Has your kid ever lied about stealing candy from the candy jar? Or how about another kid’s toy from school? When you have a lying kid on your hands, it can be easy to fall into parenting habits that empower them to continue lying instead of solving the problem. Listen to today’s episode to discover Dr. Leman’s practical advice on how to handle a dishonest child.


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Doug: So you go to get a few of the pieces of chocolate out of the cabinet and they’re all gone. And as you go to your son’s room, you notice all the chocolate wrappers are around his bedside. And when you look at him, there’s smudges of chocolate on his cheek, and you ask him, “Did you eat my chocolate? And he looks at you directly in the eye and says, “No Mom.” What do you do when you catch your child lying? That’s the question we get to ask Dr. Leman.

Doug: Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea: And I’m Andrea.

Doug: And if this is your first time with us, welcome [inaudible 00:00:37]. It’s so nice to have you with us today and we just want to let you know that this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, I get to tattle on Andrea. So, we have limited cabinet space in our small kitchen, but up in the farthest right top corner there is Mom’s chocolate. And Mrs Terpening is usually very, very nice, but if she ever find’s anybody has gone up and touched her chocolate… Have you ever seen-

Andrea: Lights up.

Doug: … that rage monster that turns into incredible fire, and laser beams shoot out of her eyes? And the children and I scatter for fear for a couple of hours. So-

Andrea: Well you should, if somebody stole my chocolate.

Dr. Leman: I hope it’s dark chocolate.

Andrea: It is. It is. And every once in a while I will share a piece with somebody, but they can’t help themself.

Dr. Leman: I got to ask, what kind of chocolate is it?

Andrea: Well right now there’s some little Dove Bar pieces, yeah.

Dr. Leman: Dove Bars, okay, I know what those are.

Andrea: With little kind of a truffle.

Dr. Leman: Are you a dark chocolate?

Andrea: Not too dark. If it’s too dark then it’s too bitter. Not too dark.

Dr. Leman: Okay. Well my wife has an interesting diet. She’ll go in and have a chicken sandwich in a restaurant, but she won’t have the bread with it. But you know, I know this woman really well and she and Andrea have an affinity for chocolate. And I can’t tell you how many nights I have been lying in bed and been awakened by a little tiny sharp pain on my back, or on my chest, only to find a Ghirardelli chocolate wrapper attached to my skin. She loves chocolate.

Dr. Leman: Okay. Well, for all your chocolate lovers, what do you do when you find out that your kid has lied? Now let’s take this scenario where you see all the chocolate wrappers, or whatever, around the kid’s bed. Now what do most of us say to a child? “Did you take Mom’s chocolate?” Now let’s examine that question, and let’s examine that question. Give it a one if it was really stupid, or a 10 if it was really smart. Okay, let’s everybody give it a grade. Okay, you got that grade?

Andrea: I’m going with a one.

Dr. Leman: Yeah, I gave it a one too. See, what we tend to do, is we see the obvious, and people are right thinking, “Well, Dr. Leman, I don’t want to unjustly accuse my kid of anything.” No, but if you see something, and lots of times you’ll see kids do things, and then you turn around and ask if they just did it. Well, is that encouraging the kid to lie? I mean if you want to get down to the brass tacks of things you say, “Honey, I see you ate Mom’s chocolate. I think we need to talk about that. Do you think that’s a good idea?” Now at that point a kid is going to say yes or no. They’re going to look down at the floor. They’re going to give you that sheepish look, whatever. But at least that kind of a start gets you to where you need to go with this, because you have to talk about the fact that stealing is what? Wrong.

Dr. Leman: You know, I have told the story in one of my books, where I had a little four-year-old daughter who all of a sudden she started telling all these lies, and finally I did something very different. I lied to her and I told her we were going to a very special trip, and she got all excited, and the day came and she knew what day it was. She’s ready for the big trip, and I told her, I said, “Honey, I lied.” And boy we had some moments. She did not like that. And I said, “Well honey, you know what? I’ve talked to you repeatedly about lying and these lies continue to come, and you have to understand what it feels like to be lied to.”

Dr. Leman: Now that’s unorthodox. Some people may not like that. I say, if you’ve got a lying kid, you do whatever you need to do to get that kid off the lying track.

Andrea: Did it help with your daughter?

