Dealing With Children When They Lie…

pinocchio (12-13-12)

A Middle School parent recently sent me an email asking for the Biblical perspective on lying, as well as any practical tidbits I might know on how to deal with this important issue. Below is my response. I pray that this simple little document will be a blessing to you now or in the future—and will springboard you into investigating this topic further—as you strive to raise your children to know, love, trust, and obey God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Here are some helpful articles on lying that I found online at Christian websites:

  1. The Nature of Lying:
  1. Q & A on lying with Dennis and Barbara Rainey (Family Life Today):
  1. Q & A on lying and discipline with Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family):

Here are a few ways my wife Sarah and I have addressed this issue of lying with our own five kids:

  1. Try to convey the seriousness of lying, whether it’s a “small” or “big” lie. The Titanic sank because an iceberg caused relatively small holes on one side of the ship’s bottom. The holes then grew and eventually destroyed the ship. So the lies a person is telling now might not be a big deal in and of themselves, but they will grow over time into bigger lies and cause lots of trouble in one’s life.
  1. Try to help your child see lying from your perspective, and do this by giving examples for the child’s own life: “Imagine your basketball coach told you that you made the team, when you really didn’t. You got all excited, but then when you showed up for the first game or practice, excited to be with all your buddies, and in front of them all the coach then tells you the truth—you did not make the team. ‘But I didn’t want to hurt your feelings–that’s why I lied at first,’ the coach might say. How would that make you feel? Well, this is how it makes your Dad and I feel when you lie to us.
  1. Share with your child that trust is essential in a family, and lying erodes trust. We tell our kids that when they lie it causes us not to trust them as much, and if we can’t trust them in little things, then we won’t be able to trust them in bigger things as they get older like sleeping over at a friend’s house, going to dances, going to the mall/a movie with friends, having a cell phone, etc. Show him this picture of a new car in good condition:
    Now show him this picture of a similar car eroded with rust: car will allow him to have more fun? Right, the first car. Lying does to our lives what rust did to the second car (and rust, like lying, always starts out small and in places that are difficult to see/detect).
  1. Pray with your child consistently about telling the truth (and pray for your child consistently about telling the truth). I cannot stress this enough.

Here are some Scripture verses to reflect on:

  1. Hosea 4:1-3 (NIV):

In this powerful passage, the prophet Hosea groups lying in with other “more serious” sins. This shows that lying is, in fact, very serious. Hosea also shows that lying is the opposite of love, and that lying causes some serious problems in nature (as strange as it seems, sin does cause trouble in the natural world because sin of all kinds is powerful and damaging).

  1. Luke 16:10 (NIV): This is a very, very powerful passage, especially if your child thinks his/her “fibs” are not a big deal. God tells us that what we do with little things in life shows how we will act with big things. So if God cannot trust us to be truthful with little, He cannot (and will not) trust us with much.
  1. Here is a link to all the passages in the Bible with the word “dishonest” (it occurs 19 times): This would be great to go through with your child. If God repeats Himself this many times about dishonesty, it must be a big deal to God.

Please let me know how this goes. You are right on to do everything you can to try and “nip this in the bud.” Don’t give up! You are not alone. If there is any other way I can be of assistance, please let me know.
Finally here is the Bible verse that I held particularly close back in 2011. I pray that it will bless you as it has blessed me:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” 
(Galatians 6:9 NIV).

Your Friend~