1. Fear of punishment
Parents often overlook their responses to negative behavior and don’t realize that it can foster dishonesty for future situations.
The usual series of events is this:
Child acts out with a negative behavior.
Your child will act out. They will make mistakes and mess up. This is unavoidable. It is how you treat them in this process that sets them up to feel no need to lie.
Parent responds with intensity.
Parents respond this way to reveal their extreme dissatisfaction in hopes that this response will keep them from doing it again. The thought process being that if you scare them or punish them hard enough they won’t make that same decision again.
When your child is younger it is harder for them to lie and cover things up. As they grow older and learn that you are a not a safe person to come to when they have made a mistake it’s easier for them to lie, and hope you don’t find out.
Yes, they know they will have to deal with your extreme dissatisfaction and frustration if you do find out. But the reason they are indifferent to this is because to them it seems that whether they came to you initially with the truth or you find out later your response will be the same.
Solution: Respond gently even when a seemingly big event has taken place. It’s okay to address negative behavior and help them correct it, but this is much different than shaming/punishing them for it.
2. Fear of being misunderstood
Your kids may desire to tell the truth but the fear of being misunderstood outweighs their ability to show honesty. They are afraid of you as the parent, afraid of your reaction, and your response. Show them that you can listen and choose to understand. Set out to hear their heart and see where they are coming from.
Your kids need to know that your goal is to always seek to understand first and address second. This way they feel comfortable to speak honestly with you moving forward.
Solution: Tune into your children. Express that you long to listen to them before moving forward to discipline. Affirm you are available to understand what they want to communicate. Be patient, sometimes this takes time and intentionality.
3. False beliefs about right from wrong
It’s your job to impart strong core values to your children about who they are and how they ought to carry themselves.
They could be lying to you about their internet use, screen time, talking to a girl or boy, homework, etc, because they have come to believe that you think _____ is wrong and they think it’s right.
This causes them to withhold the truth from you because of an internal belief that you are trying to keep them away from good things rather than them seeing your heart and knowing you have good intentions for them.
Solution: Have the hard conversations. Impart core values that will help your children navigate the complexities of life and decisions they have to make. Make it your goal to point them towards the fullness of God’s design for each area of their lives.
Conclusion: It may seem like your children are bent towards dishonesty. This doesn’t have to be your story. Create an environment in your home where all things can be shared and where your child can be directed into the truth of who they are in Christ.