I can understand when someone, including a child, tells lies to avoid to be punished. I could even try to figure out why someone needs to tell lies to achieve or get something. But, lying in itself is utterly unclear to me. However, it is quite usual for young children to invent events, to make up facts, and to lie without any apparent reason.
Can you imagine a weird situation when I am looking at my kiddo’s eyes and know that she tells pure lies while tries to convince me that everything she says is an absolute truth? In such moments I feel stupid, and sometimes I don’t know what to think and what to tell her. If you have ever faced something like that, you exactly know what I’m talking about.
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Why Do Children Lie?
The question is why my child needs to lie? Sometimes it happens that she makes up the story and says something to unknown people or even acquaintances, which make me thoroughly embarrassed. Then I feel awful and ask myself why she needs to do such a thing. I believe that many parents have experienced that. Let’s see what it’s really about.
Will she develop into a pathological liar if I don’t insist on honesty? Should I give up talking because I can squash her creativity? Is it creativity at all? Horrible questions have come to my mind including the worst one – Is my child mentally ill?
The experts agree in one – It doesn’t make sense to punish young children for lying because they don’t recognize the difference between fiction and the truth. That means that there is nothing wrong with our children even though they are ‘lying big’. It is actually the opposite. Child’s lies are usually a sign of good things. If your child is a preschooler, she probably has higher IQ scores if she lies all the time. Moreover, she will be a teenager with excellent social skills. Can you imagine that?
Why Does My 6 – 8 Years Old Child Tell Lies?
When we are talking about school kids, things are entirely different. They have always got a reason for lying. Sometimes they tell a ‘white lie’ that benefits (or they think that benefits) other people who they love. It actually shows that a child is sensitive and has social awareness. Six to eight years old children occasionally use ‘white lies’ because of fear that they will disappoint their parents or that they will be punished.
They tell lies about everyday things when they want to escape duties they are forced to finish, but don’t like them such as taking a shower or tooth brushing. Don’t forget lies which our children use to make a test what are the things they can ‘get away with’. In reality, they often tell lies about things that are related to school and school obligations. They lie about everything including homework, exams, classes, friends, first loves, teachers, and so on.
Where is the Limit of Tolerance?
Don’t worry too much. These lies are not unusual at this age. Thankfully, most of these lies are relatively easy to recognize. Hold on and before you punish the child (sending to her room or taking away TV privileges for a long time are severe punishments for children, you know), try to find out what is going on. In almost all cases, it will be enough if you express your displeasure.
If you talk to your kid, there is a significant possibility that she will tell you why she’s used lies. Also, it can be helpful if you take advantage of a situation when you notice that your child is honest. You should provide some positive feedback to her or even praise her in these circumstances.
If your kid starts to tell lies chronically, you may need to look for professional assistance to solve the problem. The fact is that anxious children, who can’t deal with some serious situation, use lies because it’s easier than facing the problem.
Be a Good Role Model
As in most other cases, you are their role model. Always keep in mind that school-age children are excellent observers. If they see that you use ‘white lies’, they will do the same entirely not aware of the moment when lying has become a model of behavior.
Please, pay attention! Talking about honesty doesn’t mean anything if you often use false statements in dealing with other people. For example, if your neighbor comes to a small talk early in the morning when you are not in the mood, you have to tell her that you will talk some other time. If you pretend that you are not at home or ask your child to lie the neighbor that you are not at home, she will immediately notice your dishonesty. And, the first next time she will tell lies on her own.
Why would you punish her if she does the same thing as you do? The problem is that she lies to you, right? I’m sorry, but it’s the price of your own reflexive ‘white lies’.
‘Useful White Lies’ Can Become a Problem
Be honest. Sometimes we WANT our child tells lies to other people. For example, when my daughter gets ugly pajamas from my mother-in-law (I don’t know why, but her grandma brings these pajamas every time she comes to us), I don’t want my daughter starts screaming – ‘NOOOOOOOOO! I hate your stupid pajamas! I throw them in the trash as soon as you go home! I can’t even give them to someone. No one is poor enough to wear that disgusting cloth!’
Nope. I want my daughter to put a smile on her face and say – ‘Thank you, grandma’. Because we are talking about her 78 years old granny, and there is no reason to hurt her feelings. Yes, to protect one old woman’s feelings, I ask my child to tell lies.
