By Emily Kircher-Morris, LPC
"Did you do your homework?"
"Is your laundry in the basket?"
"Is your room clean?"
How quickly those little impulsive lies fly! As parents, we are constantly checking and double checking on the tasks that are supposed to be completed. And, for some parents, we are consistently frustrated and challenged by the immediate dishonest response we receive.
Why do kids lie? There are many reasons why a child will lie to a parent, but the simplest answer is this: They don't want to get in trouble!
Then the child is caught in a double bind. They know they've lied, but what choices do they have now? They can tell the truth (and be reprimanded for lying) or they can keep up with the lie (and hope they don't get caught). Kids with executive functioning struggles and ADHD are notorious for these "speak before thinking" fibs.
One simple communication tool that can help to reduce or eliminate the lying in these situations is a basic reframe of the question. Request the information in a way which a one-word answer and impulsive lie isn't an option.
Instead of "Did you do your homework?"
This easy change of phrase can slow down the quick response of a child trying to avoid getting in trouble. It causes them to pause and think, recognizing accountability is a key component of the request. Framing questions in this way gives your son or daughter a chance to reflect and say, "I can show you my math homework, but I still need to finish my science."
Some parents may balk. "Why can't they just be honest when I ask a simple question?"
When executive functioning lags, the knee-jerk response lets out the lie before the prefrontal cortex has had a chance to process what is being asked. Parents are getting a response from the flight-fight-freeze control center (the amygdala) before the prefrontal cortex has even had enough time to figure out what the actual answer to the question is!
Rephrase your question. Follow up with an accountability action. These simple steps will foster positive communication, improve your child's executive functioning skills, and reduce the stress of handling dishonesty in the parent-child relationship.