Children tell lies for a variety of reasons.  Lying may be a symptom of an underlying problem, or it may just be part of a child’s growing up process.

Why your child tells lies

A preschool child may tell lies because he has forgotten what happened, or he did something he wishes he hadn’t done and so is sort of wishing it away, like when he insists that the dog scribbled on the wall. He may lie because he is curious about what would happen if he lies. Would mummy get angry? He may also lie to get attention away from himself, and probably avoid punishment. If he agrees that he wee-weed on the porch instead of the toilet, all eyes would certainly be on him.

Also, impulsive children may lie because they speak before they think. Children may tell outrageous lies just to get attention from a loved adult. A child claiming that he flew on a saucer while the whole school applauded him may fall into that category.

Teenagers may tell lies because they are not getting enough privacy. Do you really need to know the details of what happened when they hang out with their classmates?

What about white lies? You don’t really want your kid to be brutally honest all the time. When you ask your kid in grandma’s presence if he likes grandma, you would feel embarrassed if he said he didn’t and launched into the details of why he didn’t. So white lies may be seen as social skills.

How to teach your child not to tell lies

Children should learn not to tell lies. The way to teach them this depends on the age and maturity of the child. It also depends on whether telling lies is a recurrent behaviour or a one-off thing. If telling lies is recurrent, there is an underlying problem, like attention-seeking or low self-esteem.

To teach children not to lie, as a parent, when you say no lies, you should tell no lies either. Give school-aged children and teenagers consequences for telling lies. If there are underlying issues, however, like low self-esteem and attention-seeking, address them. For instance, as a parent, are you being overly critical? Do you have too high expectations of your child such that in wanting to please you, he needs to fabricate tales?

When it comes to toddlers, it may help not to give them the opportunity to tell lies in the first place. For instance, if a toddler took the extra chocolate, you don’t need to ask him if he did it. If he scribbled on the wall, avoid the temptation to call a fact-finding committee meeting. Just ask him to help you clean the wall because there are scribbles on it and scribbling on the wall isn’t nice. Give more attention to your child when he is telling the truth or being good. This way, he learns that you get more attention being good than telling lies.  

Children fib for a lot of reasons, like wanting to get out of trouble, or wanting to get an undeserved reward. The way you respond should depend on the age of the child. Gentle parenting will ensure that children do not need to tell lies to save face. It will also make them become comfortable enough to admit their wrongdoings and live up to their responsibilities.

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