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When Kids Lie


All kids experiment with lying. Younger kids, between the ages of 3 and 7, often blend fantasy and reality. They may invent imaginary companions who become the guilty parties for various household mishaps. These imaginary friends are blamed for anything from stealing cookies to breaking mom's vase. Kids usually pass through this phase. By school age, if your child is still relying on lying as a coping skill, you may want to look at some of the possible causes and learn to work with your child's behavior in constructive ways.

Why Kids Lie

* Some kids lie because they feel that they are not meeting their parents' expectations. Are you putting too much pressure on your child to perform academically, athletically, or in other ways? Are your expectations realistic and age appropriate?

* Sometimes, parental consequences are too harsh. A child may lie to avoid a punishment that he feels is unfair.

* Children may lie to protect a friend or family member.

* A child may lie to preserve his self image.


Role model honesty. Remember, children watch adults closely. Even when we tell small lies, we teach our children to do the same.

Try not to immediately place blame. Instead, focus on the problem. When we immediately explode at our kids, we may cause panic and fear, and they may lie as a coping mechanism. Try to gently find out what happened. Your children are more likely to share the truth when you stay calm and don't overreact.

Make sure that your child did truly lie. It's devastating for a child to be punished when she is telling the truth.

Don't punish your child for telling the truth. Give positive feedback for honesty, and use the opportunity to open up discussion about the circumstances around the lie.

Make sure that your consequences are reasonable and not too harsh. As mentioned, If a child is facing severe and unreasonable consequences, he may lie to avoid punishment.

If Your Child Lies...

Give yourself some time away from your child to calm down and think about how to handle the situation. Tell your child that you can better talk with her when you are calm. If lying is a consistent problem, it may be a trigger for you. Exploding at your child will only worsen the situation.

Follow through with consequences even if your child eventually tells the truth. Let him know that you appreciate his honesty, but you still have to dole out a consequence for the behavior that caused the lie.

After resolving the immediate situation, talk with your child about the future problems that lying can cause. Clarify your family values and beliefs regarding lying.

With consistent open and calm communication, you can provide a healthy environment that suports honest behavior.