Every child will tell a few lies at some point. Generally speaking, this is not something to panic about. Still, it’s also not something to ignore. At any age, a child’s tendency to play fast and loose with the truth is an opportunity for you to have an important conversation. Before you react, pay attention. Keep an eye out for new or unusual behavior patterns. Do your best not to react too strongly to the occasional white lie or exaggeration.
All of that said, there are instances when lying is a red flag. That is one of many reasons why parenting involves so much participation and focus.
Why Do Children Lie?
Of course, the reasons for children spreading falsehoods are infinite. However, it’s been said that these reasons fall into three broad categories.
Imagination and Fantasy
Very young children will tell tall tales of fantastical adventures. It’s perfectly normal for them to play pretend games. As a parent, it’s crucial to discern that they realize what the child is doing. Make sure they know that making up stories is only okay in this context. In fact, you can provide children of all ages with an outlet for such storytelling as a bulwark against a habit of lying.
To Gain Approval and Status
From pre-school to adolescence to high school, every child will be aware of their social standing. Therefore, they may sometimes be tempted to lie as a method of countering low self-esteem. It’s a crude form of bragging.
Lying to Get Out of Trouble or Avoid Responsibility
“I already did my homework” or “Last week was my week to take out the garbage.” Minor lies like this can escalate so be sure to nip them in the bud. A variation on this theme is the lie used to cover up something your kid is ashamed of. If a child is struggling with disordered eating, they will likely lie about what or how much they ate. Needless to say, a situation like this requires your full and immediate attention.
A Few Tips for Dealing With Fabrications
1. Create a Culture of Honesty
Make truth a household rule. Encourage honest communication and reduce a child’s perception that they “need” to lie to protect themselves or you. Also, be a role model of honesty. This means avoiding those little white lies that you may feel are harmless.
2. Focus on the Relationship, Not the Rules
If your kid is caught in a lie, you want to talk about it together and foster a sense of warmth. Sometimes the lies indicate that the child needs more positive and fun parental time.
3. Control Your Reaction
There is very little to gain from:
- Losing control
- Taking the lie personally
Maintain a healthy perspective. Remain calm. Embrace patience. This is a process and will almost certainly require more than one sit-down.
This is Easier Said Than Done
Children, especially as they reach their teen years, can push you in some uncomfortable places. No parent should be expected to have all the answers. That’s why so many of them decide to consult with a professional. Getting parent counseling regularly with a therapist is an excellent way to learn more about your role as a parent. There is no shame in asking for help. Reach out for a confidential consultation today.