Children lie for various reasons:
• Lying is actually typical, age-appropriate behavior for children throughout certain stages of childhood. Louise Bates Ames mentions lying in the book Your Four-Year-Old: Wild and Wonderful (Dell, 1976). Ames states that age three the child starts to lie and by age four to six most children brag, exaggerate and lie more. *Studies suggest that four-year-olds can lie about once every two hours and six-year-olds about every 90 minutes. When children reach school-age, they lie more often and can do so more convincingly. The lies also become more sophisticated, as their vocabulary grows and they better understand how other people think. By eight, children can lie successfully without getting caught out.
• She adds that parents and teachers should not worry or fuss too much about their child lying.
• Lying is convenient. Many children will not want to stop their play to do something mundane, like wash hands, so they will lie and say they already did.
• Lying is sometimes used to avoid taking responsibility for a transgression. Nobody wants to get in trouble. A child will sometimes lie to avoid punishment.
• Lying is a form of wishful thinking. Children sometimes create stories that are exaggerations of their own life to make it sound more exciting.
• Lying might be to cover up something.
• Exploring and experimenting with the parent or teacher’s reactions.
• Exaggerating a story or situation to impress others to gain attention even though you know the truth.
• Manipulating a situation like “Mommy said I could have a lollipop before supper Nana.”
What to do when your child lies:
1. REINFORCE THE TRUTH: When our children tell the truth, we must let them know how very pleased we are of them for being honest, also at the same praise them for understanding the difference between truth and fiction. This also helps our children know the importance of telling the truth without stretching or remodeling it.
2. LEARNING TO PICK THE STORIES: Stories come in all sizes, Long, Short, Tall and usually involves our child trying to get out of trouble. The Short one may involve something like telling you he has already been to the toilet before bed. Then comes the Long one, saying things like “it must have been the dog, I didn’t eat the last cupcake.” Then there’s the Whopper, usually of the boasting variety, yeah well I have five bikes, and I ride them all every day.
3. BE COMPASSIONATE: We need to be able to tell the different types of stories our children tell and respond accordingly. For Example: When the child tells you he didn’t spill over the blocks on the rug, and we know differently, we need to explain we are more disappointed in the fact that he lied, to save getting into trouble. This is where we help him understand it is better to tell the truth from the start because that way we have a better chance of fixing the problem together. Our children are more at ease telling the truth, knowing we are considerate to their feelings.
4. Be positive and emphasise the importance of honesty. You can tell children that you appreciate being told the truth and don’t like it when they are lying to you; for example, try saying ‘When you don’t tell me the truth, I feel sad and disappointed’. You could also try books or stories that highlight the importance of honesty. Generally, it’s better to teach children the value of telling the truth than to punish them for minor misdeeds. Praise children for honesty, even if it sometimes takes you a while to get it. Children like to make things up. They exaggerate stories to give them a bit more ‘flavor.’ In fact, pretending and imagining are important to the child’s development. It’s good to encourage this kind of play. ‘Tall tales’ don’t need to be treated as lies, especially for children under four.
Next week, child’s rudeness