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Dealing with Slick Liars

April 15, 2005

What do you do when you learn that one of your sweet little ones is an outright liar?

Dear Pearls,
My 6-year-old daughter is a liar. At first, I simply did not believe the mother who informed me that my daughter had lied to her. I thought she was the liar! It was humiliating to discover the truth. Now I see my daughter has been lying about other children on a regular basis, and I have been thinking how wonderful she is and how terrible they are! I have tried to fix the problem, but it is usually days after the fact before I figure it out that she has out-witted me and lied again. What do you suggest?

Debi Answers
I readily identify with you. When our second son, Nathan, was about six years old, we were forced to face the fact that we had a son who was an incorrigible liar. It was difficult to accept because he had the sweetest, most innocent and sincere countenance. And he was smart! I think his bad habit was encouraged by his knowledge that I did not want to believe he was a liar. Consequently, he grew worse until he would actually lie when the truth would have served him better.
I realized that somewhere along the line, I had missed the opportunity to deal with him while he was still young enough to easily break the habit. After much soul-searching and many botched ideas, I finally told Nathan that I realized he was a liar, even though I couldn’t catch him red-handed in his lies. I told him that God hated lying, that I hated it, that I had failed him, and that it was very important that he not continue to be a liar. I informed him that everyday for the next seven days, I was going to give him 10 licks at noon. He was to bring me the switch and I would spank him for being a liar. So everyday, he would bring me the switch at noon. If he failed to provide the switch at noon, he got additional licks. He was timely with the switch. It forced him to spend his mornings considering which branch to cut from the willow tree and how long he had left before the hour of chastisement was at hand.
When the clock struck twelve, I very calmly, and without pity, reminded him, “You are a liar, and lying is an ugly, hateful thing. In order that your soul shall be spared, I’m going to whip you.” That was all I said, no praying, no sermons, no “you break my heart” appeals. I would cause him to bend over on the couch, and I would give him the 10 licks. Keep in mind that my licks were not violent or even hard, they were just hard enough of a sting to let a 6-year-old know that it hurts to lie. The seven days passed much the same, and I grieved over him, not knowing if it was doing any good, and not even certain that I was doing the right thing.
He was so young that he couldn’t keep up with the number of days that had passed, and so on the eighth day when he brought me the switch, he looked at me and said, “Mama, I hate lying. Lying must be really bad for me to get 10 licks every day. I hate lying. I’m not gonna lie any more. Here’s your switch.” I said, “Nathan, today is the eighth day. We’re all through with the 10 licks. I’m sure glad you learned to hate lying.” It really worked. That was the end of his short career as a liar. Today he is a man of integrity whom I admire. He has a lovely wife and two of the sweetest children, who, I might add, will very likely not be liars!
I am not suggesting that this is the way to stop lying in all children. This may never work for you, but I was desperate and was willing to try something drastic. If I had been on my toes in earlier child training, Nathan would have never become such a liar.

Here’s the answer we usually give in response to the many letters we receive about children who lie.

Habits are hard to break. Have your daughter listen to the Alabama Seminar tapes when she goes to bed. After she has finished with them, ask her to work with you to to help her stop her lying. One effective approach is to tell her that anytime she is in the middle of a lie, to stop and hold her hands out and say that she would like to start over again. And, if she does, assure her that you will not fuss at her for starting to lie. It might work, depending on how clearly you have explained it to her about the awfulness of lying and her desire to stop being a liar.

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9 comments on “Dealing with Slick Liars”

  1. I stumbled on your articles from another website. I am absolutely HORRIFIED that you used this violence against your children and that you recommend it to other parents. There are many other ways to instill discipline in a child that don't destroy the spirit within the child. I would recommend to your readers an alternate viewpoint "Parenting from the Inside Out" by Dr. Dan Siegel.

  2. I have read your books and understand how you approach spanking. I agree that the rod is to be used but not in all cases. I know you use the rod in love and never in the state of anger...I know this only by reading your books. Laura needs to read more on your discipline and training to see that. Your child obviously learned from it and if it had broken his spirit he would not have come to you and said that he too hates lying. I have a daughter who lies because of some insecurity that she has. I was a liar growing up too. I am ashamed of that and appreciate the second approach and will try it on her. Since I grew up in a very angry home and have dealt with anger in the past I choose not to use the rod in all cases. I only use the rod when absolutely necessary.

