Children’s lies are among the most painful words a parent can hear. You know that every one is born sin and that Bible teaches that children come forth from the womb speaking lies (Psalm 58:3). Still, when you realize your child is lying to you, it hurts.
Lying is an indication that children are much more self-aware than they are often given credit for. It is compelling evidence of their true heritage: original sin. Children don’t have to be taught to lie, it comes naturally.
One reason children lie is because they fear exposure. They are afraid others will find out their thoughts and doubts are hidden. Thus, lying seems to be the best way to solve the problem. However, nothing is hidden from God. When we sin, we lose the ability to be logical. We are blinded by self-interest. We don’t know what makes us stumble (Proverbs 4:19).
So when you hear your children lie, remember that one of the elements behind the lie is fear—fear of being exposed for who they really are. In the midst of hearing their lies, you must have compassion for your children. Yes, they are sinful, unkind, and even cruel with their lies. But at the root is a heart in need of Christ. Without Christ, fear dominates. Fear can make one stupidly deny the obvious.
When your children lie, or even when you think they may have lied, you want to remind them that God knows their hearts and thoughts even better than they do themselves. You want to call them to repent and trust in Christ, for he alone can help them overcome the fear of self-exposure. Only the power of the Gospel can free them from the tyranny of lying. You can and should confidently tell them that God knows whether they have been truthful or not.
Discipline for lying must come from compassion. Yes, your children have offended you with their lies, but more importantly, they have offended and mocked God. Help them to see this reality. It is sometimes difficult to realize that a child who is defiant and seemingly unfazed by lying may actually be dominated by fear. Yet this is often the case.
The way to expose lying for what it is, is to tell the truth yourself. You distort the truth if you make your children’s lies primarily an issue between them and you. The truth is your children need Christ if they are to be free from the tyranny of lying. A child must be right with God before he can be really right with parents. Lying is a deeply personal sin of the heart. You must point your children to Christ to address this sin. He alone can heal the wounds left by lies.