Why Children Lie And What Parents Can Do About It

Children are taught the virtue of truthfulness from a tender age, but they still lie somewhere along the way. Sometimes, you catch them red-handed stealing cookies from the cookie jar, and they immediately blame a sibling. Some lies are evident, whereas others are less so.

There are different levels and reasons for lying, and a few of them are discussed here:

Why Do Children Lie?

Children get mixed messages. The spectrum of lying is broad. Some lies are positively accepted, even encouraged; mostly, children are shushed for being honest and are encouraged to tell white lies to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. It makes it hard to learn when it’s OK and when it’s NOT OK to lie. 

Mixing reality with fantasy. Children’s idea of reality and fantasy is vague. They often don’t see a distinct line between the two until about the age of seven. Sometimes, confusion between the two takes the blame for lying.

To avoid punishment. Children who expect severe reprimand for their wrongdoings are more likely to lie. 

To explore the other side of the truth. Sometimes, children try to test out what might happen if they lie about a particular situation and what it would get them into or out of. 

To get focus on themselves. Children often lie to look good in people’s eyes by hiding what they think they are. 

To get the focus off themselves. Children suffering from anxiety and depression may lie to their parents or doctor and hide their symptoms to get the spotlight off them. 

To protect others. Sometimes, children tell altruistic lies to defend their peers or parents from problematic situations.

What should parents do?

Here is a list of things parents could practice to stop their children from lying:

  • Love your children unconditionally, and don’t punish them harshly for their mistakes. It will allow them to reflect and lead them to speak the truth.
  • Be your children’s role model. If you tell the truth, even if it’s hard, they will too!
  • Explain lies! Tell them when it is and when it is not OK to tell a lie. Know that the explanation you provide will serve as a life-long lesson for your children.
  • Relax and know that it is not going to last long. Teach your children moral values, be a model, and reward their truthful behaviour, and they’ll learn. 
  • Tell them that the truth reduces the consequences. Also, assure them that you’d do everything to make things right.

If you have concerns about your child’s behaviour and moral values, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. 

Better Self Psychology specialises in helping children, teenagers, and young adults.

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