    I have been training my children now the way you describe in your books and have had much success. I was not brought up in a loving environment and so you have been a huge help to me in raising Godly children. I have also learned to correct some of my issues along the way. Thank you! God Bless you and your ministry.

  3. I inherited my graddaughter at age 4 from 2 severly mentally ill parents. Mother abandoned her at age 2... Father is now doing great on medication. Mother out of the picture but aquainted with child. Grieving process on that loss has gone well over the years.... each deep grief supported and affirmed by me and counselor.... now they are few and far between. However, my granddaughter who I adore, is very much loved and cared for, has had the habit of lying since before she came to live with me. She is now 10, gets AB honor roll in school with ease. Her mother, who she doesn't know is a liar, has always been a severe liar. Somehow I'm wondering if this trait can be transmitted? Her father has always been a truth teller... Never ever known him to lie. My methods of correction have been removing all toys from room, spankings in early years with talks, apologies, letting her know how god hates lying, etc. She lies for absolutely no apparent reason that I can tell except just not wanting to follow instructions. It comes down to, "Have you brushed your teeth honey?". "Yes, they shine like pearls!" I check her toothbrush after she leaves for school, and am sadly aware that it is dry.... HELP
    I have worked with children for over 25 years as a children's pastor and bible club teacher...... with learning disable kids and mentally ill kids. This one stumps me. So now, there will be no tv, wii, or electronic games for a week. Plus we will go over how God hates lying and what it does to trust and relationships. I will ask for apologies to me and to God..... what else?

  4. I am new to this site, but I just read the Pearls book, To Train Up A Child. I am impressed with the simple lessons they give. I have come to their site to learn more and I read your letter about your granddaughter. I have a niece who started telling stories as a very young child, and her parents were not able to correct her bad habit. Her mother was one of the most truthful people I know therefore I do not believe lying is hereditary. It may be a symptom of another disturbance, or just a bad habit. I think Debi did a good job of correcting her son. He was not a toddler who could not discern truth, but was in fact, conscious of his own actions. This made him responsible for the results of his actions. It was better for him to feel the pain of the switch then grow up to be a man without integrity.

  5. Debbie, my daughter, now 10, has been a cronic liar for 4 years. We too have tried many approaches, from scripture study, to supplemental books (Character Counts), and decision/consequence plans. What breaks my heart is how easily she will still lie to me, even shortly after an honest conversation about growing up, character and sin. She does tear up when I confront her as a liar, but this does not deter her for very long.
    I fear I have failer her, but do not know the error in my ways. My other four children do not have this issue, but still I feel I have missed something with her. I stay in prayer-trusting there is an answer somewhere. What might you be able to teach me?

  6. I tend to go in with Laura - I don't think it was really necessary to use physical violence against your child rather than let him experience the reality of what lying means. I am glad he stopped lying, but all he really learned at the time was that lying is bad because it makes you hit him. I assume that by now, with his greater experience in the world, he has figured out the real consequences of lying, but it seems pointless to me to have given him the false reasoning first. One of the children I grew up with was a liar. When I asked my mother what to do about it, she said that if you knew someone was a liar, you probably shouldn't believe the things they said. We started telling him we couldn't trust him because he always lied to us, and demanded he prove everything he said. I noticed that the lying cut down pretty fast once he realised he was actually being held to a standard, and he learned that lying has real consequences - it breaks trust, and makes a fool of you.

  7. Thank you, thank you for this article. We have a liar on our hands, one which we have been dealing with since he was three years old {he is now five years}. It is quite frustrating, and at times maddening when, like you said, the truth would have been so much easier. I will talk to my husband and suggest the "training" you used on your son.

    I am so grateful for NGJ Ministries.

  8. You are going to suggest to your son that you hit your 5 year old 10 times a day? How lovely.
    Perhaps your children lie to you because they are afraid of the consequences of telling the truth? After all you're just as likely to hurt them after their confession as without it aren't you?

  9. I am the father of a Christian family of four. We have followed, to the best of our abilities, To Train Up... principles from the start, and have produced a liar. All of the above is regarding a crafty liar. Our liar (a six year old boy) can be caught easily enough, spanked, given consequences, whole-heartedly repent, state, with tears, that he hates lying, both right after being caught and all during the day, and then wrap himself up in a big one a few hours later. Not a day goes by without one (or five). Please help!

    ---Lost in Lies