“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29 NIV
“I don’t have them,” she repeated.
“Leave your sister alone!” our parents echoed from up the stairs.
Decades later I learned the shirts I’d been looking for were underneath my little sister and her mattress the entire time.
“Why didn’t you just ask?” I wondered out loud. It wasn’t the borrowing that aggravated me, but the lying about it afterwards.
Grown adults are easily tempted to be dishonest by fear, and kids are no different. I retell this story to my daughters when I catch them in a lie, not to break the seriousness of the situation, but to illustrate the normality with which everyone has to deal with lying and its consequences.
When we catch our kids lying, there a few things we can do to break the chain reaction of fear and dishonesty. Free them up to embrace the truth, even when consequences are sure to follow.
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Paul wrote to the Ephesians, encouraging them to be mindful of their words. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Guide says Greek, Jewish, and Middle Eastern sages all emphasized wise, appropriate, truthful, and gracious speech. The concept was not foreign to them. The living Word of God also encourages us to be mindful of our words. “Christians not only stop saying unwholesome things; they also begin to say things that help build others up.” (NIV Study Bible Notes).
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"...be mindful of our words."
The acronym T.H.I.N.K. is posted near the daily routine in our house, written on the refrigerator dry erase board, and now repeated when a tinge of tween attitude creeps into my kids’ speech.
T. Is it True?
H. Is it Helpful?
I. Is it Inspiring?
N. Is it Necessary?
K. Is it Kind?
A lie isn’t any of these things. Try having them recite or answer these questions the next time they’re caught red-handed.
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2. Sit down with them.
Daily devotions are an excellent way to prepare and talk to our kids about a lot of things, lying included. Setting aside a time each day to share a chair with them and soak up God’s Word is a healthy habit that will undoubtably begin to address issues our kids are going through. The power of God’s living Word and the love He has for us can be experienced up close and personally by our children if we encourage the habit of reading it.
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"Talking things out with our kids daily helps them learn to unload in a safe place..."
The Bible says, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry.” (Psalm 24:15 NIV) He knows what we’re up against, and He cares for our kids more than we ever could. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in Spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 NIV) Though what our kids might be perplexed by may not seem insurmountable to us, God knows it’s life-sized to them.
Lying, as other types of behavior, can signal an internal struggle. Talking things out with our kids daily helps them learn to unload in a safe place without being defensive. When we make an effort to learn more about their day as part of our routine, they may be more open to unloading the why behind their lie.
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3. Make space to cool off.
On any given day, one can drive by our house and see my children running laps around our property. Though we come from a family of distance runners, it’s not their love of the sport that has motivated their athleticism. Chances are they’re cooling off (and so am I).
It’s a strategy my husband and I came up. We created a handful of family rules that we all agree on and attached consequences that go along with breaking them. Running laps is my favorite go-to for a couple of reasons.
- It’s scientific fact that aerobic physical exercise lightens our mood.
- It gives them time to think about what they did.
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"Sometimes a little room cool off makes a big difference."
This works particularly well with my older daughter, who re-enters the house refreshed and sorry about what she did. My younger daughter may reenact the misery of WWII trenches as she passes by the kitchen window each lap, but she’s definitely not to going to do whatever it is that earned her that consequence again any time soon.
Find what works for you and get the whole family on board. Sometimes a little room cool off makes a big difference.
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4. Give them room to learn and grow.
Kids need ample room to grow and make mistakes. Proverbs 2:12 addresses sinful behavior, but then flips the focus to what the Lord delights in.
“The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in the people who are trustworthy.” Proverbs 12:12
Avoid whipping out harsh Scriptures and unattainable expectations such as “Never ever tell a single lie ever again.” That’s not possible, and we know it. Our kids are no less human than we are. In the core of their hearts and from their first breath, they are loved by God just as much as we are. God’s love for us isn’t something we ever have to grow into or earn, nor can we ever lose it because of our mistakes or shortcomings. It’s always insurmountable.
It’s important to hold our children accountable for their behavior to avoid the onset entitlement and laziness but disassociate their mistakes with who they are as a human being and child of God. The missteps they make will not define them unless we give them the power to do so. Encourage them to be honest and trustworthy, simply because the Lord delights in it, and you do, too.
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5. Don’t be afraid.
“Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.” Leviticus 19:11 NIV
We lie because we’re afraid of the truth, even though the truth will set us free (John 8:32 NIV). When our children lie, they are experiencing that same kind of fear – the fear that threatens to steal our peace and our progress. Lying breaks down our relationships because it causes us to lose trust in each other.
The fact that we may not trust them as much if they lie to us is a pretty big concept for a kid to embrace. However, if we aim to be compassionate and forgiving, emphasizing the upside of the Christ’s love and forgiveness despite bad choices and mistakes, they are more inclined to understand that following Christ isn’t about being perfect. In fact, it’s not about what we do at all. It’s all about what He did for us and the repentance that His sacrifice motivates in us.
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"I will love them no less and forgive them before they ask."
When I compassionately forgive my kids after they are caught in a lie, the change in them isn’t that I never catch them in a lie again. But hopefully, over time, the message they are receiving is:
Beyond the consequences they suffer for the lie they told and the damage it caused, I will love them no less and forgive them before they ask.
We’ll no doubt be laughing about some of the lies they told and things they tried to sneak past me like my sister sitting on my shirts when we were kids. The lesson: to lie about something like that is so silly. Just ask! Just be honest! What seems so hard at first is much easier than running laps in the end.
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A Prayer for Our Kids:
Praise You for Your forgiveness! Because You have forgiven us, we can easily extend that forgiveness to our kids. It’s our hope that through our compassion towards them and wisdom sought together with them in Your living Word, they will come to fully understand how much You love them for who they are right now and always.
Bless our children to face fear head on and decide to be honest. Help us to guide them by the legacy we leave in following You. For You alone are the way, the truth, and the life. (John 3:16).
In Jesus’ Name,
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, https://sunnyand80.org. She is a stay-at-home mom, freelance writer, blogger, and preparing to release her first book, “Friends with Everyone.” She resides in Northern Ohio with her husband of eleven years, two daughters, and their Golden-doodle.
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