Children lie for a variety of reasons. Determining these reasons before responding to the lie is KEY!
One of the most common reasons is to avoid getting into trouble. For example, a child may lie about breaking a vase because they know they will be punished if they admit to it. Children may also lie to protect themselves from hurt or to avoid being embarrassed. For example, a child may lie about having completed their homework because they are afraid of getting reprimanded in front of their peers.
One of the biggest reasons children lie is because they are trying to gain attention or control over a situation in their world. They may tell ‘tall tales’ or exaggerate to impress others or lie to manipulate a situation to their advantage. Ever had the, “I have a sore tummy,” on the first day back at school scenario? Haven’t we all!
Before you get hot under the collar though, pause for a moment and remember that lying is a normal part of child development and not necessarily a sign of a problem. Most children learn to tell the truth as they get older and develop a keener and deeper sense of morality.
As a parent, knowing why your child is lying will help you to address the underlying issue effectively.
If your child is lying to avoid getting into trouble, it may be a sign that they are afraid, or that the consequences being handed out are not equal to the action. Allowing for second chances where it’s appropriate can help children to correct behaviour without there being a negative consequence. If your child seems fearful then perhaps take note of your tone of voice, physical demeanour and the language that you’re using when dealing with the issue…perhaps Mama Bear needs to sniff the flowers and blow some candles…!
If your child is lying to protect themselves from hurt or embarrassment, it is important to create a safe and supportive environment where they feel comfortable being honest. Your response to them is everything! As Danny Silk says over and over again, staying calm and connected is the goal with any kind of discipline. Lying is no different.
Make sure that you praise your child when they are honest, even if what they are saying is difficult to hear, so that they clearly get the message that honesty is valued and maintains connection. And don’t forget to reinforce that honesty equals trust equals connection.
Other questions to ask yourself are how are your boundaries looking? Are you being consistent with consequences? Are you taking time to connect intentionally with your child? Slack boundaries, and inconsistency, as well as a child that’s desperate for some one-on-one time can all impact their honesty barometer.
Remember to model honesty and integrity for your child. Children learn by example, so if you are caught in a lie, it sends the message that it is acceptable behaviour. If you are caught it’s a great teaching moment to talk about why it’s not good to lie, and how you can make amends and mend trust.
Be patient with your child and understand that it takes time for them to learn the value of honesty. Encourage them to tell the truth, and when they do, praise them and reward them for their honesty.