A Kid’s Problem With “Alternative Facts”

Q: We are having honesty issues with our 6-year-old daughter. I’ve heard, “Ask no questions, and they’ll tell you no lies.” However there are times when we really require honesty, but are finding that she can be a bit murky with answers. For example, she will claim she’s hungry to get a snack earlier, claim she did not get out the umbrella to get out of trouble, or say she’s had a nap in order to stay up later in the evening.

It’s gotten the point that we are never sure if it’s the truth or just another lie. When asked a straightforward question, she is unable to give a straight answer, going from yes to no to maybe, or no answer at all, especially when she knows it’s important.

We have removed TV from her schedule, which she loves, and now require that she gets 30 stickers in a row (1 a day) for a day of honesty and straight, clean answers. When she lies, she goes to bed early that day. Have you any opinions on if we should continue the program? Or other suggestions on how else we could handle this problem?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: Ah, yes, the child with trouble telling the truth isn’t something new—this is an age-old problem! Yes, you should require honesty, but since your daughter has trouble with stating the facts then you need to stop asking her for honesty at this time. Some kids go through a phase where they can’t seem to tell the truth. I suspect she’ll outgrow this with a little assist from mom and dad. Here are my suggestions.

Stop asking her questions—and she will have fewer opportunities to lie. Use statements only with her and don’t let her drag you into arguing that “she didn’t do it” or whatever she might respond to your statement. Make your best reasonable guess as to her role in whatever situation and go with that.

Don’t engage in arguments. Just because a child wants to argue doesn’t mean the adult has to respond. This is key—you are the only one capable of walking away or not saying anything in response to the gauntlet your daughter throws down. For example, you notice the umbrella has been broken and you had told your daughter earlier not to play with it. You reasonable deduce that she has disobeyed. You tell her, “You broke the umbrella.” She responds, “No, I didn’t break it!” You repeat, “You broke the umbrella. Now X will happen.” She responds, “You’re always blaming me for everything!” You walk away.

Decide ahead of the situation what Daughter will be allowed to do. For example, you already know what you’ll do if Daughter asks for a snack or to stay up later, etc., regardless of whether she’s hungry, napped, etc. In other words, don’t let Daughter dictate these things—you already have a plan for the day. For instance, you decide to eat dinner earlier because of evening schedules, so you decide no snacks in the afternoon for the kids. You’ve noticed Daughter seems more tired lately, so you decide no late nights for the week. That sort of thing.

You also read stories about the importance of truthfulness. Stories like the Boy Who Cried Wolf, George Washington and the Cherry Tree and other books or tales provide a safe way for children to explore what it means to be dishonest and what the consequences are for those who lie. Literature is great at helping children realize their own faults.

For now, I’d stop the Honesty chart. Sometimes, when too much attention is paid to a particular problem like lying, it morphs into an even bigger one. Overall, stop talking about honesty and stop asking her for honesty for two to three months, and see if it doesn’t resolve itself.

Honesty—The Best Policy?

By Lillian Duncan

Honesty is the best policy, right? So in all honesty, I have to tell you I’m not sure what I was thinking when I signed up to write a post for this blog since I’m not a parent and my writing focus is mostly suspense and mystery.

But I must have had something in mind when I did sign up but the idea is long gone!

However, speaking of honesty: children can be brutally honest, especially at the most inopportune times.

I’m very short, only 4 foot, 8 inches. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at the grocery store minding my own business when a child will stare at me. Usually one of two things will happen after that. Either they just keep staring, in which case I smile back and give them a little wave or eventually they will say to their mother, “Look at that short lady.”

The mother usually is horrified and so embarrassed.

What can you do to avoid this type of situation? Before I retired, I was a speech therapist to school children and often had to deal with helping children learn the pragmatics of language (pragmatics are about the social use of language).

Here are a few ways you can stop this situation from happening with your own child.

Use the teachable moments. Teachable moments happen often, usually at the worst time possible. Still, as a parent or teacher you need to take the time to teach in the moment.

When your child says something inappropriate, take a moment to tell them why it was the wrong thing to say. And when they say, “But it’s true,” you need to say, “It may be true but there was no reason to hurt someone’s feelings.”

Roleplaying. Dolls and action figures are a great way to help a child learn what is appropriate to say to someone else. You can take turns saying nice and mean things to the doll and exploring how those things might make the doll feel. This helps teach empathy, and that’s a good thing.

Games. I’m a big believer in using games to teach all sorts of skills. Why? Because they’re fun and they work. If you look hard enough, there may even be some commercial games out there that could work. If not, you can always try a teacher store. And last but not least create your own game.

Create a game board, then write mean and nice things on index cards. When your child labels them correctly as mean or nice, they get to roll the dice. You do the same when it’s your turn, but be sure to slip in why it’s mean or nice. First one to the finish line wins!

Yes, honestly is the best policy but it’s also important for your child to learn not every thoughts need to be expressed.

About Lillian Duncan

Lillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem. Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian, you may visit her at www.lillianduncan.net or www.lillian-duncan.com. She also has a devotional blog at www.PowerUpWithGod.com.