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Helping Children Be Truthful

—Dr. Linda Fuhrer

Lying, as with most human behavior, serves a purpose. Observing circumstances in which children lie gives insights into those purposes.

Why Children Lie

Children who are accused of actions they know will produce unpleasant consequences may lie to avoid punishment. When you ask, “Mary, are you doing your assignments?” lying is a ready option.

A child who tells the class she received hundreds of toys for her birthday wants to feel she is important.

When a child expresses dislike for another pupil, a teacher often reprimands him for his feelings. Then the child may immediately state he likes the other person. His conclusion is that it is better to lie than to be honest about how he feels.

The Importance of Truthfulness

A basic characteristic of God is truth. As Christians we rely on God’s Word. By emphasizing how important it is that we can always trust God, we build a foundation to show that He wants us to be truthful at all times.

Plan to teach your students the value of telling the truth through Scripture verses and stories that demonstrate the benefits of honesty and the consequences of lying. Use real-life situations as stepping stones for class or individual discussion.

What to Do When Children Lie

Discuss the problem surrounding the lie

Explain to the child that by his telling the truth you will be better able to help him. Begin with, “I want to know just what took place from beginning to end.” Ask specific questions about what has been said, indicating any aspects of the story you find unbelievable. Focus questions on the story rather than accusing the child or pushing him to confess.

Determine the reason he lied

By discovering what prompted the lie you can often prevent future lying.

If the child’s lie is a way of attaining attention, focus on the wishful thinking rather than the punishment. You could say, “You wished you had received hundreds of toys, didn’t you?” Giving the child praise and helping him feel he is valuable to the class will remove his need to lie in order to feel good about himself.

If the child lies to avoid punishment, state facts rather than asking a question. You could say, “Mary, I see you are drawing rather than doing your workbook assignment.” When you rebuke a child for saying something unkind and he immediately reverses his feelings, don’t be too quick to praise him. Pray with him about his need to be kind; then take time to observe his actions.

Discipline the child

Use appropriate discipline to discourage lying. Children must learn that lying will probably not succeed and often works to their disadvantage. Lies used to cover up other sins should have dual punishment: one for the original misbehavior and another for the lying. Be sure to point out to the child that if he had told the truth the penalty would have been lighter.

Direct children to our loving God

Any discussion about lying should turn to God’s Word, His love and forgiveness. Encourage children to tell the truth because God loves them and desires the best for their lives. Emphasize that God loves truth and hates lying but He loves the person—even when he lies—and waits to forgive him if he will confess his sin.

What God Says about Lying

Exodus 20:16

Psalm 52:1-4

Proverbs 6:16-19; 12:19, 22

Ephesians 4:25

Colossians 3:9-10

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