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How to Discuss White Lies with your Children

How to Discuss White Lies with your Children

posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - December 30th, 2013

White Lies

We have discusses what to do when children lie earlier in the blog. It is difficult to teach your child why lies are bad and when lies can be good. Today we are going to discuss how to encourage honesty in your child and how to teach them about white lies.

When children do tell you the truth, don’t tell you lies, about something – they broke a vase because they were playing basketball in the house and they’re not allowed to do that – they confess right away. You’re about to get upset about them breaking one of your rules, but if they tell the truth, you have to acknowledge that. Take a moment to say, “I’m glad that you told me the truth about this. I’m not happy that you were playing basketball in the house and you know the rule is that you can’t do that. I want you to follow that rule. As a consequence you’re going to have to pay out of your pocket money to repair the vase or buy a new vase,” or something along those lines. You recognize and praise their honesty with you, and you also let them know there are consequences for their actions.

That’s a really important distinction for parent’s to make in their children’s lives. You need to praise their honesty to encourage it in the future. If you praise your child for telling the truth, they will continue to be honest in the future. Of course, with all this focus on telling the truth, it’s important to remember that some lies are important. You won’t want your child to ONLY tell the truth.

Once your child is old enough, you can start teaching them about white lies. You need to teach your children that sometimes they should not say something or lie if being honest means being mean. Just like how we really don’t like liars we also don’t like people who are very blunt to the point of not thinking about the consequences of what they’re saying. That can estrange your child from their friends and a lot of society. So you want to give them a strategy to talk about it and model that behavior to the child.

You can start off with pro-social white lies. You can show them a gift you received that you may already have, or just do not care for. However, you tell the person who gave you the gift, “Yes, I really like this gift that you gave me.” You can then explain to your child the difference between that lie and a different lie, and why you told that lie. You can explain that that white lie was told to spare the other person’s feelings. Your children can start to understand the distinctions there.

Again, it’s about modeling the behavior that you wish to see in the children. If you tell the children that you don’t want them to lie but then they turn around and watch you lie to the telemarketer on the phone, telling the telemarketer, “No, I’m very busy right now, I can’t talk to you,” while you’re sitting watching the TV or something, or you lie to the person to get your child into the movies for half price and lie about the child’s age, that’s sending mixed messages. Frank discussion about why people lie is the best way to encourage good behavior in your children.

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