A friend recently complained that her 4 year old was telling frequent lies. Not about anything too important – mostly about brushing her teeth or if she had taken a toy from her sister. Still, my friend was concerned. Was her child a budding pathological lier? What had she done wrong?
Well, nothing. Lying is actually good, in a way. It tells us that children are developing and thinking, using skills such as imagination, perspective, and boundary setting. In so may words, it is a positive step in cognitive and emotional development.
Of course, that doesn’t make it ok.
Interestingly, children can begin to lie about things as early as age 2. As independence begins to emerge, they see themselves as separate from their parents. This great step in development brings on a need for greater control and often that is where lying begins.
As children grow older, lying may be caused by a variety of reasons – control, fear of punishment, or simply to test boundaries. Again all of this is normal.
Here are some things to do if your child lies…
*Find out why. Try to get to the bottom of why the lie occurred. If your child doesn’t know or isn’t able to tell you, think back on the circumstances that occurred around the time that the lie was told.
*Give second chances and talk it out. Explain to your child that lying isn’t the right thing to do and why it shouldn’t occur again. Let her know you are not mad and that everyone makes mistakes. If the lie happens again, it may be time for a stronger stance, but everyone deserves a second chance.
*Model good behavior yourself. Your child knows that you ate the last cookie, even if you tell your husband you didn’t. Children are watching and listening all the time and even two year olds can tell when adults aren’t being truthful.
*Discuss good manners vs. telling the truth. In other words, it is NOT good manners to tell someone they are fat ( even if they are). This is not a lie, it is just choosing not to comment on a person’s appearance. If you feel like it would help, make a quick chart of instances where this could happen ( ex. when someone smells bad or when someone has a physical difference).
So when your little person is less than truthful, take a deep breath and use it as a teachable moment. Young children do not come pre-programmed and there are lots of things to learn. Being truthful is one of them. Start early, be consistent, stay tuned in, and give second chances.
Let Them Fly! (but do not let them lie)