What to do when your kids lie

By admin
08 May 2014

“I didn’t hit my sister!” “I don’t know who painted the dog . . .” Whether it’s a little white lie or an omission of the truth, all kids tend to fib their way through uncomfortable situations at some point. But when should you keep a sense of humour about it and when should you worry your child will turn into a dishonest adult, causing others to mistrust them?

“I didn’t hit my sister!” “I don’t know who painted the dog . . .” Whether it’s a little white lie or an omission of the truth, all kids tend to fib their way through uncomfortable situations at some point. But when should you keep a sense of humour about it and when should you worry your child will turn into a dishonest adult, causing others to mistrust them?

Is it harmless when toddlers fib?  

When little ones lie it could be because the world of make-believe spills over into real life. Often this upsets parents but it shouldn’t. This is the perfect opportunity to gently correct your child and teach them about moral behaviour. First make sure your child can distinguish between reality and fantasy, and then find out why they lied. Don’t get upset and punish them as this will make them reluctant to tell the truth. If you walk into the kitchen and you find a broken glass, don’t shout and accuse them by saying, “This glass is broken; did you do this? Rather say, “This glass is broken; do you know how it happened?”

Why do older kids lie?

When your child gets a bit older and they understand the consequences of lying, the reasons for their lies change. Younger children (of about six to eight years) might lie to get attention. They might also lie to avoid hurting someone’s feelings because parents often send the message that this is okay. “Say something nice to your aunt about her new haircut or you’ll hurt her feelings,” you might instruct.

Kids, just like adults, lie to avoid getting into trouble when they know they’ve done something wrong or they haven’t come through on something they were supposed to do. Rather than own up and suffer the consequences, they lie. Sometimes they lie as a means to resolve conflict.

During the teen (and sometimes preteen) years, the two most common reasons children lie are to separate themselves from their parents and to identify with their peers. For example, your child might be aware you dislike smoking, but their friends are smokers. As a result of peer pressure, your child decides to smoke with her friends but then lies about it when she gets home.

How do you react?  

It might be difficult not to get caught up in a heated moment when you discover your child is lying to you, but before you react think about some of the lies you’ve told (yes, we all lie from time to time) and consider these tips:

  • Be calm and name the issue – don’t push for a confession.
  • Teach the child why lying doesn’t work: Like the story of the boy crying wolf, people won’t believe them when they eventually tell the truth.
  • Understand why your child is having a hard time being honest: Are they perhaps following your example? Or are they feeling pressure from friends? These are the bigger issues and worth discussing with your child.
  • Explain the consequences: Make sure your child understands that when he tells you the truth he won’t be in as much trouble as when he lies.
  • Set a good example: Be an honest parent. Children learn a lot by watching what others do!
  • Praise honesty:  Openly show you appreciate your child being honest. “Thank you for telling me you lost my earring. Let’s look for it together,” is an approach that will encourage your child to be honest while bringing the two of you closer together.

-Londiwe Dlomo

Sources: parenting.com, empoweringparents.com, supernanny.co.uk, life.familyeducation.com

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