Dr. Leman: Yes. She’s so truthful, to a fault truthful, would have a hard time hiding anything from her mom and dad today, and we’re old and she’s middle-aged. So yeah, and it does. I’m just saying that you have to understand that kids lie out of fear most of the time. Fear that they’re what? Going to get in trouble. Sometimes kids fear out of wish fulfillment. Now what does that mean? It means a kid comes home and says, “I hit two home runs today in the baseball game,” and actually he struck out three times. You’ll see those kind of lies, but most lies come right out of just fear. If I tell you who I am, you’re going to reject me, or I’m going to get in trouble.

Dr. Leman: I’ve got a friend, Tim Kimmel, and Tim wrote a book called Grace-Filled Parenting. I think as a parent you have to have mercy, and you have to have trust in your kids, and you have to believe in them, but you have to be grace-filled. If it wasn’t for the grace and mercy of Almighty God, none of us would enter God’s kingdom. Keep that in mind.

Dr. Leman: So, you try not to make the lie more than it needs to be. I don’t think you have to add, “Jesus is watching you.” Please don’t do that. I think that kind of stuff is just way over the board. Just talk about the fact that there are certain rights and wrong in this family, and if you wanted some candy, wouldn’t have you felt better if you came to me and said, “Hey Mom, could I have a piece of your special candy?” And of course, Andrea would say, “No,” which creates another problem.

Andrea: I’d say, “Don’t you have a special candy stash?”

Dr. Leman: But I think you try to teach young children that you feel better inside, if you what? If you tell the truth. And when you don’t tell the truth, and you know you’ve lied, I think you ask a kid, “Hey, when I was a youngster and I lied-”

Dr. Leman: “You lied Mom?”

Dr. Leman: “Yeah, I did, and so did Dad. You know, I remember feeling really guilty. Do you ever feel guilty about what you’ve said, or done, or…”

Dr. Leman: Yeah. You try to tie the things together and say, “You know, the way to healthy, good living, the way to treat other people, the way to act responsibly, is by telling the truth. And sometimes it’s very difficult to tell the truth, because we have to owe up to the fact that we made a mistake. But guess what? We all make mistakes. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes in life honey, not just as one. You’re going to make mistakes later on this week in all probability.”

Dr. Leman: So I think you have to have a openness, and a sense of, it’s okay, but this behavior is not okay. You’re okay, I’m okay. Our family’s okay. Life’s going to go on, but this has to stop.

Doug: What do you do about the situation where it’s not so blatant that the chocolate wrappers are there? There’s you, and the missus, and one child, and I can’t think of a good example where you don’t empirically know they’re lying, but you are doggone-

Dr. Leman: Well, let’s take the situation where a kid is accused in school of stealing somebody’s Xbox or something, and your kid denies it, just flat out denies it. And you stand by your kid, and you go meet with the dean of students at the school. And the dean of students says to you, “Well listen, I certainly can’t blame you for siding on your son’s behalf and believing in your son. But Mr and Mrs Terpening, I have a video here I want to show you.” And he shows you the video of your son stealing the item. Red handed, there it is on videotape. Now what kind of a conversation do you have with your 16-year-old kid? It’s a little different isn’t it? But see the realities are, and that’s why this topic we’re talking about is important, you want to try to nip this stuff in the bud when the kids are young, because the consequences for when they get older can really be serious.

Dr. Leman: But then the conversation is, “Wow, you led us to believe that you were innocent.” See that’s the video. I’m going to show it to my son and I’m certainly going to say, “Hey, I’ve got something for you to watch.” And I’m going to play it for him, and I’m going to wait for his response. And if that response isn’t one of repentance and remorse, then I’m really worried because now I’ve got a real problem on my hands.

Dr. Leman: But again, grace and mercy must follow that. I think you have to love your kid anyway, but in that case, you turn and you say to the dean of students, “Hey, you have our full support in whatever disciplinary measure you feel is appropriate in this situation.” And that’s all you say. And what are you doing there? You’re taking the tennis ball and you’re putting it back in the dean’s side of the desk. And he’s going to deal with your 16-year-old son. And he’s going to deal with the relationship between your son and the kid he stole the Xbox from, or whatever. You want to push it in the direction it belongs. I mean, let’s face it parent, you’re embarrassed. You were shocked when you saw that video because you believed your son. Is it a sin to believe in your son? No, we want you to believe in your son. But I got news for you. There are sons and daughters who are lying dogs, who will tell you anything because they’re so self-centered.

