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My son has begun to lie fairly frequently over the past couple of months. He used to tell lies by making up stories that were fantastic and clearly not true. He has recently graduated to telling "bold face" lies. For example, when asked recently if he brushed his teeth, he calmly said "yes." My wife and I knew that he had not brushed his teeth, so we asked if he was sure. He calmly answered "yes" again. We then said that we were going to check if the brush was wet. His eyes got wide and he said "No! Don't do that!" We scolded him for this (verbally, no punishment was issued), but it doesn't seem to have helped.

I know that kids lie occasionally and it would not be realistic at all to expect that his lying would stop completely. However, it has gotten to a frequency and severity that is unacceptable lately. Can anyone recommend measures that my wife and I should take to abate this bad behavior?

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    We scolded him for this (verbally, no punishment was issued), but it doesn't seem to have helped. Have you tried punishing him for bad behavior? What about rewarding good behavior? I know that kids lie occasionally and it would not be realistic at all to expect that his lying would stop completely. If you don't expect it, why should your kid do it? (You and I know it's not realistic, but you and I also know that kids have no idea that it's not realistic. Use that.) – Patrick87 Sep 24 '15 at 1:40
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    How old is he? I'd say trying to get out of things easily is a normal developmental phase. It is up to you to keep checking on his statements until he realises that he will be caught each time. After you keep consistent checking for a while, he will give up lying if he knows it isn't worth it. (We used to have conversations like this: "Did you eat your lunch at school?" -"I did". -"And if I asked your teacher if you ate your lunch, what would she tell me?" -"That I didn't eat it.") – DadOfTwo Sep 24 '15 at 9:48
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    Did you see this – Ossum's Mom Sep 24 '15 at 20:59
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    @Patrick87 I remember lying as a child, about something trivial (did you move that screwdriver?) I recall that it was an experiment on my part. My dad knew I had moved it when he asked. I was punished severely (from my perspective, at least), and then afterwards, Dad explained that lying was especially bad because it could cause someone to get hurt and I'd have no way to foresee the full consequence. That was the first and last lie I told him until about high school age. In short, he made it crystal clear that he expected complete abstinence from lying, and I rose to meet that expectation. – Dan Henderson Oct 5 '15 at 13:40
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    Remember, you are in charge, you are the leader, and explaining to your son the why is useful, but in all reality until they reach certain ages they just don't fully understand. That reality goes for us adults too. Each comment here holds wisdom and the underlying value is that you must set and enforce expectations, lovingly. Having a 5 year old approve of your parenting is not as gratifying as a 22 year old say thank you for all you've done dad. Not sure why I picked 22 but you get the idea. Remember your end goal is for a fully functional adult, not a child who approves of what you do. – Adam Heeg Oct 5 '15 at 16:10
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This site has some very good stuff on understanding and helping to resolve lying.

Anecdotal:

The most success we had in this situation was to make a sticker chart where if the child told the truth when it would advantage him to lie he got a sticker. That actually broke his habit of immediately lying about things -- he had got so used to lying he would lie about ridiculous obvious things as a reflex without even thinking. We rewarded the good behaviour. I have got it wrong plenty of times though. Making our child understand that he lied and and then punishing that just resulted in more fear and therefore more lying, so I couldn't advise doing that!

Basically it seems to boil down to safety, trust, fear and love. Like most things with children.

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People, of any age, are far more likely to both remember and obey a rule when it is accompanied by a reason that the rule exists. It changes the rule from being "a restriction imposed by authority" to "a logical best course of action". And the reason should not be in the context of "why you must not lie" (you'll be punished), but rather as "why people must not lie":

Explain to your son that the reason it is so important that he not lie is that doing so could potentially cause something bad to happen, which he did not intend, and that would not have happened if he had told the truth. Give an example where the unintended consequence is more serious than he would expect from the lie itself, but be sure to cite a natural consequence of the lie, and not an imposed consequence of the lie's discovery. This is also a good opportunity to teach him empathy, if you can use an example where the consequence is not to himself, but to someone or something he cares about: a best friend, his favorite teacher, a pet, or perhaps even (caution may be advised regarding this last one, depending on family dynamics and the child's temperament - don't give ammunition to a child with anger issues) his parents.

Also, remember that children learn from the behavior of their parents and other role models. Be sure you set a good example of not lying yourself (or if you absolutely must lie, be sure he cannot catch you in it). "Do as I say, not as I do" tends to produce obedience only for as long as direct observation is occurring.

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