How to End Lying: The Cliff Notes Version


How-to-End-Lying-Author-Bryan-PostWould you be surprised to find out that there is a simple formula guaranteed to end your battle with lying? We are going to walk through this formula with the foundational understanding. If we can get really good with this approach with lying, we can begin to apply it to other behaviors. You cannot interrupt the process with your own attempts to teach or punish. Ready?

But please keep in mind that even with the magic formula, your past years of embedded patterns and conditioning will resurface, in an attempt influence you to change or add to the equation. So don’t worry, don’t hurry.

Let’s go over the basics. There are only two primary emotions: Love and Fear. This means that all other feelings are the display of one of the primary emotions in disguise. Underneath lying, there is first the experience of stress. Stress leads to fear. Lying is based in fear. The sooner you can grasp this concept, the quicker you will see your child’s behaviors begin to transform.

In times of stress our thinking becomes confused and distorted and our short-term memory does not work effectively. Therefore, in the midst of a stressful situation, the child is no longer thinking clearly. Trying to talk logic and reason at this point is rarely effective. Any attempts to teach the child in moments of emotional stress will be ineffective because the child will not clearly process or remember what is being taught. Calm the stress, diminish the behavior.

When your child lies (applicable to adults as well) Remember to see a child who is caught in his fear and has selected lying as the safest solution for their self-preservation. If your children were not in a fearful (stressful) state, they would have been able to think through their problem and would not have chosen the same solution. This is a key not only for children, but for us as well. There is no doubt that being faced with one of these situations would send any parent into a “fear-full” state thus opening the door to “poor decisions” on our part. See the cycle here? It is up to us as parents to be able to stop/step outside of the emotional turmoil so we can teach our children to do the same. What is the first tool you typically pull out of your parenting toolbox when your child lies?

But if we use the key – understanding that our child has acted out of fear rather than sheer defiance or poor character, they will be able to begin the process of calming their own fears first and then the fears of their child. In reality, you are not angry at your child for lying. You may feel angry, act angry, yell, spit, and fuss; but the truth is that you are scared about your child’s lying. If you were thinking clearly you would have learned, over the past however long that your child has been lying to you, that your repeated reaction of yelling, giving a consequence, or getting angry is not working to end the problem behavior.

When your child lies to you, you may think it means they do not trust you, you are not safe, they are not safe, you are not a good parent, or any number of other distorted thoughts. Do not forget, in the midst of stress you are not thinking clearly either, and neither is your short-term memory working effectively. When your child lies and you get stressed about it, your short-term memory is not working effectively in the moment, you forget that handling the lie the same way as the last time did not change the behavior then and probably will not change it now.

So what is the answer? You must be willing to do something different. The answer lies in what you have been reading, and will continue reading. Lying has its roots in fear. The lies will not stop until the fear subsides. Your ability to stay regulated and not giving in to your own fear will keep the struggles and the battles at bay while you work through this with you child.

The angry parent is not an effective teacher. I know this seems obvious to some, yet we continue to parent out of anger. When you become angry towards your child, you get in the way of the lesson that is inherent in the problem, giving your child an opportunity to blame you for the problem rather than taking responsibility himself. Rather than discipline, which means to teach; we punish, which only creates more stress and frustration that is then directed outward, or sometimes even inward, which can be worse. Don’t focus on the lying, focus on the process that leads up to the lying, and the process of what happens after the lying.

Remember, Fear + Fear = more Fear. The loving parent may also be a scared parent, but rather than blaming the child for the fear, the loving parent uses the fear as an opportunity to teach; thus allowing the lesson to be learned naturally without force, fear, shame or blame. The process we are working with does not try to force, control, or dictate the future. It is only focused on now, this moment. When we follow the process without obsessing over the outcome, very powerful forces of nature are able to work through the child and become far more educational than our words or consequences could ever be.

There is a difference between being made to feel guilty and ashamed and being allowed to feel guilty or ashamed. The first only breeds more fear, which typically turns into defensiveness and anger. When you make a child feel guilty or ashamed by becoming angry and acting in an aggressive or manipulative way towards him, he only turns the feelings back on to you. Making a child feel guilty or ashamed, rather than internally processing the experience, they externalizes it and makes you the perpetrator.

A love-based consequence is imposed when the adult takes responsibility for the action, but the child is allowed to feel the emotional impact on the adult. When you take responsibility for your own feelings, rather than blaming or threatening your child, you set up the mechanisms for self-reflection and internal growth to take place in the child. We talk often about parents taking responsibility for the children’s mis-behaviors. Some parents think this means that the child’s negative behaviors are the parents fault. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being responsible for your child’s behaviors simple means it is our job to help our child learn to self- regulate. When we miss the signals of our child reaching their regulatory window of tolerance, and the child messes up, punishing the child becomes a mis-directed attempt to teach.

There is a difference between a fear-based consequence and a love-based consequence. A fear-based consequence is punitive and blaming. It is one of the most common parenting mistakes. A fear-based consequence stems from parental fear about the behavior and the prediction that if the behavior does not change something bad is going to happen in the future. We all love a good reward, but keep in mind that the greatest reward of all is love. And this should be there “when they deserve it and when they don’t.” (No, we are not saying that bad behavior is ok – keep doing it.)

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