10 Punishments for Kids Caught in a Lie

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The entire topic of lying is a complicated one for parents to tackle, as the social necessity of tiny “white lies” makes the subject a murky one for kids to grasp. One thing that all parents agree on, regardless of parenting style, is the need to teach children that blatant dishonesty for personal gain is wrong. For repeat offenders, here are ten ways to teach the consequences of lying.

  1. Question Everything – Putting the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf into action, one way to impress the importance of honesty on a child is to vocally question other claims. When even their sincere statements are met with skepticism, kids are likely to be more careful in the future to tell the truth.
  2. Make it Personal – Some kids respond better to punishments that are customized to their personality, interests and needs rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. For instance, outdoor aficionados may revel in a punishment that involves raking leaves or yard work, while a bookish, indoorsy-type would loathe it.
  3. Take Away Privileges – One of the most effective ways to teach children that bad behavior has unfavorable consequences is to begin systematically stripping them of privileges. Withholding video games, cell phones and other items can be an effective way of getting your point across, but it should be paired with a conversation about consequences, rather than simply imposed and never explained.
  4. Tailor Punishment to the Lie – Kids that lie about homework might benefit from a punishment that involves keeping up with a homework journal and apologizing to their teacher, while kids that have trouble being honest about other things should have their punishments tailored to the situation in order to help them connect their punishment with their own actions.
  5. Double-Up Time Outs – Time outs or groundings can be doubled up, with an initial term for the original offense and an added term for the lie. For instance, a child who understands that she’s grounded for a week for not doing her schoolwork, and two weeks for lying about it, has a concrete example of how lying only makes bad situations worse.
  6. Writing a Letter of Apology – Writing a sincere letter of apology to the person affected by their dishonesty can be a great way of putting the importance of their truthfulness into perspective for kids. Putting their apology in writing forces them to look at their actions and the repercussions of them objectively.
  7. Compound Punishments For Repeat Occurrences – Increasing the length of a time out or the severity of a chore-based grounding for each repeat occurrence of lying can help kids understand that the stakes of being dishonest are too high to justify the risk.
  8. Increase Chores – Rather than time-based grounding that can be tedious for the entire household, increasing your child’s chore load and explaining that their list of duties has grown as a direct result of choosing to lie is another way of getting the point across to kids.
  9. Set Up a Penalty System – Creating a fund similar to a “swear jar” for lies is a great way for kids to watch their money or other rewards pile up with each infraction.
  10. Garnish Allowance – Kids who get an allowance can also be subjected to “fines” for lying or other misbehavior, helping them to attach a tangible loss to dishonesty. Knowing that one whopper can wipe out their entire allowance might be enough to motivate kids into honesty.

Lying is a learned behavior, and can be changed with hard work. A system of trial and error might be necessary to find what works best for your child, but it is possible to break the habit of dishonesty. And don’t forget the power of natural consequences. Sometimes the hurt feelings of the “lied to” that occur when a lie surfaces is enough to deter the lying party from telling a fib again.

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