What about children who don’t say the truth because they feel unsafe to do so, are afraid of the consequences that might be heaped upon them, or wish to protect their privacy, belongings, or someone else’s feelings?
One of my go-to strategies is to find a calm, peaceful moment and have the Problem-Solving Dialogue with the child. This is what I might say.
“I noticed that sometimes it’s hard for you to tell me the truth. It makes sense because you might be afraid I’ll punish you harshly or because you’re worried about the consequences. However, it’s important to me that you should feel comfortable being honest with me. What can I do differently that would make you feel more comfortable?”
The child might need some time to think about it. And when she comes back to you with a list of requests, write them down! Thank the child for sharing her ideas.
At a later time, you can review the list with the child again and figure out how to implement her requests in a way that protects her, AND also protects the rights and feelings of others she may have wronged.
The Problem-Solving Dialogue (the bold phrases above are guideposts for having this type of conversation) is a great way to connect with a child and show her that you’re on the same side.