There is a well-known saying that goes “honesty is the best policy”, and as a parent or an educator, it is in your best interest for your child to remain truthful as much as possible. In general, telling lies has been perceived to be a wrongdoing yet people (yes, even kids) tend to do this once in awhile. In fact, studies have shown that lying among children can begin as early as 2 years old; although not necessarily in a deliberate manner. The question you might be asking yourself now is – why does this happen? But worry not! Lying in children may not be as alarming as it is perceived to be. I have gathered some facts and information which might enlighten you on this matter.
Why do kids lie? Studies have shown that lying among kids is actually a normal occurrence as it plays a big part in their cognitive and social development. As they grow up, various reasons related to curiosity or staying out of trouble may arise. However, no matter what the intention is, lying should not be be given a pass.
In this article, I have narrowed down 3 reasons why kids lie, which will be discussed in detail. Furthermore, I will also delve into the necessary steps to be taken to prevent lying from becoming a bad habit. Being aware of these steps may aid you as a parent or as a teacher in handling the situation when your child resorts to lying.
3 Reasons Why Kids Lie:
- To avoid getting into trouble or being punished
- Out of curiosity
- The influence of an older figure telling a “harmless” lie
Earlier, I mentioned how lying actually aids in the development of a child’s cognitive and social skills. This is applicable mainly to those in their preschool years. As kids grow older, however, there are deeper reasons as to why lying occurs, such as the following:
1. To avoid getting into trouble or being punished
Kids sometimes they get too carried away with excitement and then oops! – something suddenly shatters on the floor. It turns out it was your favorite figurine display which had high sentimental value for you. Your child knows how you don’t like it when something breaks and due to the fear of being reprimanded, the child then lies to cover up for the mistake.
2. Out of curiosity
Kids have a very colorful imagination. It is important to note as well that kids, especially those aged younger than 10 years old might have a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy. Since it is a time of exploration for them, they try to figure out what would happen if they do certain things and the potential outcome piques their interest. For example, your son could be curious about your reaction if he lies about not finishing his meal. He knows how particular you are about it and he wanted to see how you would react. It might seem that your child was just making fun of you but with the right questions asked, chances are, you will understand that the lie was sparked by curiosity.
3. The influence of an older figure telling a “harmless” lie
Kids usually look up to adults as role models, and more often than not, they idolize their parents or an older figure who usually guides them. They mirror what they see in you because if they want to be like you, they have to do exactly what you are doing. So if they catch you telling a “harmless” lie (more commonly known as a white lie), they will most likely think that lying is okay.
How To Prevent Lying Among Kids
If you find yourself nodding your head to the above-mentioned reasons, you are probably wondering how you can prevent or lessen your child’s lying tendencies, most especially if it occurs frequently.
Find out why your child is lying
In order to clearly understand a situation, it is very important to assess and analyze the whys. As they say, there is always a reason for everything. It is essential to find out the root cause of it so that it may be addressed with the right solution plan. You may consider asking yourself if your child is going through something and is afraid to tell you.
Rephrase your question from “Did you do this?” to “Why did it happen?”
The manner of wording actually has an impact on the way a child responds, especially during confrontations. When something wrong has been done and the child is asked “did you do this?” it is more likely to prompt the child to tell a lie. If you compare the two questions, the first one has the tendency to put the child on the defensive and eventually lie because there is the fear of being reprimanded. The second one is more likely to encourage the child to be truthful since there was no pinpointing.
Openly discuss what lies and truths are
Making your child aware of what lies are and how it affects trust and their relationship with family and friends can help them better understand. If ever they eventually come clean about lying, it may also help to tell them that it makes you happier when they speak of the truth. Having such kind of positive affirmation will encourage them to uphold the value of truth even more, hence lessening the lies.
Be firm and encourage an open and positive communication with your child
Instead of resorting to punishing and reprimanding whenever your child commits a lie, have an open communication. It is important to understand how kids are not fully aware of the consequences of their actions. It is is quite ineffective to punish a child without them fully understanding what happened. Conversely, if you show that you are firm and encouraging to talk about it, not only will they understand that lying is wrong, but at the same time it may also improve your child’s relationship with you.
There is no reason to be too worried when your kid tells a lie provided that it is not habitual and destructive to their development and relationships with the people around her. While lying has somehow become an acceptable part of society, it is still important to acknowledge and instill the value of truth in kids. No matter how small or big a lie may seem, it should never go unnoticed. As a parent, it is important to keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to correct their ways constructively, not to make them feel shameful about their mistake which may just worsen in the long run.
What if my child does not want to talk properly? The way a child’s mind work is different than that of an adult’s, and there are times when you will have to be in their shoes to figure out how you can negotiate with a child. You may try to give your child some space, but at the same time, you can sound encouraging by letting your child know that “I’m just here for you whenever you’re ready to talk.”
What if the lying becomes habitual? While lying is said to be a part of a child’s development, it is an entirely different story when it becomes habitual. You may try to firmly talk to your child about it so you can learn where this is all coming from. Otherwise, it might be advisable to seek additional help from a child expert.