Uh oh. Your sweet innocent child has started telling fibs – they may be small and inconsequential, but we still want to raise good, honest people, right? It can be tricky to know how to deal with kids lying – and you want to deal with it right the first time, to avoid more problems in the future. Let’s look at ways you can do this.
How To Deal With Kids Lying?
It can be pretty devastating when you suddenly realise that your little angel has devilish tendencies…
The first thing to do is to take a step back from the situation. In order to deal effectively with your child, you need to be calm!
The whole family needs to be taught that lying isn’t ok. If you haven’t already had this conversation with your kids, start now.
Tell your child that you know they are lying. Asking them repeatedly if they are lying, when you already know they are, will most likely lead to them denying it, and a power struggle will follow.
Your child needs to know that they are safe – emphasise that they won’t be told off or punished for telling the truth.
The consequences of lying, and what it was that was lied about, should be dealt with separately – your child needs to know that honesty is not punished.
Try to remove the situation that encourages your child to lie. They may be fibbing because they really want a certain treat or toy – try using a sticker chart or similar rewards system, so they can “earn” it.
Always model honesty – you can give your kids little anecdotes about things that you have done that were honest, and explain how much better that feels than lying about something.
Offer positive reinforcement – when your child tells the truth or confesses to something, tell them how proud you are that they were honest with you.
How Do You Punish A Child For Lying?
In short, you don’t. Punishing a child for lying will simply make them feel that they are not safe if they are honest, and the problem will continue.
Shouting, shaming, cornering and punishing a child for lying is very likely to create the situation that you are trying to avoid, so just don’t do it!
If a child is lying about something that they have done that needs consequences then fine – boundaries must be upheld, and they must know that negative behaviour has negative outcomes.
Do try to let your child know that it is not the lying itself that they are being punished for, however.
Why Does My Child Lie So Much?
There are a great many reasons why kids lie – and no, none of them are “because he’s inherently a bad person!”
Children generally start to lie when they are still toddlers – it’s a part of them realising that they are separate from you, and that you cannot actually read their mind.
Children lie for a a good few different reasons:
- To avoid hurting someone’s feelings. This little “white lie” is nicer than some of the other reasons – but they should still know that it’s best to be honest.
- To get what they want. If you’re babysitting a child who claims that “Mum lets me eat pudding before dinner,” chances are they’re telling you a fib!
- To avoid getting into trouble. If they have done something they shouldn’t have, they may well try to hide it by lying.
- To get attention. Some children crave any attention – positive or negative – and might lie in order to get a reaction.
- To make themselves look good. Showing off in front of peers can often lead to a child embellishing the truth to make themselves seem “cool” to their friends.
When Should You Be Concerned About A Child Lying?
Little fibs about homework, or telling you that yes they really HAVE eaten up all their broccoli are one thing – but bigger lies? What do you do about them?
Lying really becomes a problem if kids are putting themselves in dangerous situations – for example, saying that they’re going to a friend’s when actually they’re involved in far more risky behaviour.
If a child’s lying starts to affect the relationship with the parent – ie if the parent feels they can’t trust anything a child says – then this makes lying more problematic.
Stick to your guns (but gently!) make sure your kids know that lying is wrong, and that you are always there for them.
Make it easy for them to NOT lie, by removing a situation that they are dishonest about. Support them through it, and make sure they always know you are their safe space, and that they won’t get in trouble by being honest.
What Age Do Kids Lie The Most?
Although lying is something that just about anyone is capable of doing, there seems to be an age at which it reaches its peak.
Children may start to lie between 2 and 3 years old, when they realise that they can say things that aren’t true – and omniscient Mummy or Daddy believe them!
Around the age of 4 is when lying generally starts to be more noticed, and it is actually a developmental stage.
This cognitive milestone shows that children are becoming aware that other people have different beliefs to themselves, and that these are based on people’s experience.
Generally, the ages of between 5 and 8 are peak lying time for kids – this is when they are still sorting out their place in the world, and how others relate to them.
At this age, kids are still generally not very good at lying, so it will be easy to catch them out – and this is a good time to reinforce that honesty really is the best policy.
Once you have figured out how to deal with your kid’s lying, you can be the parent that you really want to be – and still end up raising a good human!
Hopefully some of our explorations into this topic have helped you realise that you are not alone, and that there are a good few solutions to this problem.