Lying is common among kids. As much as parents might hope that their children will always tell the truth, we need to admit that lying is something most children experiment with at one point or another. Why a child lies and how to respond when your child tells lies is a big concern of many parents.
A study out of the University of Waterloo targeting children in their own homes pointed out that 96% of young children lie at some point. On average, four-year-olds lie every two hours while six-year-olds, on average, tell lies at a high frequency, every hour.
When your kids lie, they are testing your boundaries and limits. And at those times, it’s important to keep in mind that telling lies is, by all means, a natural part of child development. Sometimes, lying is spurred on from something much bigger and parent should understand why. To respond to your child’s lying appropriately and positively, you need to get to the root cause of their lie. Catching your child lying, you should learn how to take a positive approach to deal with this problem.
Why a child lies?
I personally advise all parents to keep patient when addressing this common problem. Keep calm to consider your children’s age, the circumstances, why a child lies and the frequency they engage in this behavior. For example, there are young children who can’t make a clear distinction between fantasy and reality. This explains their lie may just be their way to express their imagination.
However, we can observe that a child as young as age 4 can perfectly tell a lie to avoid getting into trouble. Why a child lies? The most common cause of lying in children include:
- Joining in wishful imaginative play
- Being afraid of their parents’ punishment
- Bragging to classmates to boost their status and impress them
- Avoiding something they don’t want to do
- Desiring to not disappoint parents when they don’t meet their parents’ expectations.
- Feeling sad with something in their lives
- Trying to draw others’ attention
Lying requires complicated thinking. It is a long process in which kids do different things. Besides imagining something that is not true, kids also have to predict how other people will respond to their tale, remember the long story they create, and control the impulse to reveal the truth. The older the children are, the better they are at lying.
What to do when catching your kids lying?
As parents, you will surely have to address your child’s lie. Keep in mind these helpful tips when dealing with lying!
1. Get to the root cause of the lie
Knowing why a child lies is what parents need to do first to deal with lying. When you catch your child lying, try to find out the answer to these questions. Is your child simply telling a tale in a fantasy play? Is he trying to avoid your punishment? In case it’s just your child’s imagination, help her distinguish between fact and fiction without discouraging her creativity.
2. Let your kids feel comfortable coming to you
Don’t make your kids feel hard to come to you. The child can completely try to avoid telling you the truth at all costs when he is afraid of you or worried that you will be angry and even yell at him. To deal with your child’s lie, you first should help him feel secure, safe, and supported so he can easily talk to you without hesitation.
Research indicates that kids are less likely to tell the truth when adults tend to threaten them with punishment for lying. Reassure your child that you will not be angry if he tells the truth. Try to emphasize that to you, the truth is more important than anything else. Then listen to him and calmly address whatever the misbehavior is.
When the child admits that he tells lie, praise him for being honest and you can acknowledge that telling you the truth must have been quite hard for him.
3. Give your child consequences
Don’t miss this step when addressing your child’s lying. Rather than punishment, let your kids know there are consequences when they tell lies. While punishment comes mainly from anger, consequences are focused on correcting your child’s misbehavior.
For example, when your child lies about doing household chores, talk to her about the importance of facing up to her behaviors. You can work with her to come up with an appropriate household chore to make up for her mistake.
4. Be clear about your expectations
Emphasize that lying is something you never want in your family. You should let your children know that telling the truth is a really important behavior to learn and you expect it from her such as the way they can express their gratitude to others or try not to fight with their siblings.
5. Think back about your own behavior
When it comes to telling the truth, think about your own behavior. Do you often tell lie when you want to avoid a situation or desire to get something you want? Remember that you are a model of your child. The kids tend to learn behavior from adults.
For example, your child hears you telling your neighbor that you cannot feed her cat while she’s busy since you are sick. However, it’s not the truth. Actually, the reason is that you don’t like feeding that cat, you are, in fact, not sick. When you lie that way, your child will get the message that adults often tell lies when it’s convenient for them.
It’s normal when all kids will lie at some point in their lives. However, it’s important to teach them the value of honesty so that telling lies doesn’t become your child’s habit. Knowing why a child lies is really helpful. Kids often have a wide range of reasons for lying but the most common is to keep them out of trouble. Once they know you expect the truth from them, I believe you will see much more honesty in your beloved home.