Doug: When you come back, I’m going to ask you, what if that situation happens in the home? But before we get there, I get to give you the ebook for this week, which is one of my favorite Dr. Leman books, which is, Have a New You by Friday. September 24th to September 30th of 2019 for $2 and 99 cents. And I’m going to ask Dr. Leman what this book is about, and I’m going to tell you this is like, please, go buy this for yourself. How will this book help our listeners?

Dr. Leman: Well, I’ll tell you the motivation for writing that book, which might help. You know, people go to a shrink today and it’s not uncommon to get a bill for 250, 350 dollars for a simple 40 minute session, or a half-hour session. I thought, you know what? I’ll bet I could write a book that really helps people to sort of shrink themselves and figure out why they have learned… Now listen to that word. Why they have learned to be the person that they are. You learned it parents from who? You learned it from your parents and your siblings. It’s that dynamic, fluid relationship that exists between parent and child, and siblings with one another. Now you add to that the tragedies of life, the loss of life, the divorce or separation of parent, total economic disaster, you name it, health issues, whatever, they can certainly taint one’s look at life, but essentially you learn to be the person that you are.

Dr. Leman: So Have a New You by Friday, if you’re tempted to go down to your local counselor, or your neighborhood shrink, you may want to read this book first, save yourself a lot of money, time and effort. And the good news is, if you learn to be the person you are, don’t you think it’s true that you can unlearn those negative behaviors and ideas, and channel your energy into something more positive and productive? I mean, think of people whose lives have changed, who’ve gone from rags to riches, who’ve gone from wrong to right. It’s change. It’s personal growth. People pay a lot of money for a personal trainer. You want a little personal trainer for $2.99? Oh my goodness. Download, Have a New You by Friday. It’s a good one. All those Friday books are great.

Doug: The reason I so strongly recommend this, is so much of parenting is about you changing and your kids realizing the change and then they change with you. You need help. It’s so hard to change. This book is a great, uber practical… It’s a Dr. Leman, fun read. Please go get it for yourself. And now, a no-nonsense parenting advice from Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman: Hey, if you’re not a single parent, please don’t tune me out because there’s a single parent near you, trust me. And I want to share with you, I think, one of the top two or three suggestions that I can give to anybody who’s single. You know, if you’re single, and were married, in all probability there were a lot of hurts associated with that. The natural tendency, the carnal nature of mankind is, when you’re hurt you feel like you have license to strike out. In fact, some of you think that one of the gifts of the spirit is criticism. It isn’t, and I’m going to give a suggestion to every single person here, especially those of you who have kids.

Dr. Leman: Don’t bad-mouth your ex-spouse ever, for any reason. I mean this guy, or this woman, could be the slime ball of the century, could be a derelict, could’ve been hurtful, could have been abusive, whatever. I don’t care what baggage they brought into your marriage that you paid for, but there’s no way that you can strike out at that person where it would help anybody. You certainly won’t help yourself. But so many parents I’ve witnessed over the years, they use their children as narks. When they’re over at Dad’s house, they want to know, was there a woman over there? Are there any liquor bottles around? I mean, I’ve heard it all over the period of time.

Dr. Leman: You need to let your kids have their relationship with their dad, or their mom. You need to step back and let that relationship happen. You need to extend the olive branch of peace, so that your kids are seeing that you’re acting in a loving way. They understand it wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy for them. Don’t you think they understand it’s not easy for you? But when they see you turn the other cheek in a peaceful, positive way, and express nothing but words of concern, and kindness, and joy, and positivity, don’t you think that’s going to make a difference in their lives?

Dr. Leman: Isn’t that great training for when life throws them a curve ball, that they’ll respond accordingly? Believe me, they’re taking notes on how you live your life. For those of you who are so hurt you just can’t help yourself. You just keep banging away at that ex-husband of yours, or whatever, your ex-wife. Sooner or later those kids of yours are going to turn on you, and they’re going to turn that ex-husband, or that ex-wife, into the father or mother of the year. Trust me. So watch that little rudder in your mouth, that little tongue. You know, if you want to shout out your anger to Almighty God, he’s big enough to listen to what you have to give him. But don’t spew out any venom toward that ex. You’ll be better, your ex will be better, and your children for sure will be better.

Doug: So Dr. Leman, back to the Xbox example. What happens if it happens in my home, where it’s not a stealing issue, or it could be a stealing issue, but now it’s a lying about something that occurred in my home and I can’t take it to the dean? How do I get to the heart of that? You said that you… You know, they do it out of fear of rejection and trouble and we want to be grace-filled, but how do we do that?

