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Kids lie: Do you know why?

Sometimes you simply can’t believe that your child has started lying. You just wonder how did he/she learn to tell lies or cook up stories. When you realise your child is telling a lie, you may feel angry, hurt and frustrated.

Kids lie: Do you know why?

But here’s the truth; Lying is normal. It’s a part of child’s development!

Lying is an issue of problem-solving skill in kids. Most of the times, the kid doesn’t even understand that he/she is actually lying. He/she may think that lying is the only way to handle difficult situations or get what they want. Therefore, it’s the job of the parents to teach their children how to solve those problems with honesty and in a more constructive way.

Let us now review, at what age kids start lying, reasons for lying and some tips for parents to encourage honesty in kids:

When do kids start lying?

You will be surprised to know that kids can start telling lies from as early as three years of age. It is the age when a child begins to think that he/she can say things that are not true and parents would not know it.

Children start to lie more at 4-6 years. They may match their facial expressions and voice tone to support their lies. However, they may admit their lies if questioned by adults.

After reaching school age or from 6-7 years, kids are usually better at lying and might lie more frequently. They may tell more complicated and bigger lies as they have learnt more words to express themselves and can understand what other people think.

By eight years, kids can lie successfully without even getting caught.

Why do kids lie?

Kids start and continue to lie due to many reasons. These reasons can be classified broadly into personal, parental and social categories.

Let us take each category at a time:

A) Personal reasons

To get attention:

Kids always try to get more and more attention from their parents. In fact, no matter how much time and attention you give to your child, it never seems to be enough. This attention seeking habit of a child may lead him to start lying.

To get benefits:

It is the simplest reason for a kid to lie. A kid may simply lie to get an extra cookie or few more minutes of a video game. As soon as the child realises that certain privileges are limited and cannot be taken without parents’ permission, they try to lie and get some extra benefits beyond the set limits.

B) Parental reasons

Strict parenting:

Some parents are quite strict with their kids. They are usually engaged in yelling or spanking their children for simplest reasons. The fear of getting punished can make a child resort to lying.

Over-protective parents:

Some parents are over-protective and interfere too much with their child’s life. They just can’t leave the child alone or let him explore and learn things on his own. Such behaviour may irritate the child, and he/she may start lying to get some freedom from parents.

C) Social reasons

Peer pressure:

Friends can be a big reason for a child to lie. As the child grows up and starts going to school, his interest in friends grows gradually. A child may simply lie to impress his/her friends or to make new friends. He may also lie to become the most fun-loving kid in the group or the one who has all kinds of funny ideas.

Sibling rivalry:

When there is more than one child in the family, there is always a power struggle. Every child wants to be better than his/her sibling and get more attention from parents. This unending competition and comparison can make a child lie to his parents or relatives to prove himself better than the sibling.

Tips to prevent lying and encourage honesty in children:

Praise the truth:

When your child does something wrong and comes and tells you, praise the child for being honest. In this way, you will encourage honesty and truthfulness in the child.

Avoid scolding or yelling:

Mistakes are bound to happen in childhood. After all, it’s a learning phase in every human’s life. Therefore, don’t lose your calm if your child does something wrong like spills milk, breaks a toy or hits his sibling. If you scold the child, he/she may lie to you next time. Therefore, tell them that what they did was wrong, but its ok and they can be more careful next time.

Kids Lie: Know why?

Talk to the child:

Good communication between parents and children is the key to good habits and behaviour. Always, spare some time and talk to your child about his/her school, friends and teachers. If the child has confidence that his parents already know most of the things in his life, he may not feel the need to hide or lie about anything.

Set examples:

Children almost always imitate their parents’ behaviour. Therefore, it’s parents’ responsibility to set a good example in front of their kids. Parents should avoid lying or making false promises to children. Often, parents lie to kids to get away with difficult situations. It may seem convenient at that point of time. However, it has negative effects on child’s psychology. They may perceive that lying is an easy way to get away with the problems.

Avoid using labels:

Even if you catch your child telling a lie, never label your child by calling him a “liar”. Such a word may do more harm than good. It may hurt his/her self-esteem and may provoke him/her to lie even more.

Read books:

Books not only help in teaching different subjects to kids, but they can also teach important values and qualities of life like honesty, courage, faithfulness and truthfulness. Therefore, try reading simple books or stories that highlight or stress the importance of honesty and truthfulness. You can also show moral stories in the form of cartoon or animation movies.

Point to remember!

Lying is just a learning phase in children’s life and most kids will not continue to lie forever. Children below 5 or 6 years may have an inability to differentiate between the reality and fantasy. The vivid imaginations of young children may, in fact, be perceived as lies by adults.

Therefore, it’s a responsibility of the adults to help children in differentiating reality from imagination and guide them in the right way. 

Consult a top Psychologist

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  • Lies: why children lie and what to do. http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/lies.html. Accessed on 30th Sept 2016.
  • When children lie. http://www.handinhandparenting.org/article/when-children-lie. Accessed on 30th Sept 2016.

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