When Your Child Won't Stop Lying

Frustrated because your child continues to lie to you in spite of your disciplinary efforts? Dr. Phil has advice.

Understand that lying behavior occurs in both extremes of the parenting continuum.
If you're in a highly permissive environment, kids lie. If you're in a highly rigid and strict environment, kids lie. Parents may wonder, "Why would a child lie in a permissive environment if you give him everything and let him do anything he wants to do?" Children sometimes lie because they have been given too much freedom.

Lying may continue to cover up past lies.
If a child has been given too much freedom, he may have had to make choices that he wasn't equipped to make and done things that he now knows were wrong. Lying may continue in an effort to hide those things.

Know that lying is a learned but changeable behavior.

People do what works. If lying has gotten your child what he wants while escaping accountability from you, the payoff is a luring incentive to continue. It's a parent's responsibility not to let it continue by creating consequences.

Don't label your child a liar.
People live to their labels. When you label your child a liar, you run the risk of that label becoming an identification and mode of behavior for your child.

Stop believing the lies.
If you have caught your child lying, and in retrospect realize that you were naïve in believing far-fetched stories and excuses, acknowledge your accountability in that and stop being so gullible. You may still desperately want to believe that your child isn't lying to you, but chances are, if his lips are moving, he's lying.

Create consequences your child can predict.
Your child needs to know that if he chooses the lying behavior, he also chooses the consequences. Also, your child needs to be able to predict with 100 percent accuracy what the consequences will be if he lies — not just in words, but in deeds.

Enforce your own rules.
If you don't want to be lied to, enforce the punishment for lying. Many parents think they are giving out punishment when in fact, they aren't. As a parent, you have to be willing to choose the punishment and then police it. For example, if you say there will be no phone privileges for lying, there truly need to be no phone privileges, even if you have to take the phone out of the house.