When Kids Lie

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Let’s be honest – everybody lies.

When raising children, most parents are keenly aware of when their child is lying and we try our best to instill truthfulness into our family values. The funny thing about lying, is that parents are often unknowingly encouraging their children to be dishonest.

There are many reasons to lie;

  • To control the outcome of a situation
  • To gain personal advantage
  • To avoid punishment
  • To boost self-esteem
  • To maintain their own (or another’s) privacy
  • To protect a friend
  • To avoid embarrassment

So, why are parents encouraging their kids to lie? Well, to be specific, we mean “white lies”.

These kinds of lies are called pro-social. Let’s just say you are eating dinner at a friend’s house – if that friend were to ask your child if he liked the food, and he didn’t, wouldn’t you kind of want him to lie? We call that, “Being Polite”. If we’re also being honest here, then we could see that this “lying” is a kind of creative social skill.

Lying is a very normal part of childhood development. A child’s first successful lie marks a milestone in their ability to be a separate human being from their parents. Actually, according to studies, preschoolers with higher IQs are more likely to lie.

Unfortunately, not all lies are so innocent. As children advance past the preschool stage, some parents have problems with their children frequently lying and obviously, this is a cause for concern. Lying is a learned behavior and that means it can be changed. Some children frequently lie because the expectations placed on them are too strict. Some lie because their upbringing presents situations where they are given too much freedom and they don’t know what to do with it. Some children lie because they have something to hide, which may become serious as they enter middle and high school where the prevalence of drugs, alcohol and eating disorders are increased.

So, what should you do if your child has a problem with lying behavior?

Firstly, don’t ever label your child a “Liar”. Kids will live up to the names you call them!

Then, create an intervention. Have strict consequences surrounding lying behavior, and follow through every time.

If you have an older child who constantly lies with no pro-social motivation (i.e. Are the lies primarily self-seeking?) it may be time to have a professional involved, as the lying could be a sign of other problems.

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