One of the nicest things about having children is getting explore and develop those over-active little imaginations of theirs as they grow older. Hearing their stories and tall tales of who got up to what or what they did with their friends can sometimes be very funny. Especially if you know your little one’s stories are fictitious or they are embellishing the truth. But what happens when an over-active imagination becomes that little bit more serious? What happens when you find your child telling lies too regularly and it starts to become a worry? Here we explore how SmartMoms can deal with the (not uncommon) scenario of children who lie.
Firstly – don’t panic. Lying is a natural part of a child’s cognitive development and you would be hard pushed to find any adult that didn’t tell a few little white lies when they were a kid. The best first step to take is to try and understand why your child is lying. Perhaps they want praise from you? Or maybe they are worried that they might get into trouble if they tell the truth? Maybe they feel they aren’t getting enough attention or maybe they are just trying to manipulate the situation in order to get something out of it? Whatever the reason for your child’s lying, the important thing is never to over-react or to accuse your little one of being a liar. Stay calm and don’t get angry or frustrated. If you are annoyed, then take time to breath and think rationally before you sit down to talk the lie through with your child.
Take the time to calmly and reasonably explain the ethics behind the reasons you don’t want them to lie. Try to make them understand that they are not in ‘trouble’ but that they must learn to separate imagination from reality. It is important not to back your little one into a corner in order to prove they are lying. This will only antagonize the situation. Remember that they are just young and that they are still forming their own interpretations of what is real and what is not; they have yet to establish the some moral code that adults have had years to form. Give them a way out of the lie and then try and talk through the reasons they felt that had to lie in the first place.
Remember, you should always reward when your little one is being honest. Although it might seem silly, make a big deal of them when they tell the truth. Show them how proud you are that they didn’t tell a lie and even try some children’s books with stories that emphasize the importance of telling the truth over lying. Share your own stories about telling the truth. Make it more personal by telling them about situations where you found yourself with the opportunity to lie but didn’t because you knew it was wrong. Teach your child that they will always get unconditional love and approval from you when they tell the truth. If they come against anger from you and feel they are constantly being labelled a ‘liar’ then chances are that they will start to live up to that label.
Finally, it’s important to remember that exaggerating and making things up are an important part of a child’s development and an integral part of pretend play, which is encouraged a lot in the early years. So if your child is under 4 and not telling fibs regularly then there is probably very little to worry about and treating their minor exaggerations as lies is probably unnecessary at this early stage in their lives.
One thing your child may lie about is being bullied. Here is some advice on how to help.