Care and Feeding

I’m Worried That My 7-Year-Old’s Bad Habit Could Lead to Trouble

How do I get her to be honest with me?

Girl looking down with her arms crossed.
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Dear Care and Feeding,

My 7-year-old daughter has never been great about telling me the truth.

She lies to avoid getting in trouble, like all kids, and she just enjoys making up stories. She also has ADHD, and I think there are times when she makes things up because she wasn’t paying attention and legitimately doesn’t remember what happened. I’ve told her that it’s okay if she doesn’t know something and that “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer, but she still makes stuff up.

I pick my battles—it doesn’t really matter much if she tells me that her best friend can do a triple backflip—but sometimes I really do need to know what’s going on. When something is important, I’ve tried stressing to her that she won’t be punished if she tells me the truth, and I’ve been true to my word on the few occasions when she’s admitted to lying. But more often than not, she sticks with her story even when she knows I know it’s not true. Is there any way to get her to be more honest with me?

— Let’s Be Honest

Dear L.B.H.,

You should talk to your daughter regularly about the consequences for lying. Have you done a The Boy Who Cried Wolf-esque tale yet? Impress upon her that people will cease to believe you if you are known to lie, and how dangerous that can be even when there aren’t wolves around. Talk to her about why and how even her little lies can be hurtful, how lies make people feel, and how poorly they reflect upon the people who specialize in them.

If you don’t see some improvement after a few months of taking great efforts to engage her about the harms of dishonesty, then you may want to get her talking to a professional who’d have some insight as to just what the disconnect is between her and the truth. Hopefully—and most likely—this is just an unpleasant stage.

—Jamilah

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