Often, lying is a touchy subject for parents and children. Similarly, talking about values is relatively new territory.
Fortunately, there is a way to address lying with your children, and to do so via their values.
This post will show you how to have both of these conversations, in either order.
Or, you can connect them as one conversation.
To lie is human, but there is no lie without a payoff.
- First, acknowledge that your child did not tell the truth, withheld part of the truth, etc., but do so without anger or judgment.
- Next, ask the following question: What had you not be truthful? or What are your reasons for hiding the truth?
- If s/he says, “I don’t know,” or, “There is no reason for it,” respond with, “Well, we human beings lie, only if there is a payoff, something we get. So, what did you get?”
Without a doubt, it’s important that you make it safe for them to describe the payoff.
Unfortunately, most young people have never been invited to express the benefits of fibbing.
That is, the central message they get for their whole lives it not to lie, so they spend most of their energy covering up lies, not exploring their origins.
Here are 3 ways to make it safe for them to talk about the payoff:
- First, share an occasion when you lied as a teenager, and what you got out of it.
- Second, assure your child that you’re not upset about the lie, but interested in what had her/him fib.
- Say, “It’s O.K., whatever the payoff was.”
- Also, guarantee that there will be no consequence for describing the benefits, no matter what they are.
- This is dicey; don’t guarantee, unless you will deliver on it.
Importantly, let your child talk; in other words, ask questions, and then be quiet, and listen.
- Certainly, your child will expect you to, “be the expert,” about lying.
- Try listening from curiosity about them, not from authority over them, nor from expertise on truthfulness.
- For example, at natural pauses in the conversation, ask coaching questions, like. . .
- What else?
- What are you learning about yourself right now?
- How is this important to you?
- What do you think is important to me about this?
- What else did you get out of lying?
- What’s the benefit of lying that you’re ashamed to share?
Next, invite them to express the costs of lying.
Definitely, this will be easier for them than describing the benefits.
Coaching questions you can ask are. . .
- What did you lose from lying?
- What was the impact on others?
- Besides what you lied about, what areas of your life were affected?
- How did you feel about yourself when you lied?
- How did the lie affect us as a family?
- What would it look like to make this right?
- In the future, what’s a fair consequence for lying?
- How is this conversation related to your values?
This final question is an excellent segue into a conversation about values.
There are topic values, and there are values-in-action:
- First, topic values are general headings, such as education, family, honesty, love, respect, etc.
- Next, values-in-action are the degree to which one’s topic values are manifested in action and speech.
So, you can transition from the subject of lying to the subject of values like this:
- Suggest, “How about we explore what matters to you most in this conversation?”
- Maybe, as the parent, name the topic values that were reflected for you in the discussion about lying.
- Invite your child to do the same.
- Next, ask, “When you lie, to what degree are you living your values?”
- Conversely, “When you tell the truth, which of your values are you demonstrating?”
- Also, “How could you better put your values into action?”
- Or, “What’s a topic value that you are definitely not demonstrating?”
- And, “What’s an action you could take to be true to this value?”
Whatever you do, don’t come across as if there were a set of values that your child should care about.
- This will steer the conversation clear of morality and ethics.
- Also, you will truly honor that which your child really cares about.
- And, your child will be free to express his/her individuality, without pressure to conform.
- Lastly, this will create a natural opening for your to share what truly matters to you.
Walk away from this conversation expecting your child to lie again.
- In other words, avoid the pitfall of thinking that you’ve cured your child of lying.
- You haven’t. To lie is human. Your child will lie again.
- The good news is that, now, you have a constructive way to deal with it.