How to Punish a Child for Lying by Omission


Whether it’s to escape trouble, protect a friend or get what she wants, lying by omission is still lying. When your daughter asks you if she can walk to the ice cream shop with her best friend but doesn't tell you they are going to meet boys there, in spite of the fact you don’t allow her to go out with boys unsupervised, she's essentially lying to you. Kids need to understand that leaving out a portion of the truth is a form of lying and you won't tolerate it.

  • Discuss the costs of lying, advises Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., who is a Texas-based psychologist. Lying, even by omission, hurts the person your child lies to, makes it difficult for people to believe her in the future and means she will likely live with the constant worry that her lie will be found out and she will get in trouble as a result. Explaining the potential consequences of lying can help your child change her mind about lying by omission in the future.

  • Establish in advance the punishments you will enforce if you catch your child lying by omission, advises Dr. Phil McGraw, Ph.D., who is mental health professional and talk show host. Follow through with your punishments. For example, take away privileges for lying by omission. Don’t let her use the phone for the rest of the day or watch television before bed. Grounding is another option. Don’t allow her to go anywhere this weekend or spend time with friends after school.

  • Consider symbolic reparation a form of punishment for lying by omission, suggests Pickhardt. For example, ask that your child write a one-page essay about lying and how it hurts those she loves or ask that she take on extra responsibilities around the house such as weeding the garden or setting the table before dinner all week. The goal of this punishment is to allow your child to "work off the offense" with a task and start over by being a more honest child.

  • Enforce symbolic reparation or discipline consistently anytime you catch your child leaving out part of the truth, advises Dr. Phil. Consistency is important when it comes to teaching your child a lesson about lying because without it she learns lying by omission is only bad sometimes and she won’t get in trouble for it other times.


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