Did you know research shows that about 96% of all children lie frequently at home? Don’t be quick to think your child’s the worst of the lot or absolve him of this wrongdoing.
Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, an author, a licensed psychologist, and marriage & family counsellor points out in an article titled, ‘When A Child Lies’ that between 5 to 10 years of age, kids understand what it means to lie.
Here are 7 common reasons kids lie and how to save the situation.
1. Pure Hearts Tell White Lies
What is a white lie? A white lie is a well meaning lie, not meant to maliciously deceive but either to please the hearer, save them some worry or even to protect a parent or friend.
“No, dad, the shirt doesn’t make you look like a sausage,” is an example of a lie told from a pure heart. Instead of making that slide, teach them to find less hurtful ways of saying the truth like, “The shirt is fine, but I think the blue one fits better.”
It is also important that your child feels confident enough to voice his opinion so you must address these harmless little lies. According to Austin O’Malley, “those who think it is permissible to tell white lies soon grow colour blind.”
2. It’s Fear, Not The Devil
Your child may be lying because she has broken one of your many rules and regulations. She has judged herself guilty and wants to escape the consequences. I know this is the wrong thing to do; if you do the crime, you have to do the time, yeah? Understanding that she lied because she knows she did something wrong can help you tackle both felony and false reporting.
READ ALSO: 5 Lies You Should Never Tell Your Kids
3. Slip Of Tongue
Hasn’t it happened to you? You didn’t mean to lie. Maybe you forgot that you did the ‘do’ but remembered only after you denied it. You tried to apply the brakes, reverse and turn right into Honesty Avenue but the brakes wouldn’t work, so you stepped on the accelerator instead. You tell another lie to support your slip-of-the-tongue/memory lie. It happens with these kids too sometimes.
4. Just To Avoid The Dog
A child will rather take the longer route than face the dog sleeping in the middle of the road. That’s the same way other children will tell a straight-faced lie to avoid doing something they don’t want to do. Junior could lie about having to do more homework because he wants to avoid going outside to play, since he gets bullied by the neighbour’s daughter. On the flip side, he could lie about having completed his homework because his favourite cartoon is showing on TV.
5. I’m Cool Like That
As kids get older and spend more time with their friends, they become open to new nuances and ways of doing things. Kids with stronger influences will try to set standards for them to meet and failure to do so may brand them, “un-cool.” If your child lacks enough self confidence, she will have to lie to these friends and engage in deviant behaviours just to be seen as ‘cool.’ Of course, she will also lie to you to protect her friends. Keep tabs on your child’s social circle.
6. Elbow Room
Some parents can be over protective, and why not? After enduring nine months of carrying them in your tummy, pain and cost incurred on their behalf, and the love, who wouldn’t be? We feel you, dear over-protective parent, but you have to understand that at that age, they have all the energy in the world and they have to expend it. They will come up with increasingly clever lies to escape your restrictions and the consequences of doing so.
7. The Biggest Reason: YOU
An insightful man once observed that children are born with innocence and purity but become contaminated by the imperfections that surround them.
It’s easy to berate a child about lying this minute, and next, you lie to a friend in your child’s presence while her ears are still ringing from your strong remarks. And when they point out the obvious, do you shut them up? Yet, you punish and scold them when they lie. All that spanking and scolding might generate silent rebellion, sarcasm or smarter lies from your child.
The following may help:
- Teach your children that taking responsibility for their actions is a great honour, and employ every appropriate avenue to model this value.
- Do not raise your children in fear. They should respect but not fear you. Take time to bond with them. Some children will run into hiding at the mere hint of either of their parent’s presence; almost seems like, ‘Terror is here, run for your dear life!’ Create that sort of relationship where they know they can voluntarily tell you their worst mistakes. Control the temper fists too because they may lie to keep everything calm and sweet. Your usual reaction or response to a child’s misbehaviour and/or lies will determine to a large extent if he’ll make a repeat.
- Don’t be so quick to think that you know when a child is telling a lie. Research shows that police officers, trained professionals like teachers and parents were only correct 60 percent of the time in detecting a lie. Imagine all the undeserved punishments that have might have taken place.
- Don’t entrap the child. If you know that he or she is guilty, do not ask in an angry tone, “Who did this?” The child may lie out of fear of punishment. It will be better if you advise or even make him promise to say the truth BEFORE you ask the question in a neutral tone at least.
- Teach them that the so-called ‘positive’ effects of lying are short term because the truth cannot be hidden for too long. Share stories, read books and watch movies that give credence to this.
- Always try to find out why they are falsifying facts and suggest better ways to achieve the same goal.
- Make sure punishments are linked to the misbehaviour. Did they lie about putting away the playstation? Deprive them of playing for an hour or 3. Did your 8 year old lie about coming home late? Ground her for a day and make her write “I will not tell lies again” one hundred times. Reward them even if with a simple acknowledgement when they are honest.
- Finally, do not call them names like ‘liar,’ ‘crook,’ and so on. Do this over and again and you will make it psychologically difficult for the child to perceive himself as anything else other than a liar.