Four Keys to Guide your Child from Lying to Loving the Truth!

Today’s post is provided by Jim and Lynne Jackson. Jim and Lynne are speakers, authors, and parent coaches, with over fifty years of combined professional experience working with children, teens, and families. In 2002 they founded Connected Families to guide parents toward peace, connection, and authentic faith in their homes. They have co-authored How to Grow a Connected Family and Discipline That Connects With Your Child’s Heart. 

Jim and Lynne will be speaking at the 2017 Hearts at Home conferences! Registration is now open for the April 21-22 conference in Peoria, Illinois! Mark and I will be joining Jim and Lynne and over a dozen other speakers for a powerful conference that will recharge your mom batteries for sure! Register now to get your top workshop choices!

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Kids are bound to lie and parents are bound to catch them… and then punish or lecture them. Unfortunately, this can spiral into a contentious cat-and-mouse game, as kids get craftier and parents get angrier.

In our work with parents, we have seen that treating lying with grace AND placing a high value on truth-telling powerfully opens children’s hearts to the Holy Spirit’s conviction about lying and honesty.

Here are four ways to make that practical:

  1. Acknowledge the gift-gone-awry. One thing that helps build bridges of trust if your child struggles with lying, is to acknowledge he just might be using a few good “gifts gone awry” to do it… like creativity, confidence, good memory, and even a desire to keep the peace. Our son Noah struggled for a little while with truth-telling. He was definitely a “get along with everyone” kind of kid that didn’t want to disappoint us. We named that good trait and then asked, “this is not the most helpful way I’ve seen you use it, however. It’s important that we keep a close, trust-based relationship. What are your ideas about that?”
  2. Affirm truth-telling. When you know your child might be tempted to lie, set them up to tell the truth. Instead of firmly asking “Did you brush your teeth?” say, “Let’s quick check your toothbrush before you leave. Do you think I’ll find it wet or dry?” Then, when the child says, “It’s still dry.” You can respond by affirming the true answer. “You could have lied about that but you didn’t. When you tell the truth like this it helps me trust you more. Thanks! I really appreciate that.”

    Parents can also help children learn to value honesty as they “catch them telling the truth” without prompting. Kids tell the truth much more often than they lie. Especially for younger kids, listen to a child tell a story about her day, or ask a child his favorite food or color or vacation. Any time you hear truth you have a chance to affirm, “You’re telling the truth, aren’t you? That feels good, doesn’t it?”
  3. Value honesty in anger. A great opportunity to affirm truth-telling is when kids are angry and spouting off. Parents can affirm the gift of honest expression “gone awry”. “You are really ticked off about this! I think it would be best to talk about it when you’re calmer but I really appreciate how honest you were with me just now. Even if it’s hard to hear, that’s really important to me.” This sends strong messages to the child – Your honesty is more important to me than your delivery; Heart connection is more important than outward behavior.
  4. Teach about God’s conviction. Lying is a valuable opportunity to help your kids learn to tune into that subtle, unsettled feeling of God-given conviction, which truly is the “best consequence” to teach integrity. At a relaxed time, talk with your kids about that “knot in their stomach” they might experience when they lie or do something else that is hurtful. Help them view this as a good thing, a sign of maturity, even a gift. It’s God’s protection of their life and relationships.  The Holy Spirit guides us into truth, and that truth — including the truth about our sin — sets us free (John 16:13, John 8:32). Share an example of a time you lied or were deceitful, how you felt God’s conviction, what you did to make it right, and how you felt afterward.We gently helped our son Noah learn to tune into that “Holy Spirit knot in his stomach.” He began to come to us (sometimes in tears), “Mom, Dad… I lied again.” This gave us a rich opportunity to affirm his tender conscience and honesty, and extend forgiveness. It was the beginning of his growth to the meticulously honest young man he is today.

When we respond to our children in this way, we not only create the closeness that is fertile soil for honesty, but it draws our kids toward the gracious, come-alongside role of the Holy Spirit in their lives. And what can be better than that?!  

What about you? What strategies have you used to help your kids move from lying to telling the truth?

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