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Studio 5 with LCSW Holly Willard: Encouraging Honesty in Children

Let’s face it: young children lie. They make up stories and often exaggerate what really happened. So how can we encourage honesty in our kids?

LCSW Holly Willard gives us some insight on this topic. She says the age of the child matters. A 3-year-old doesn’t developmentally understand what it means to lie, so this is innocence and we don’t really have to worry about it. When a child is 5-6, his/her mind goes back and forth between fantasy and reality, so we can try to help him/her understand what is real and what is not. By 7-8, it’s time to hold our kids accountable for telling the truth.

Holly says that we should always model honest and demonstrate integrity to teach children how important it is to tell the truth. We should admit our mistakes, which helps kids learn the importance of being accountable. Also, fibbing indicates an underlying emotional need, so try to identify what it is your child is really after. Help your kids be responsible for telling the truth by having consequences when they do lie. Finally, never label your child as a “liar.” Kids become what we expect them to become, so help them become a truth-teller.

Holly explains that if your child lies constantly also shows signs of depression or aggression, it’s time to get him/her professional counseling.

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