Why Do Children Lie?
Have you noticed how your child has recently started lying a lot, even for things that don’t matter? It all started with his imaginative stories and now he wouldn’t stop lying about everything. This is very bothersome for a parent because you don’t want your child to grow up to be a liar. You can stop his lying now before it is too late. But, let’s understand why do kids lie before we talk about the solutions to this problem.
Most children lie at a certain point in childhood. They cannot differentiate right from wrong and somehow start to believe that lying is more effective than truth. A child develops personality traits, observing the environment around him. Don’t be in denial if you notice your child is lying. Children can start lying at any age. However, what matters is the age at which they deliberately start lying. Child psychologists suggest that this age is generally around 4 to 6 years.
The problem is that you cannot really tell if your child is lying unless you catch him/her red-handed or discover the truth. But, since you are reading this article, I am guessing you already have. Now you must wonder, why do children lie? What could possibly make a young child lie about trivial things in life? Well, you just said it. Children are very impressionable at their age. But, you should not pass it off thinking he/she is just being creative. They have started lying now and if not stopped, they will become compulsive liars later and it will really become hard to tell if they are lying. There could be several reasons why children lie that you may have absolutely neglected. Pay attention to these points and understand what makes children lie.
Reasons Why Kids Lie
Imitating Parents: Have you often caught yourself telling your child, “Don’t tell your mom/dad about this”, or blatantly asked them to lie to someone you wanted to avoid like attending a call and telling the caller that you are not around. You may have never thought that such a simple thing could affect your child’s psychology adversely. This is the point where children notice their parents doing something which they have been taught is bad or wrong, like lying. But, they start copying their parents habits because parents are role-models for children. So, when parents lie around kids, they start doing it too.
Truth Got Them Into Hot Water: Did you ever punish your kid when he/she admitted to having broken the vase, eating all the pies or not doing their homework? You are unknowingly negatively conditioning them and they become scared of telling you the truth. Their innocent and young minds start perceiving truth as something that will get them into trouble so they start lying to not get into trouble. It is their defense mechanism. They start lying because when they lie, you become happy since you are not aware of the truth and you don’t punish them. You might even end up rewarding them, under the wrong impression of the truth.
Filling the Gaps: When your kids interact with other children who brag about say – eating two scoops of chocolate-chip ice cream, buying a new home theater system or a vacation to Hawaii, your kids start feeling inadequate and inferior around their playmates. So, to get more competitive, they start exaggerating about incidents, making up stories and lie about accomplishments in their own family tree. They want to impress other kids around them and pretend to have the best life among them to make them feel jealous. It also helps them to make themselves feel better about them. This is pure innocence and again a result of their psychological defense mechanism.
They Don’t Remember: Quite possibly, your child does not remember something and denies doing anything. You may think that your child is lying but they really are not. It may be about finishing their homework or eating a pie. In their minds, they believe to have done or not done something and they respond accordingly. Understand if your child is doing it purposely or if they have really forgotten about things.
What Should You As Parents Do?
• A young mind is very susceptible to the events in its surroundings. Now that you know, why do children lie, make sure you set the right example for them to follow. Practice what you preach. Don’t lie, especially when your kids are around. Keep them out of it.
• When you realize that your kid has been lying lately, have a talk with them. Don’t scold them for it. You must tell them that it is wrongful behavior on their part to lie to anyone. Tell them the consequences of lying a lot with a story like that of the shepherd and the wolf.
• If your children lie a lot even after telling them not to, you can punish them by not talking to them, cancelling your family excursion over the weekend or not letting them have any play time. They will soon understand that what they did was wrong and won’t do it again.
• Encourage your children to read short stories that build their morals and ethics. They will help your child build a strong character when they grow up by subtly teaching them about good and bad.
• Encourage your children to speak the truth and appreciate them for being brave.
• Control television viewing. Children also pick up behavior, especially lying, from television shows and even the cartoons meant for kids. You must keep a watch at what your kid is watching and let TV time be only in your presence. You wouldn’t like it if your child started learning things that were out of your control and then behaved badly.
• Don’t have too high expectations from your children. When you compare your child to other children, he/she subconsciously has a fear of disappointing you. When they do not meet your expectations and fear disappointing you, they start lying to hide their flaws. Make your child feel comfortable to share things with you so you can give him/her your full support to improve upon those problems.
• Children have a habit of boasting to their friends about what they own to enforce their superiority. That is peer pressure in kindergarten. Talk to your children about them lying to their friends about material possessions. This is not a good sign because they will grow up to become one of those people who only care about money. You need to make your kid understand that they should be grateful to God for what they have and strive to achieve what they don’t have. They will learn to value things and be proud of them.
• Although this is an extreme step, but when you have been unsuccessful at getting your kid to stop lying, you can take them to a counselor. Preferably talk to the school counselor about your child’s behavior. If your kid is shy about talking to you, they may open up to another elder who is willing to help them out.
The initial years are the time you can help promote emotional intelligence in children. You must pay special attention towards their behavior because more often they tend to develop negative attitude out of neglect. You should be very gentle with your children unless a situation demands otherwise. By age 7, your child will hardly be scared of lying to you and will use it as a tactic in social interactions to avoid threat. You can instill the values of honesty in your children right from the age of 2-3 years old. Their perceptions start to form as they are introduced to the society. Although, you cannot prevent your children from learning about the concept of lies, you can certainly stop them from adopting it and losing their innocence.
By Urvashi Pokharna