General Question

raum's avatar

How do you teach someone that they shouldn’t lie?

Asked by raum (7280points) August 8th, 2019 from iPhone

Versus (inadvertently) teaching them to lie better next time to avoid being caught?

Maybe you need to show them that they don’t need to lie? Or that you don’t gain from lying?

But what if they do gain from lying? Both material gain and avoidance of punishment.

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18 Answers

stanleybmanly's avatar

You point to our President as the model for what can be achieved through telling the truth.

flutherother's avatar

Children are best taught by example. If you show them that you don’t lie and that you don’t like liars that is usually enough. Children like having a good example to follow.

With someone who is, let’s say, the president of a country it is different. If you are fortunate enough to live in a democracy you can vote them out, if not you and your country are stuffed. In a kingdom of lies everything will turn to crap. Nothing lasting can be built on lies.

KNOWITALL's avatar

In our home an intentional lie is an ethical issue.
Teaching kids right and wrong is a parents job.

As far as learning to lie better, well that comes with living life to a degree, if thats the kind of person you choose to be. Not much you can do about it, except let life show them the repercussions.

chyna's avatar

I remember going to the store with my mom when I was about 4 years old and I stole a piece of candy. I put it in my mouth as soon as we left and mom caught me. She marched me back in the store and made me tell on myself. I was crying, snotting, and humiliated. At different points in my life friends(?) would try to get me to steal things along with them. I never did. So yes, it begins at home and at an early age.

longgone's avatar

“Maybe you need to show them that they don’t need to lie? Or that you don’t gain from lying? But what if they do gain from lying? Both material gain and avoidance of punishment.”

I would make sure that telling the truth means there won’t be any punishment. I don’t believe in punishment anyway, so that one is simple to me.

As to instilling the sense that lying is to be avoided, I also think being a good (and obvious) example is key. It could also help to talk about integrity, reputation, and trust. I think most people implicitly understand why those are worth aspiring to. Kids, especially.

Once you’ve established the desire to be truthful, you are in a place to teach your child how to do that. It’s not as simple as “don’t lie”. Being honest without getting into trouble requires a lot of tact in our society. Do you tell grandma you didn’t like her gift? Do you laugh politely when your math teacher tells a corny joke, or explain why it’s not very good? What if a classmate asks you why you didn’t come to her party, and the honest answer is something that would make her very sad?

elbanditoroso's avatar

Lying well is a skill. It needs to perfected, and the only way to perfect it is to know when it is appropriate and how far to go.

I think that it is not good advice to tell someone NEVER LIE. I think it is more proper to teach when it is appropriate to lie.

“Honey, do I look fat in this dress?”. Do you tell the truth? Or is this a good opportunity for strategic lying?

JLeslie's avatar

By not lying to them. All
of my friends who get upset when their kids lie (both young children and adult children) lie themselves. I sit in awe of how they are such hypocrites and so unaware of how their children simply learned the behavior from them.

Moreover, you have to reward people for telling the truth when you know it was hard to do. Maybe they risked punishment or maybe the truth is embarrassing for them. You have to reassure them you are glad they told you the truth.

No matter how great the parents are, most kids go through a lying phase, but by adulthood you hope they have learned honesty is the best policy.

kritiper's avatar

Honesty is always the best policy. Teach them this.
Don’t lie. Set a good example.

Zaku's avatar

I remember getting the point by reading certain stories and also from watching Leave It To Beaver.

But follow-up lessons and refreshers and advanced lessons from life experience were/are also important.

In all cases, it’s about getting the full eventual impact of the lie. One of the deepest impacts is the loss of relatedness with others, especially the people we treasure connection with the most.

raum's avatar

Additional context for my question:
I’m actually not asking for my own kids, but rather for my 20yo niece.

Her family dynamics are somewhat complicated. Her mother is schizophrenic and acts more like a sibling than a parent. Her bio father isn’t in the picture. Growing up, she split time between her grandparents (and her mom who lived with them) and my oldest sister and her husband. My parents, my oldest sister and I all play some kind of parental figure role in her life. But we often disagree on how to raise her.

So she’s been less than honest with her other aunt (my oldest sister) on a number of things.

She was sneaking around with a guy who was ten years older than her. But I can’t exactly blame her for lying. Her aunt/my oldest sister overreacts and doesn’t create a space where my niece feels like she can be truthful without absurd repercussions.

