When Children Lie

My son and a friend of his were playing in our backyard one day.  Suddenly, the two of them threw open the back door and came racing up to me, yelling at each other, “Did not!”  “Did too!”  My son’s friend, Michael, stated very adamantly, “Joey said the ‘s’ word!”  Joey looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “No I didn’t! I promise I didn’t!”  They continued to argue as I watched them and listened to them, trying to decide which of the two was lying.

Lying is something that almost every child will do, whether to get attention, gain power, or to get out of trouble. 

Very young children do not recognize that lying is wrong and will make up pretend stories and situations, often just for fun.  As they come to understand that lying is wrong, they will still lie, usually to avoid punishment for a wrongdoing.  This is understandable.  No one wants to be punished and even as adults it is difficult to tell the truth when we are caught doing something we shouldn’t.  There are a few important things to remember about lying and teaching our children to tell the truth:

  • Showing anger will hurt communication.  If you get angry, then your child will be even more afraid to tell the truth.
  • Help your child understand how lying can hurt.
  • Be the example of honesty.  If the police officer asks how fast you were going, admit the truth.
  • Don’t you ask your children to lie for you.  “Tell them I’m not home.” “ Don’t tell your mother/father that I dented the car.”
  • Give your child consequences without making a big deal of it.  Don’t argue or have a huge discussion.  “You broke a rule and this is the punishment.”
  • Explain future consequences.  “If you lie to me again, I will take your phone away for 2 days.”

So what was I to do about Joey and Michael?  Luckily for me, inspiration hit.  They both seemed to be telling the truth.  What if they were?  I turned to Michael and asked him what the “s” word was.  He was afraid to repeat it to me, but I assured him that he would not get into any trouble.  He finally answered, “Stupid.”  My son just rolled his eyes and admitted that yes, he had called Michael stupid.

So, I add one more rule about lying.  Make sure that the culprit really did lie before you dole out a consequence.

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