Help your child see the whole truth. Often a child
will remember only part of what happened. “Sam
hit me,” may be the truth, but not the whole truth.
Your child may have pinched Sam first. Use
gentle prodding to coax your child to the full truth.
Don’t force your child to lie. Too much pressure
or punishment that is too severe can lead a child to
lie in order to avoid extremely unpleasant
Leave the grilling to the detectives. If you don’t
get a spontaneous confession, don’t give the third
degree. Insisting on an admission of guilt is
unnecessary. If there is punishment due, impose
it. If you don’t know for sure that your child is
guilty, don’t press it.
Connect what the child says to reality. When a
child tells you about the elephant that is bigger
than a house, talk to him about how big the
elephant really was. Tolerate an inexact match
between what a child says and what is real.
Saying something like, “It seemed to be about that
big to you, didn’t it?” is effective.
Call attention to the real world. When young
children tell “tall tales,” listen and enjoy their
imagination. Avoid punishing or humiliating the
child. Let the child know, however, that you
know the story is made up. Say something like,
“You sure can tell exciting stories.”
Trust your child. Truth and trust are inseparable:
if you are truthful, you will be trusted; and if you
are trusted, you will be truthful. Explain that
when people tell the truth, other people trust them
and believe what they say. Tell the story of The
Boy Who Cried Wolf to show the connection
between truth and trust.
Make honesty your policy. Your example is the
most powerful teacher. Be truthful in all your
dealings—large and small. Don’t tell your child
that getting a shot won’t hurt, when you know it
may. Don’t tell the ticket taker your five year old
is three to pay a reduced fare. Don’t tell the
neighbor you have no idea who trampled her
flowerbed when you know your dog is the guilty
party. Even “little white lies” can compromise a
child’s understanding of the value of honesty. If you fib, and your child catches you at it, admit that
you made a mistake. That way your child will feel
free to own up in a similar situation.
The common solution to lying is to make the
punishment for lying more severe than all other
punishments. Unfortunately, this solution builds up a
more intense and punitive environment. It is far wiser
to foster honesty than to suppress dishonesty.
Your preschooler may invent the imaginary playmate.
Often parents are called upon to feed, cloth, and
otherwise adopt the make-believe friend. This
behavior is common with some children and nothing
to be alarmed about.
Often imaginary “friends” are invented to take the
sting out of reaping the consequences for something
done by the child. In the case of cookies eaten before
lunchtime, for example, the child may blame her
"friend" for lifting the cookies. A parental response
of, "You tell your friend we don't eat cookies before
lunchtime in this house," may be sufficient and the
parent doesn't have to get upset with the child.
At other times a child may blame something on the
imaginary friend because the parental standards for
appropriate behavior are too high. The child is simply
trying to tell the parent he can't live up to this standard.