When they finally caught her, her aunt/my sister disowned my niece and kicked her out of the house.

More recently, my niece used my BIL’s credit card information and created a Venmo account. She used this Venmo account to pay for two outside land tickets ($770). She said it was a mistake because his credit card was linked to her PayPal already and when she created a Venmo account, using PayPal was an option.

It wasn’t just one transaction. She also paid for iTunes and FastTrak.

When I asked her if she had resolved the issue yet, she said she had paid my BIL back already. That was a half truth. She attempted to Venmo him some money. But he doesn’t even have a Venmo account. If someone hasn’t accepted the money you trying to send them, you haven’t technically paid them back yet.

I asked her if she had Venmo’d her aunt yet and she said yes. I asked how much and she said $500. I asked her for a receipt and she said she didn’t get a receipt. (You get receipts for Venmo transactions.) I asked her to log in and send me a screencap. She had sent $300, not $500.

I’m tired of nagging and micromanaging her. But I’ve tried to give her space to resolve this on her own and she hasn’t done much about it.

She’s not motivated to work it out with her aunt. And I don’t blame her. My oldest sister is batshit crazy. Like 40 text messages about disowning her and what a horrible liar she is.

If someone already thinks so poorly of you, why would you bother? If they’re so crazy and rage whenever you come clean, why bother? If coming clean means you have to pay back more money, why would you want to?

Can personal integrity and a moral compass outweigh having to deal with batshit crazy, toxic family members and money in the bank?


raum's avatar

I think I effectively killed this Q with a wall of text. Is this a Fluther first? I feel like I should get some kind of Fluther award for this. :P

longgone's avatar

Can personal integrity and a moral compass outweigh having to deal with batshit crazy, toxic family members [...]”?

Probably not, with that history and at a young age.

Can you teach her to distance herself and set healthy boundaries instead?

gorillapaws's avatar

I think you show them the value of trust. Being trustworthy has a HUGE payoff financially over the course of your life (everything from credit scores to work history and job opportunities). Lying erodes your reputation as a trustworthy person, which will have a high cost over the course of their life. If you can show them how honesty and having a good reputation can benefit them in a big way, then they may see things from a different perspective.

seawulf575's avatar

I guess how you teach them depends on how old they are. You teach children one way, you teach teens and adults another.

Gizzy11's avatar

By example. Teach them what results come from lying. Also teach them the benefits of not lying. Teach them about honesty,trust etc. Explain that it’s harder to keep up with all the lies that come one after another. Explain how people don’t like to be around someone who lies. Give them all the reasons not to lie and let them learn.

raum's avatar

Another unrelated dilemma…

My 9yo has a friend who I’ve caught on several occasions being less honest about some minor things here and there.

The other day we went by their house for a play date. Her parents weren’t home, so I texted her mom to ask. The mom OK’d the play date and we were waiting for her to get ready.

As she was getting ready, she mentions that she’s starting to get sick. School is starting next week and I don’t want the kids to get sick and miss the first day of school. So I say that maybe we should postpone our play date.

But then I feel super bad about it. I want to encourage her to tell the truth. Yet, when she does I’m effectively punishing her for it.

I imagine her line of thinking will be: We were going to have a play date. But then I told the truth. And now we’re not. I shouldn’t have told them. If I had just not said anything, maybe they wouldn’t have even known.


I did call later to ask if they wanted to do a play date at the park. Figured there would be less germs and we could just Purcell the crap out the kids afterwards.

raum's avatar

@longgone They are both on the brink of burning their bridges with one another. I really don’t want that to happen.

I’ve talked to my niece about setting boundaries as buffers that she needs to clarify and reinforce. And not as a thin arbitrary line that other people don’t understand.

But she has a hard time communicating clearly and standing up to my sister (who is the extremely over-bearing, type A personality). :/

@gorillapaws That’s the thing. I think in both examples, being a better liar would (beyond personal morals) benefit them more. How do you teach them that personal morals are worthwhile?

@seawulf575 What about someone who is legally an adult but doesn’t act like one yet?

@Gizzy11But what do you do when there are natural consequences to telling the truth that are less than desirable?

seawulf575's avatar

@raum…I have dealt with people that are over 18 and act like children. I make them accountable for their actions. When they are legally adults, they need to understand that (a) adults have to be responsible and (b) other adults don’t necessarily put up with their crap.

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