My daughter is four years old, and we have always been able to count on that girl to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. My (step) son just turned five, and he has always lied a bit, but recently it’s feels like he is trying to become the next Stephen King with his stories!
I think I’ve always held a high standard for honesty in our home because I know how greatly morals are valued in our world today. I don’t want my children to become those kids that everyone hates to see walking through a door, and you know exactly what I’m talking about!
You can implement punishment when a child lies, but I feel like that will only make them try harder to tell a better lie next time. You can explain why lying is bad, but do they really care at this age? So, what can you do?
I have racked my brain for the answer to this question, and I think I have found an answer that is working well, in my house at least! You cannot stop a child from lying until you understand why they’re doing it, and once you understand why you can create a game-plan that custom fits each child’s individual need.
So I started watching, and waiting, and watching, and it didn’t take long before a lie flew out of their mouths. The more I really studied my children’s dishonest behavior, the more I understood something that I never expected …….
It is all our fault that our children lie!
One hundred and fifty percent our fault, but it’s not because we intentionally told them to become a liey lie-face. I know most of you are sitting here going “nuh-uh it ain’t my fault”, but it actually really is!
See children are born with a clean slate; they are the most innocent creature that exists, until we corrupt them! We don’t mean to though. In fact, most of us kill ourselves trying to keep them from becoming tarnished by life. While we are trying to shelter them from the big-bads of the world we’re unknowingly becoming the problem.
Let me explain this a bit further …. let’s explore why kids lie when they are young.
They Tell Stories
Most of us start reading to our children before their even capable of communication. Some people even read to their child while they are still in the womb (Guilty!). We do it to help our children learn how to form words into coherent sentences, we do it to expose them to different things, and we do it to bond with our child. What we don’t realize is this: we are teaching them how to tell people something that is not true!
One of my daughters favorite books is Goldilocks and The Three Bears. She has started asking me about bears coming and sleeping in her bed. She has also asked about bears living in the woods and if they would come say “Hi”, so I had to tell her that bears actually don’t invite little girls into their home for porridge and a chat!
You could instantly see her wheels turning while she thought back to every book she had ever thought, or imagined, was real. All of a sudden she understood that people tell these colorfully illustrated lies for entertainment, so why couldn’t she?
I would never suggest that a parent stop reading to their child, nor would I say that you should squash on their imagination. However, it is interesting to understand how books could lead a child to think lying was acceptable in some forms.
They Use it to Get What They Want
“Can I have another cookie Daddy?”
“What did your mom say?”
Oh man, what a conundrum! I know Mom said no more cookies when I asked, but I sure do want one more, what do I do? If I tell him she said yes I will get a cookie, but if I tell him the truth I won’t get one. Children find themselves in situations like these all too often. Even as an adult, I would probably lie to get the damn cookie!
When a young child is faced with a choice such as this: lie and get what you want, tell the truth and get nothing, they are probably going to lie. They don’t fully comprehend morals and guilt yet, they are impulsive creatures, and when they want something they get tunnel vision. You really cannot blame a child for this, it’s not their fault.
We need to become more aware of our actions and what choices we put onto our young children’s shoulders. Should he ask what I said, or should he get up and ask me himself? Should I have anticipated her next move and went to inform him of my decision before she had a chance to ask, yes I should.
Being more aware and conscious of this could help teach your children not to lie because you are not putting them in a situation that requires lying.
They Lie to Stay Out of Trouble
I know, that sounds like an oxymoron right? As silly as it sounds, it is absolute truth! This is the biggest reason my children lie to me, because they think they are going to be in trouble unless they lie. I know that lying is going to create bigger problems in the long run, but I am an adult who can process the concept of consequences.
*Child breaks window*
“Did you break the window?”
“No, the cat did!”
It actually broke my heart when I realized how common this was in our home. Do my children really think I am so unreasonable that instead of admitting to an accident they would lie? Have I made them feel like they cannot tell me the truth and be heard when they explain why?
Needless to say, we had a long conversation as a family about lying and why it was not okay. We also talked about why it was okay to tell the truth, even if you believe you will be in trouble, because you are going to be in far less trouble when you are honest. Since that conversation my children have felt more secure about telling the truth, and I have been a bit more aware of making them feel this way.
There are obviously other reasons why people lie, but most of them are much more complicated than children are. These are the most common reasons why children lie to their parents. I understand and accept my part in their dishonesty and since then lying has become less frequent in our home.