Why My child Is Lying??
When you catch your child in a lie, it’s natural to feel betrayed, hurt, angry and frustrated. But here’s the truth: lying is normal. It’s wrong, but it’s normal. In fact, we all do it to some degree. Consider how adults use lies in their daily lives: When we’re stopped for speeding, we often minimize what we’ve done wrong, if not out–and–out lie about it. Why? We’re hoping to get out of something, even if we know better. I believe that with kids, lying is a faulty problem–solving skill. It’s our job as parents and care givers to teach our children how to solve those problems in more constructive ways. Here are a few of the reasons why kids lie.
Why Do Children Lie?
Children lie for different reasons at different ages. Very young children may not yet be able to always distinguish fantasy from reality. Three-year-old Shyam’s fantastic story about the toy that flies around his room is not actually an attempt to deceive. More likely, Shyam has a very active imagination and cannot always tell the difference between what he imagined and what really happened. Children this age may also appear to lie because they have honestly forgotten things. When a 2 year-old is accused of putting a roll of toilet paper in the toilet and she claims she didn’t do it, she may simply not remember doing it, especially if it wasn’t discovered for several hours.
Around the age of 5 or 6 children start to develop a more consistent understanding of the difference between fantasy and reality and are less likely to insist on the truth of their imaginings. Around this age, a child begins to develop a conscience and understand that certain behaviors may disappoint his or her parents. He or she may also begin to experience feelings of guilt associated with misdeeds. For the first time, the child may construct a lie in an attempt to avoid punishment and/or disapproval. Children this age may also tell fibs or exaggerate extensively in order to get their parents’ attention.
By the age of 7 or 8, most children have learned to tell the difference between fantasy and reality and can usually be counted on to tell the truth. The most common reasons for children to lie at this age are to avoid being punished, or to avoid doing something unpleasant like anger parents or some punishments . Children may also begin to grasp the concept of polite social lying around this age. They may pretend to like the knitted socks that Grandma gave them for their birthday, or compliment a friend’s new haircut even though they think it looks ridiculous. Altruistic lies to protect others from harm may be told as well.
Lies at this age may also be a cry for help. Children who are very fearful of disappointing their parents and are feeling overwhelmed by school or some other area of their lives, may lie in an attempt to deal with this pressure.
By adolescence, lying begins to take on a new significance and parents are likely to become more alarmed by the lies their adolescents tell. Adolescents clearly understand the difference between fantasy and reality and are aware of the possible consequences of telling lies. They have also become better at it!
However, not all lies that an adolescent tells should be taken as a sign that he or she is up to something dangerous or forbidden. Adolescents may lie simply to protect their privacy, to establish their independence, to avoid embarrassment, or to spare another’s feelings. Of course, they may also lie to avoid punishment or doing chores, or to try to get something that they think they may not be able to get by telling the truth.
What Can Parents Do?
The first thing you can do is to teach honesty in the home and be aware of your own standards for lying. In some homes polite social lies are more acceptable than in others. Some parents may inadvertently promote lying by asking their children to lie about their age, or tell a caller that Mom or Dad isn’t home.
Be aware that children will have a very difficult time seeing the difference between these types of lies and lies they may tell to you. Modeling honest behaviour in the home as well as setting up an environment in which it is easy to be truthful may be two of the strongest lie prevention strategies. Here are a few tips:
Whenever possible, keep your word. Always explain and apologize if you must break a promise.
If you do find yourself lying in front of your child, be sure to talk about it with him or her and explain your reasons and values surrounding the lie.
If you made a mistake by telling a lie, admit it. Do not expect young children to understand the subtle differences between “white lies” and more serious lies.
Do not tell your children lies to promote compliance (e.g., telling them that shots won’t hurt or that going to the dentist will be fun).
Praise truth-telling, especially when it was likely difficult to do. Assume family members are telling the truth unless you have reason to suspect otherwise.
Don’t overburden your child with too many rules and expectations. The more rules there are, the more likely they are to get broken, and the more likely the child may feel the need to lie to avoid punishment.
Involve your children in developing the rules. It is easier to abide by a rule that you had some role in developing.
Even children raised in the most truthful and honest of households will still lie on occasion. When this happens, it is important to remain calm and remember that the lie is not a personal attack, so don’t take it as such or give into anger. Review the reasons why a child might lie at any given age and respond accordingly.
Try to discover the reason why the child is lying. What a child is trying to hide by lying may be much more important than the lie itself.
Tell your child that you love her, even when she lies. She’s not a bad child; rather, it’s just her behaviour that’s unacceptable.
Make sure any consequences for lying are kept separate from the consequences for whatever the lie was designed to conceal.
And be careful not to overreact. Remember that children may lie to avoid punishment. Excessive or irrational punishments may backfire. The greater the fear of punishment, the less likely your child is going to “fess up” the next time.
Make it very easy for your child to tell the truth and give him a chance to confess. Don’t stage a courtroom drama and try to force a confession.
If your child tells tall tales or lies to get your attention, don’t accuse the child of being a liar, but don’t pretend like you’re not aware of it, either. Make it clear that you don’t believe that he ran a mile in less than three minutes, but that you love him anyway. If your child tells a tall tale to someone else and you witness it, don’t point it out in front of the other person. Wait until you are alone with your child to discuss it.
Don’t accuse. “I wonder how this milk got spilled — I wish someone would clean it up,” is more likely to get an honest response than “Rita , did you spill this milk?” Don’t try to set your child or adolescent up to tell you a lie when you have discovered the truth.
Asking “Where were you Friday night?” when you know Maya was at a party you had forbidden her to attend is a form of dishonesty and deceit – just the thing you are trying to avoid! It also encourages Maya to lie, giving her more practice at the very thing you don’t want.
Further, this tactic places the emphasis on the lie as opposed to the behavior, which may be the more serious problem. If Maya hadn’t gone to the party in the first place, there would be no need to lie.
Help the child explore the effects that lying has on others and on the child’s relationships.
Fables are a great way to teach values to younger children. The Boy Who Cried “Wolf” may be especially effective.
Be sure adolescents are given a fair amount of privacy. This will lessen the likelihood that they will lie just to protect what privacy they have.
In most cases, lying in childhood does not lead to a life of deception. Since all children lie from time to time, and few grow up to be dishonest adults, the odds are pretty good that your child will be fine. However, this does not mean that lying should be brushed off as just a passing
stage. Discussing with your child the consequences of lying and dishonesty will help him or to grow into an honest adult.