Telling the truth and being honest are virtues that parents strive to instill in their children. However lying is a part of normal childhood development, and it is expected that most children will go through phases where they experiment with lying. Lying typically begins around age 3, and becomes more prevalent during the elementary school years. The occurrence and severity of lying will vary in every child, but most parents will at some point find themselves in situations where their child has told a lie. In order to effectively handle lying in children, it is helpful to know a few basic strategies in order to decrease the instances of lying and increase telling the truth.
WHY CHILDREN LIE:
- To cover up something or to avoid punishment
- To escape an unpleasant task
- To gain attention from others
- To impress friends or classmates by exaggerating and/or making up a story
- To avoid hurting someone’s feelings
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR CHILD LIES:
- First, ensure there is not an underlying issue that needs to be addressed (i.e. low self-esteem, a problem at school, etc.)
- Do not ignore a lie. When you know your child is lying, calmly discuss the issue with them. Discuss how they could have better handled the situation, and explore alternative responses to lying.
- Teach your child the consequences of lying and how lying can negatively affect them (i.e. potential loss of friends, loss of privileges, loss of trust from parents, teachers, and friends).
- If the lie was more serious, and you feel a consequence is necessary, make the consequence directly related to the lie. For example, if your child lied about stealing money from their sibling,
withhold their allowance for a week.
STRATEGIES TO PREVENT LYING IN THE FUTURE:
- Be a good role model for your child and model honesty. If your child witnesses you lying, they will be more likely to lie themselves.
- From a young age, discuss the importance of honesty and reinforce the value of telling the truth.
- Praise and reinforce your child for telling the truth. Be specific with your praise, “I like how you told your teacher the truth about why your homework assignment was late.”
- Make use stories, books, and real life situations that deal with lying. Use these examples to discuss appropriate alternatives to lying.