Let's face it. Kids are going to lie to you from time to time.
They lie about cleaning their room. They lie about who started a fight. They lie about eating their vegetables when you can clearly see them on the floor.
Personally, my younger self blamed everything that went wrong on an Alligator in red sneakers. My childhood mind apparently thought that a more specific description would make the mischievous alligator wandering around the house more believable.
Obliviously, a couple little fibs isn't going to put your kid on the fast-track to America's Most Wanted. But as as a father I'll need to draw the line somewhere. Here's a quick guide to addressing the issue.
Age matters – When kids are 2 or 3 years old, they don't really have much of a concept of what's real and what isn't. So while you need to reinforce the idea that telling the truth is important, it's not realistic to expect them to be 100% truthful all the time. It's when they get older than you can start introducing punishments. It's not fun, but it's part of fatherhood.
Leave imaginary friends alone – Like my reptilian compatriot, imaginary friends are totally normal, and even healthy from a mental development standpoint. These make-believe beings allow kids to express their creativity in a healthy way. Eventually, they'll grow out of them. Just be patient. Just don't let the the imaginary friend take the fall for any lies your child may have.
Separate punishments for lying and misdeeds – Another thing to remember is that since kids often lie to hide the fact that they did something wrong, you need to be able to differentiate them. If they break something but tell the truth, give them credit for being honest and keep the punishment related to their actions. If they do something wrong, and then lie, then make sure to address both issues.
Read between the lies – Lies often hint at a larger issue. If they feel overwhelmed by their homework, they may simply tell you they don't have any homework only to have you head into parent-teacher conferences only to find a big surprise. If you feel like this may be happening, make sure to address the underlying issue, not just punish them for the symptom.
Lead by example – You also need to be a good role model for your kids when it comes to telling the truth. If they see you lying about their age to get them free admission to the movies, or telling other half-truths, they're going to remember it.
If you've tried to address the issue, and your older child continues to lie habitually then talk about it with other family members. They may have new insights into methods or strategies that might be effective as well. If it's still a serious issue, try bringing it up with your pediatrician. The medical perspective may offer unique insights in finding some solutions.