What This Is Like from Your Perspective

You want to be able to trust your children when they tell you that they did something. But sometimes they simply aren’t honest about what they’ve done (or haven’t done).

…You ask them if they cleaned their room and they tell you they did, but you go upstairs and the room is still a mess.

…You ask them if they cleared the table, they say yes, but the dishes are still there.

…You ask them if they’ve fed the pet and they claim that they have, but the pet is whining for food and the water dish is empty.

Not only do you feel disrespected by your child, but you also worry about their lying… and wonder whether they have been lying about other things as well.


What This Is Like from Your Child’s Perspective

When children don’t feel like doing something, they don’t know how to handle it in a mature way.

They may simply don’t do things they don’t want to do, and then when you ask them about it, they lie because

they fear your reaction and/or getting in trouble

…they know they’ve done something wrong and shame causes them to shut down

…they tell you what they WISH were true

Even some adults avoid what they don’t want to deal with. This is kids’ way of doing the same thing.



How It Usually Goes When Kids Lie About

Doing What They’re Supposed To Do


Scenario: Ava’s dad notices that when Ava came to the dinner table, her hands are dirty, even after he’d reminded her earlier to wash them. When he asks her about it, Ava lies and tells him she’d already washed them.

Dad: Ava, you didn’t wash your hands.

Ava: Yes I DID!

Dad: I can see that you still have clay on them from when you were playing before!

Ava: But I washed them. That just didn’t come off.

Dad: Ava, the clay comes off when you wet it. I’ve seen it before many times. Why are you LYING to me?

Ava: I’m not!

Dad: Ava, I’m not even mad that you didn’t wash your hands. I’m mad that you’re lying about it!

Ava (stars crying): I’m not!!

Dad: Yes you are. Why are you getting upset? You chose to lie…

Ava (cries harder).

Dad: Ava, Iying is serious. You need to know that. You can’t go to your friend’s house this weekend.

Ava (yelling): That’s not FAIR!!!

Dad: Fair?? Lying isn’t fair!

Dad and Ava continue to argue while their dinner is getting cold. 

How It Could Go When Kids Lie About

Doing What They’re Supposed To Do


Scenario: Ava’s dad notices that when Ava came to the dinner table, her hands are dirty, even after he’d reminded her earlier to wash them. When he asks her about it, Ava lies and tells him she’d already washed them. 


Dad: Ava, you didn’t wash your hands.

Ava: Yes I DID!

Dad: OK. Could you please wash them again?

Ava’s dad is upset that Ava is clearly lying. He knows that if he focuses on that, he’ll lose his cool and the situation will go downhill… and Ava still won’t admit that she didn’t wash her hands.

Ava (whining): I don’t feel like it…

Dad:  I get that, Sweetie. Are you hungry?


Ava’s dad’s goal is to get her to wash her hands and to stop lying. But he knows that in order to be willing to do something she doesn’t want to do, Ava has to feel safe. He doesn’t agree with her behavior, but he lets her know that he’s on her side. 

Ava: Yes… I want dinner now. 

Dad: Me too. I promise we’ll eat as soon as your hands are clean. I wouldn’t want that clay to get into your food. You’d feel sick.

Ava: I don’t care.

Dad: Fair enough. You just want to EAT! I’m happy to give you your dinner as soon as I see clean hands. Do you want me to come with you?

Ava: Yes.

Dad: OK.

Ava goes to wash her hands.

Dad reminds himself to talk to Ava later about lying to understand what she needs to be able to stop.

He also knows that he wants Ava to “overhear” him talking to her  mom about a situation when someone lied and felt the consequences of that lie. He knows Ava will learn better when she’s not in Yuck and therefore not focused on protecting and defending herself. 

Even though he’s respecting Ava’s perspective, her dad still maintains his boundary. He doesn’t let Ava skip washing her hands. Instead, he gives her tools to be successful and makes  a plan to effectively address her behavior at a later time so it doesn’t happen again. 



What To Do Proactively to Make This

In-the-Moment Scenario More Likely


Ava’s dad was able to balance FIRMNESS (maintaining a boundary) with RESPECT (understanding her perspective and giving her tools) when dealing with Ava’s behavior.

Proactive actions will make all of the difference in whether you are able to stay calm, connect, and correct behavior effectively.


You are more likely to  be able to stay CALM if:

a.) your biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck when your child doesn’t do what you want) and

a.) you recognize (and respect) that your kids have have a different perspective and agenda than you do…and that their perspective and agenda matter.

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm.


You will only be able to CONNECT if:

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons
(in this case, that Ava is lying because she knows she did something wrong, which caused Yuck… and when someone is in Yuck, they focus more on protecting/defending than on doing the right thing)

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively.


You will only be able to CORRECT behavior if:

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “It’s time to wash your hands.”

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively.