As parents, you want to hear the truth from your kids, but more importantly you probably want them to feel they are able to share it with you. For most parents teaching their child to be honest is so that they are able to take responsibility when they make a mistake, especially mistakes that might affect some else. By learning how to own up to the truth, children are able to learn from their mistakes. So, when your child hits the lying phase, it can understandably cause you to want to increase punishment to curb this behavior; however, a new study published in Child Development reported that kids actually will lie more often and more effectively when they know they will be punished for the mistake.
How can you approach lying by keeping your goals in mind for wanting your child to be honest about their behavior? It is common for many parents to promise their child relief from the actions they are hiding when they confess only to immediately punish them. This tells the child one thing: lie next time. Instead of this approach, you might try inviting your child to speak with you about what occurred and do not use accusatory tones as you could only reinforce their lying. After they tell you the truth, thank them for their honesty and acknowledge how difficult that must have been. Also, if you know the truth before speaking with your child, do not act like you don't. Just approach the situation in a manner that gives them an opportunity to immediately start making amends.
After your child has confessed their crimes, it is time they moved on to taking responsibility for their actions. Instead of simply telling them to state, “I'm sorry,” which is usually pretty empty and does not help your child build character, try asking them, “What do you plan to do about it?” Many times when the child is left in charge of how to make amends the results are surprisingly positive. However, if they do seem to have trouble coming up with a plan, let them know you are available with ideas they could use.
When your child is able to openly reveal their mistakes and are able to come up with a way to atone for them, they are given the opportunity to learn. What did they learn? That telling the truth is ok, and their mistakes can be remedied. Even in cases where actions cannot be undone, children can learn that owning up to them gives them the opportunity to make it better.
Finally, after your child has completed their amends, have another chat (not a lecture) with them and let them know how proud you are they told you the truth even though lying might have been easier. You could even discuss the importance of honesty and teach them why people might choose to lie. This will help your child understand him or herself a little better.
Child-Psych: "It Wasn't Me: How to Handle Your Child's Dishonesty"