Dr. Leman: Well, I’ve had a lot of kids over the years, especially kids in the adolescent years, steal money from their parents. I mean, most women… Actually, I’m looking at my wife’s purse right now. Maybe I should go in there and see what I find. My sad sense of humor just pops up once in a while. But she comes in and she loves to hang it on the chair. We have a dining room table. It’s about 12 feet long and there’s eight chairs around it right now, and she just hangs it on one of the chairs, or sometimes she’ll drop it on the floor, around the corner of a kitchen entryway kind of place. Those are her two favorite spots. But anyway, money is accessible. Most women have money in their purses. I know we live in a credit card world, but you know, kids can steal credit cards as well, and kids know passwords, and all those things can happen.

Dr. Leman: So again, I think the big thing, when you know your son or daughter has done something, is not the ask him the question. I know this sounds stupid to some of you. Don’t ask them a question, “Did you, did this?” Make the statement that we know that you took Mom’s money. We knew you used Mom’s credit card for this or that, because you’ve done your homework. You saw what happened. And it was spent at, you know, a store that Mom wouldn’t frequent, or that Dad wouldn’t frequent. So you have all the facts. So there’s no sense in setting them up just to lie again and deny it, because you want to get to the why’s and the wherefores. And some of the things that you might discuss is the need to lie, and is this something that we can continue to expect for the rest of your life?

Dr. Leman: I mean, if somebody asked me on the street to describe my son or daughter, do I tell them this, that, and add that you’re a thief as well? So there has to be a rather straightforward conversation with that son or daughter. And as I’ve suggested to many parents, you get to the point where you take the keys to your car, you keep them with you at all times, and you lock your valuables sometimes in the trunk of your car. If you’ve got a kid who’s a druggie, the white lady, the cocaine, or whatever that kid’s hitting on, will take precedent over anything. Everything you ever taught him, anything he ever learned in school, or church, goes right out the door because he has a need to feed his habit, and he’s going to feed it, no matter what.

Dr. Leman: You know, there’s simple thefts. I guess the police call it petty theft, but there’s also grand larceny. I mean, so there’s all different degrees, and as a parent you have to use your own ingenuity here is to figure out, okay, do I need a flyswatter here or a sledge hammer? You know, I wouldn’t make the molehill into a mountain for sure. You have to talk turkey with kids.

Doug: Got it. So this is the classic be firm, but be grace-filled and be smart. Don’t ask them, “Did you lie?”

Dr. Leman: Yeah. I think disappointment is a great word to use. “I’m disappointed in what happened.”

Andrea: You say, don’t ask them if they did it, when you know they did it, because then you’re setting them up to lie again. So, that’s a good way to remember it.

Doug: Tell them you’re disappointed. Be gentle. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. I love that. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard, “Is this a flyswatter moment or a sledgehammer moment? It’s a little graphic, but it’s like, wow, that’s another good one to use.

Dr. Leman: Well, you know, if you’d ask me to say, what are the two toughest questions to answer, are kids biting… Okay, biting. Try to figure that one out. What do you do? Bite them back? I know some of you are saying, “We did that and it worked.” Well, you said it, I didn’t… and lying. The topic we’re talking about today is one of the toughest to really address in a practical way, because we get so emotionally involved in it. It’s a sin against us. So anyway, it’s a tough one. Parents, you’ll find those Leman books to be helpful. They sort of keep you onboard with trying to put balance in your parenting. I hope you’ll keep reading. Good stuff there for you.

Doug: Well, it’s funny you should say that. I was going to say that and I’m like, “I’m not going to say it because I say it all the time,” but I’m going to say it now. The book, Have a New Kid by Friday, has a whole section in the back of all these practical applications, and one of them is lying. And I thought, “Wow, this would be a great example again of why that book helps you, give you the theory and the practicality.” Get the book, Have a New Kid by Friday. If you’re struggling, go for it.

Doug: Thank you, Dr. Leman for answering the tough question. We love it, and we loved being with you. Thank you for spending your time, and as always, the reason we do this is to give you more tools to parent those kids, so that you can love them more and more and have a great, fabulous, wonderful relationship for decades with them. So thank you for being with us and we look forward to the next time we get to be with you.

Andrea: You have a great day.

Doug: Take care.

Andrea: Bye-bye.

Doug: Bye-bye.