My 10-year-old son is an extrovert and also very mischievous. When he is in trouble his first defence is either to lie about it or completely deny that it’s his fault.

He will only admit the truth after a lot of persuasion and I’m worried that he thinks it’s OK to lie, despite us telling him it’s not. How can we correct him so this doesn’t become a habit?

This is a fairly common issue and one that, with a little work on your part, can be remedied. As adults, we prize honesty and know it’s an important trait to seek out and value in others. Yet, we would be incredibly naive to believe that just because we have reached adulthood, we are free from the need to lie once in a while!

I would imagine most adults indulge in the odd ‘white lie’ often with the good intentions of sparing others’ feelings. I think what you’re talking about here is lying with the specific intention of deceiving.

When children lie, it can be for a number of reasons. Younger children sometimes find it difficult to distinguish between the truth and fantasy because for them the lines between reality and imagination are blurred. However, your son is well past that age and his lying probably stems from an overriding but mistaken belief that if he hides what he has done wrong he can avoid the shame, parental disapproval and the consequences that necessarily come with transgressing the rules.

Tackling the lying shows that you are in charge and that you expect your son to behave in a way that demonstrates he understands right from wrong and can admit his mistakes.

I recommend you talk openly to him at a time when you are all happy and there is no conflict. Don’t try to do this in the heat of the moment when you are angry.

Beforehand, discuss with your spouse exactly what the consequences will be for lying and make sure they are proportionate.

During the talk tell your son that you have a problem with the fact that when he does something wrong he lies about it. Use examples from past transgressions, so that he really does understand. Be clear why this is wrong and then be clear that if he lies there will be consequences and lay out specifically what they will be. This way, you all know where you stand when it happens again.

A good way to reinforce this message is to seek out books or movies that use stories to illustrate the consequences of lying. This will give you the opportunity to discuss the issue with your son in a way that is not specifically related to him, but that he can relate to.

Remember, children respond far better to praise than punishment, so make sure you catch your son being good as often as possible and praise him.

Clear boundaries, firm but fair consequences and a consistent parental approach will teach him that honesty is the best policy.