Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

"We're having a hard time getting our 4-year-old to tell the truth. We've told her that it's always better to tell the truth, but she still lies. How can we get her to start telling the truth?"

A. Telling a "white lie" is a common occurrence for preschoolers for a variety of reasons. Kids lie out of fear of discipline, disappointing parents, feeling embarrassed, mixing up the facts, and replacing wishful thinking for the truth. To help your daughter understand the importance of telling the truth, follow these suggestions:

Track the pattern. Are there certain situations where your daughter lies? For instance, does she exaggerate the truth when meeting new people or tell made-up stories to get your attention? Look for connections, and you can step in before a situation arises with a timely reminder to be honest.

Model truthful behavior. Kids model their parents, so your ability to be truthful is extremely important. Be sure you aren't telling "white lies."

Notice honest behavior. Praise your child each time you observe her telling the truth. When you can, mention her honesty to others to help her recognize that telling the truth will get her positive attention.

Discipline lying differently. Double the consequences for misbehavior that involves lying. Say something like, "Susie, you lose this toy for one day for not sharing it with Tommy and a second day for lying to me about it." This clearly communicates the seriousness of lying.

Read a book. Find a storybook in which a fictional character struggles with lying and the impact of dishonesty on other people. Using a book also allows you and your child to talk about lying without her feeling like she's done something wrong.

Memorize a verse. Let your child know that being honest is one way we can show love to others. Have her learn all or part of Ephesians 4:25: "Therefore laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another."