I caught my fifteen-year-old in a bold faced lie the other day. I had asked him to walk our dog while I was out shopping and he said he had. It was very obvious that the dog had not been walked, so I called him on it. At first he tried to defend himself but then decided maybe it was better to fess up and he apologized and said he had forgotten. Why he felt the need to lie in the first place is the mystery.
Most kids will lie once in awhile and for a variety of reasons. Parents may be upset when their child lies to them but they must also realize that it is usually a normal part of childhood development. For instance preschoolers do not yet understand that lying is not a good thing. They will sometimes make up stories that aren’t true or exaggerate something that is true. Children at this age have a very vivid imagination and are just learning to tell the difference between fact and fantasy. When children of this age tell stories it may be because they wish it were true.
Parents of preschoolers can either listen to their children’s tales and say nothing, or they can use this as an opportunity to take what the child says and inject some truth into what your child has said. If for instance the child says, “I can eat a thousand jelly beans!” you could reply “You wish you could eat a thousand jelly beans don’t you honey?”
Preschoolers will also lie to get out of something, or to get something that they want, but at this age they don’t realize that there is anything wrong with this tactic. When children tell these types of lies it is best if the parent tries not to react, but it is important to point out that it is wrong to lie and it is always best to tell the truth. You can tell your child how happy it makes you when he tells the truth and how hard it is for you build trust with him when they don’t.
Once children enter school they start to understand that lying is wrong. At this stage it is a good idea to offer some sort of discipline. It is still quite common for children this age to lie and for various reasons such as:
• To boost their self confidence – telling lies to get attention
• To get something- children may lie to get something they want
• To protect someone they care about
• To avoid punishment- some children will lie to get out of trouble
• They hear their parents lie – children learn by example
There is a lot that parents can do to encourage their children to tell the truth and the younger the child is, the better. By letting your child know that by telling the truth other people will trust them and believe them and that lying is dishonest and there are consequences for being dishonest.
Try to have open communication with your child so they feel it is safe to tell you the truth when they have done something wrong. Remember that children model their parents so try to set a good example by not lying to your children and trying to be as honest as possible yourself.
There should be specific rules for lying and a specific discipline if your child lies. It is a good idea to discuss what the discipline will be beforehand so the child knows well in advance what the consequence is if he chooses to lie.
There should also be a separate discipline for bad behaviour and lying. When a child misbehaves but is honest about it, the punishment should be a lot less than if the child misbehaves and lies about it. It is also important not to make the punishment too severe or your child may continue to lie to keep from being punished.
Parents need to be consistent and follow through with discipline, never reward your child when he lies such as when he lies to get something he wants, make sure he does not get it. Try not to shame your children or make them feel guilty. You can let your child know you are unhappy with his behaviour but you still love him.
It is a good idea to look at the reasons your child is lying. Look for patterns in your children’s lies. Some children lie to boost their self-esteem so if your child seems to be lying for that reason look for ways to help him feel better about himself.
Always praise your child when he tells the truth. If you make a point to praise the good behavior a child is more likely to repeat it.
If you are worried that your child is becoming a compulsive liar it may be time to seek professional help, as there could be an underlying problem.
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