07:43 (GMT+2), Fri, 21 September 2012
It’s normal for kids to make up stories and tell tall tales. While younger children may blur the distinction between reality and fantasy, an older child or adolescent may tell a lie to be self-serving, to avoid doing something or to deny responsibility for his actions.
Many children lie because they are bored or feel that they are not receiving adequate attention. A child who has gained attention from telling elaborate stories and untruths may continue to do so to maintain parental or social interest. Children also lie because the consequences of the truth are too big, and to escape punishment.
How to solve the problem
What not to do when your child tells a lie
- When you child is caught in a lie, explain to him how it hurts him as well as you. Say: “I’m sorry you chose not to tell the truth. It makes me feel sad that I can’t trust what you say. Let’s work on telling the truth, so I can believe what you tell me is true.”
- Explain the difference between lying and telling the truth. Young children don’t always know that what they’re saying is a lie because it might seem like the truth to them. Help your child understand the difference between reality and fantasy by saying, “I know you want your friend to like you, but telling him that you have 101 Dalmatians living at your house isn’t truthful. The truth is that you’d like to have all those dogs, but you only have one dog named Molly.”
- Help you child accept responsibility. When you give your child a chore to do, such as putting toys away, he might lie to you and tell you that he already did it. Say: “I’m so glad you did what I asked. I’ll go see what a great job you did.” If you discover he lied, say: “I’m sorry you chose to lie about doing what I asked. I know you didn’t want to put all those toys away and didn’t want me to be disappointed, but doing what I asked and telling the truth are important. Now, let’s go and get the job done. I’ll watch while you pick up.
- Play make-believe with your child by setting aside time for him to make up stories. Then contrast this ‘make believe time’ with ‘truth time’ when your child has to tell you the truth. When your child tells you something you know isn’t true, say: “That’s and interesting make-believe story. Now tell me a true story about what really happened.”
preschooler, behaviour, lying
- Don’t test your child’s honesty - If you know your child has done something wrong, asking him a question to which you already know the answer forces him into a dilemma: tell the truth and get punished, or lie and maybe get away with it. Don’t make him choose.
- Don’t punish - When you catch your child telling a lie in order to stay out of trouble, don’t punish him for doing so. Instead, teach him how to accept responsibility for making a mistake and fix the problem it caused. For example, say, “I’m sorry the wall has marks on it, now we’re going to have to learn about taking care of walls. Let’s get the cleaning stuff and start cleaning.”
- Don’t lie - Avoid exaggerating or making up stories to impress people, avoid consequences, or get out of doing what you don’t want to do.
- Don’t overreact - Even if you’ve said it a hundred times that you can’t stand a liar, going ballistic when your child lies only forces him to avoid telling the truth in order to keep you from being mad.
- Don’t label your child a “liar” - Don’t make lying a self-fulfilling prophecy. A child who’s called a “liar” will believe that what he does is what he is. Your child isn’t what he does. You might not love his behaviour, but you’ll always love him unconditionally.