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LifestyleColumnistsBeth Whitehouse

How to discourage little white lies

How can I get my 11-year-old to stop telling me little white lies? For instance, I'll ask him if he's done his homework, and he'll say yes, when he hasn't. Or I'll ask if he fed the dog and he'll say yes, but he hasn't. Advice?

Pose it as a situation where telling the truth is a win for him, advises Leah Klungness, a psychologist in private practice in Locust Valley and a former school psychologist for the South Huntington School District.

First, have a conversation with him about the relationship between truth and trust. Tell him you understand that between school and extracurricular activities, he has a busy schedule. But he also has responsibilities, and he has to be truthful about whether he's completed them. Tell him, "Trusting you is how you will get more opportunity to do the things that you would like to do without a hassle from me."

Solving the problem of actually doing the homework and feeding the dog so there's no need for a white lie would be the best solution, of course. Making that a win for him may help as well, Klungness says. She suggests saying something like: "If I can't trust you to do simple things like feed the dog or do your homework, then I can't trust you to go out with your friends. Of course your homework is work, and of course feeding the dog is a chore. But by doing those things, it's your ticket to doing the things you want to do."

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