Say This, Not That by Ilana Kukoff and Jessica Huddy

Little Liars

Dear Ilana and Jess: I’m worried that my preteen kids have started fibbing. Fortunately, both of my children are good and don’t break the rules so much as they bend them. Still, I need honesty. How do I get that? - Katie

Dear Katie: Put in checks and measures. If you can’t take the kids’ word for it, don’t. Require confirmation that they’re doing what they say they will (and not doing what they say they won’t). This could be photographic evidence, for example: if you’re not home to check homework, ask them to send you a picture of their completed assignments. The more consistently they prove themselves, the better. These measures don’t need to stay in place forever, but be careful not to fade them too rapidly.

Promote honesty at every opportunity. Each time you get confirmation that your kids are telling the truth, reinforce it. This can be as simple as providing positive praise: “Thank you so much for sharing that with me.” If you’re implementing checks like those suggested above, offer rewards for successful completion. For example, the kids can earn extra screen time for every completed homework assignment they submit to you.

Keep confrontations short and sweet. If you do catch your kids in a lie, be careful not to shame them. Be frank and direct in addressing what’s happened and don’t word your confrontation as a question. Give the kids one opportunity to tell the truth. Make sure that your prompt is leading; the goal is to be specific enough that your kids get the picture, while leaving things open-ended. For example: “I’d like you to tell me honestly what happened when _____.” If they don’t fess up, then tell them directly what you know and implement a consequence for lying.

Say This: “I’d like you to tell me honestly what happened when _____.”

Not That: “Are you lying to me?”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit: