    That sounds familiar! I had the same thing with N’s younger sister! She absolutely insisted that what she said was true, and nothing worked to convince her. In the end, I simply treated it as a discipline issue. I decided that the problem is not my ability to convince her that she’s wrong – that was impossible anyway. The solution was that she needed to accept what I said, even though she wasn’t happy about it.

    So, I explained gently but firmly, “Mommy said that you already had a piece of cake today. I know you’d like some more, but that’s it for today.” Any protestation, arguments, etc. after that resulted in a time-out.

    When she came out, I asked her (as I always do when they go into time-out) “Why did you go in time-out?” Whereupon she tells me what she did, has to apologize, and then with my permission, can go back to playing.

    It worked quite well. It wasn’t harsh, and she learned within a week or two to stop. And really, it wasn’t lying at all, from her point of view, because I truly don’t think she even remembered if the action took place.

    BTW- As of now, she does very occasionally still lie, but immediately when I ask her if it’s the truth, she says “no.” So somehow it did give her a stronger awareness of telling the truth.

  • sandy Oct 27,2011 at 5:11 pm

    Oh my goodness! This is really, really helpful! My 7yo is really having a problem with this. I could use some insight into why she lies (other than the fact that we are all tempted). Example: “Can I have some ice cream.” “No, you had that piece of candy earlier.” “No I didn’t.” I then remind her with as much specific detail as I can and she still insists that she hasn’t had any sweets. Of course I go with what I know to be true, but I can’t seem to get her to understand/admit to the truth. I’ve tried saying things like, “You WISH you hadn’t had that candy earlier, so you could have ice cream now, but you did. Maybe we’ll have ice cream tomorrow.” I still seem to be getting nowhere. Any help you can give here would be greatly appreciated!

  • Rachel Oct 25,2011 at 11:23 pm

    I do agree that kids are just tempted to lie – that’s the way kids (and adults) are. It’s a powerful temptation. And we do take lying seriously. In my house, there are 2 things that are BIG no-no’s: lying, and acting or speaking disrespectfully to parents.

    Thank goodness I’m not the type to excuse unacceptable behavior because other people do it, or because it’s “natural!”

    I just meant to clarify that sometimes the interventions we think will work with LD kids for common behavioral issues, don’t work.

  • Laughwithusblog Oct 25,2011 at 10:50 pm

    Hmm. I don’t think sequencing is our problem in this area, just a sinful heart! I take lying very seriously. Yes it is common, but it is also in the list of 7 things God hates.

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