News Karnataka
Monday, December 05 2022
Know Your Child

Why do children lie? What can parents do about it?

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Lying is developmentally normal and may even be a sign that child is hitting appropriate developmental milestones. It makes the child to differentiate between the imagination and reality to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions and to better understand how other people think about it. Sometimes parents worry that these constant lies turn out be pathological or compulsive one. Children too try to say cooked up or imaginary stories to make you believe in them (Tall tales).

Children start lying around 3 to 4 years of age. Their lies are often laced with humour. For instance child might say ‘the family dog scribbled on the wall’ or ‘I have not eaten the chocolate while its mouth is filled with it.’ As children turn 6 – 7 years they tend to match their lies with appropriate facial expressions. Teenagers probably avoid hurting other’s feelings and think that telling ‘white lies’ are right for them.

Let us briefly understand what makes them lie.

1) To seek attention:

Many children lie to get attention from parents and teachers. For instance a child might say he/she is sick as he gets more pampered whenever he/she falls ill.

2) Experimentation and creativity:

Among teenagers/adolescents, formation of self-concept and group conformity (accepted by peer group) are important. During this phase they want to attract the attention of the group and try to experiment new things (wearing short skirts, rolling up the shirt sleeves), and so lying can be seen in front of peers and family in order to portray their exaggerated self.

3) Modelling behaviour:

Children often learn from what elders do than what they say/preach. If kids witness lying from closer quarters (especially parents), they are likely to imitate the behaviour as parents are the role model for them.

4) To avoid punishment:

Children who are subject to harsh punishment are more likely to lie just to avoid punishment. For instance, child might self-correct the grades/show fake report card if he/she is severely punished in the past for scoring less marks in the test.

5) To cover up something so that they don’t get into trouble:

This is a common response, and applies to even adults. At times children do not want to be judged or criticised even though they have a good cause. Lies are formed to cover the situation as they do not want to get into trouble. For example, when asked a child might lie that I have lost the eraser (after lending it to his friend).

What can parents do about it?

Parents and teachers are the main helping hands during these kind of situations. Comprehend the root cause for the behaviour and evaluate the consequences and also make the child understand why and how he/she can reduced it, which is infact the most essential thing.

Change certain conversations:

Have conversations about lying and telling the truth with your children. Help your child avoid situations where they feel the need to lie. For example if you ask ‘who broke the toy’, the chances are more that the child can lie but you can have conversation as ‘it might be an accident let us fix it together.’

Be a good role model:

Admit your mistakes and try to correct it, so that when you say ‘Oh! I have not mailed my report, let me explain it to my superior instead of turning off my phone’, so the child learns communicating helps in solving the issues.

 Avoid labeling:

You might find your child frequently lying but do not label them as liars or any other names. This labeling makes them stick to what they do or even the tendency of lying becomes more in them.

Praise them whenever they reveal what is the truth:

When they talk about what has happened, encourage them to do more instead saying “I knew you would do that” or you always do that. It brings out a comfort zone for them to discuss with you or further it adds how to resolve these kind of conflicts in the future.

Lying about serious issues:

Lying about serious issues such as abuse from adults or sexual harassment need to be tackled in a smooth way. In this case you need to reassure the child that it is safe if they tell the truth. Let your child know that you can do everything to make things better.

Some children might lie frequently in a more serious way, and that it leads to negative or even illegal behaviours like stealing, lighting fire or hurting animals. In such cases you need to immediately consults therapist or special educators.

Image by Esther Merbt 
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Ramya E.

The author is a counselor and lifeskills trainer who has trained over 2000 students. She holds an M.Sc. in Psychology.

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