Why would anyone think that a kid would lie only to our request? Why wouldn’t she conclude that it’s allowed to tell a lie under certain circumstances? Why wouldn’t she have the right to determine what these circumstances are?
It’s up to you to find an adequate way to explain a child the truth. In this particular case, the truth is that these stupid pajamas are really ugly, but that we need to protect other people feelings. We need to do that especially if we are talking about old people who love us.
Honestly, I have already thought to tell my mother-in-law to stop to buy these pajamas, but she is so enthusiastic about their quality, that I’ve given up. Yes, I am probably the terrible mother. I ask my child to tell lies, and I am a liar too. Well, I believe that I do what every mother on earth do. And I admit – I can’t do anything about it as long as her granny is alive. What’s worse, I want my child to be such a mother once when she gets her own kids, and when I start to buy ugly pajamas for my grandchildren. Do you understand where the problem is?
When Lying Becomes a Problem
To summarize, 3 to 5 years old children can create their imaginary world during the game, and they’re just starting to figure out the difference between reality and fantasy. From 5 and up to 10 years old children slowly realize the meaning of lying. If you set clear rules about telling the truth, your kid will try to respect your demands because she desires to be considered as an ‘adult’.
It is typical behavior, and you should just direct the focus of your child in the right direction. The problem starts when the frequency of using a lie increases. It can happen when parents don’t react to lies from the very beginning and when a child doesn’t feel the consequences of lying.
Ways to Stop Your Child from Lying
If your child often lies to avoid getting in trouble because of her bad behavior, you can do a few simple things. Let’s try.
1 – Give her a minute to tell you the truth. If she admits and says the truth, she will receive a ‘mild penalty’. For example, she must sit down and keep silent for two minutes. If she did something very wrong, forbid her to watch a cartoon that evening. If she refuses to tell the truth, forbid her to watch a cartoon two evenings. It’s usually a very effective way to discipline your kid for lying.
This method works because it’s a way for her to avoid severe consequences for her actions. If she knows that you will reduce the punishment (which she tried to avoid in the first place) when she tells the truth, the reason for her lying will disappear. The point is that she needs to understand that you will always punish her for misbehavior, but that the consequences will be more serious if she lies. Explain to her that everyone who makes a mistake needs to face the consequences, and to continue with their life after that. That’s it. She will understand.
2 – Give her money. I know that some parents will disagree with this method. Well, the fact is that children mimic our behavior. Therefore, money plays an important role in their lives too. Use this fact as a way of discipline. Give your kid 50 cents in the morning as a reward for following the rules that day. Yes, it will be pre-paid for that day, and you should explain to her that she can keep that money if she doesn’t break any rule during a day, including lying. It can be a brilliant way to improve your kid’s behavior for only $3.50 a week.
Turn it into the game. If your kid breaks a rule, she needs to give back a quarter, but if she breaks a rule and lies about it, she needs to give back all 50 cents. WOW! You can’t imagine how it’s an excellent way for the child to stop lying! Giving her money as an award is a completely different thing. In that case, she won’t feel that she lose something. That’s the catch.
3 – Compare lies. Create a table. There should be two columns. The first column is for child’s ‘lies’. The second column is for your ‘answer lies’. For example, every time she tells a lie, she will get a lie in return. For example, if you tell her dad or granddad (in child’s presence) that she pees in the bed (as an ‘answer lie’ for her lies), she will think twice before she lies again. It’s an effortless way to let a kid experience the ugly side of lying. I have to warn you, prepare yourself for child’s crying. She won’t easily endure a lie which refers to her.
4 – An apology letter. It is an excellent punishment for school children. When your kid tells a lie, she needs to write an apology letter to the person she lied to with all the details why the truth is acceptable and lying is a way of misbehavior.
5 – Let your child choose the punishment for herself every time she tells a lie. You two need to establish this rule and to apply it every time she lies. Believe or not, the most kids will choose a more severe punishment than you would have chosen for them. They simply can’t resist being in the position of a parent who has the right to establish a sentence. Funny, ha?
Some parents believe that punishing a child for lying is efficient. Well, I disagree. When we come to disciplining our children for lying, we are already late. The point is to teach our kids the value of the truth and to avoid lying. We need to recognize that moment when a typical child’s lies become a problem and the way of misbehaving.
Spending time and making an effort to discover and to prevent a lie at the very beginning is more important than finding a punishment when it goes too far. Ultimately, parenting makes us a parent, not devising penalties.