This was the frantic call I got from one of the mothers in my Parent Coaching Group. Well, truth be told, most kids lie once they enter toddlerhood! Studies suggest that four-year-olds can lie once every two hours, and six-year-olds about every 90 minutes. Other studies suggest that kids that tell ‘tall tales’ are actually very imaginative and intelligent!
So, parents, just because your kid is lying and telling tall tales does not mean you are a ‘bad’ parent or that your child is on the road to being a future ‘scam master’ hitting the headlines for his ingenious fraud schemes!
So, lets start with understanding WHY DO KIDS LIE? From about the age of four, most children will lie for many of the same reasons adults do:
- To cover something up, hoping to avoid a punishment- for example, saying to a parent, ‘But…I did not break this, Amit [the older brother, ofcourse! ] threw it down…and then he hit me too….”
- To impress others and exaggerate a story – for example, when friends visit and he has an audience ‘ …And then, I kicked the ball so hard it flew to the sky…it went up, up and up…I cannot find it now!”
- To gain an advantage by manipulating a person or situation– for example, saying to the grandparent, ‘My mama always lets me watch TV and eat only chips for dinner’. [When she clearly does not!]
If your toddler or young child is telling you something that is imaginary or make-believe, you can simply go along with it. Pretend play and imagining are important to your child’s development; do not punish him for it!
As your toddler becomes older his lies may get more sophisticated and well thought out. He now has the words, body language as well as can better understand how other people think. He can lie with a straight face and perhaps successfully without getting caught! Since lying now moves from being just a cute toddler exaggeration, it is best to deal with it head on.
Here are 3 strategies you could use:
- Tell him the importance of being honest in your family- The first thing is not to lose your cool or use blackmail. Do not say, ‘Is that what we teach you, we are a good family, how did this happen? We have a liar in OUR family, where did you learn this…it’s that TV show!’ Instead, use a firm voice and tell your 5 year old child that you appreciate being told the truth and don’t like it when he lies to you. Tell him it makes you sad and disappointed. Let him know that it may seem that sometimes it is easier to lie, but the wiser and better thing to do is to tell the truth.
- Teach them the logical consequences of lying- it’s better to teach children the value of telling the truth than to punish them for tall tales and minor lies. Stories like ‘Pinocchio’ and the ‘Boy who cried Wolf’ are a great way to teach them how lying can work against them! As a parent you also have to model the behaviour you want to see in your child, so when someone comes knocking on your door and you do not want to meet them, do not instruct your help or whoever answers the door to say you are not there…little ears and eyes are watching you!!
- Encourage them to tell the truth- When your child confesses to doing something wrong, praise him for being honest. Say things like, ‘I know it may have been hard for you to tell me the truth and maybe you were a little scared to do so too…. But, I am really glad you told me the truth. I like it when you are honest’. In fact, it’s important that your child knows that you won’t get upset if he owns up to something. In the scenario, that your child starts with a lie and then quickly does change his story and tells you the truth, let him know that you are glad he was able to do so. This will reinforce his confidence and make it easier to tell the truth the next time around.
So, parents, as always enjoy the journey of Parenting and Happy Parenting!