Lying is a normal developmental part of childhood. Some kids do it more than others and some kids are better at it than others. Some kids try it out, discover it doesn't really do much for them and move on. While others think that it is a great tool and use it as often as they can.
In my experience of raising kids who had traumatic starts to life and have attachment issues it is a coping a tool, a survival skill and a developmental milestone all at the same time. My kids lie all the time about everything, some of it is crazy lying ( making stuff up that is totally insane), some of it is to avoid trouble and some of it is because they really want to make sure that I am paying attention. All of it makes me crazy, it is one of the behaviours that I wish I never had to deal with because it is the one thing
After much trial and error I have learned a few things that work with my kids and might just work for you as well.
- Always give them a chance to say it again, the may have lied in response to question without even thinking about it, give them a do over without any consequence or shame involved. It's as simple as saying - I think you might want to try answering that question again.
- Pick your battles, some lies are really not worth even arguing about, does it really matter who put the empty milk jug back in the fridge, nope. I say something like - I know that one of you put it back in the fridge empty, I don't really care who it was but next time please remember to throw it out instead - I actively resist the urge to say more than that even though sometimes I would really like to.
- If you are certain they are not being honest and it is important that the truth comes out explain that you are reasonably certain that what they are saying is not the truth and provide them with the evidence. I often say something like - I hear you saying that you did not break your brothers favourite lego ship but there are not really any other alternatives so I need you to go and rebuild it. - My children hate it when I do this and try to argue with me, I repeat myself ( sometimes many times) and eventually they just fix it.
- If everyone is calm and regulated and there is an opportunity for learning at hand I do call them on the crazy lying. One kid says, I watched a movie in school today and the other says me too. I know this not to be the case and so I start a conversation about it that means they have to tell more lies because they are lying to begin with. Then I call them on it and we talk about why they started to lie in the first place about how it felt and about how they feel now. Sometimes my kids lie about stuff just so they can be a part of the conversation because they hate feeling left out of anything.
- When my kids lie and get caught lying about hurting another person they are given a consequence for lying. One of my boys will hurt someone, have witnesses who are telling the truth and he will still lie. When that happens he does get a consequence but I try to make it related to the crime at hand, like writing an apology letter to the person he hurt and to the person helping resolve the situation for lying to them.
Let me remind you that the lying make me crazy! I want to holler and yell a them but that is so not productive. There is little point, they are going to keep lying until they are ready to stop regardless of what I say or do. I can only hope that eventually they will realise that the truth gets them further and we can all move on.
PS - remembering your patient pants helps too.