Lying is immoral. We know and understand that. But kids will find many ways to justify a lie. Honesty from our kids is imperative as it allows us to know what he/she does in the outside world. This knowledge helps us know if our child is on the right course and/ or needs some correction and guidance.
Children often lie so they don’t get into trouble over some mischief they committed, to get attention, to get something they desire, to see how you smart you are or to make their stories more exciting. In all these cases, we as parents need to impress upon them the importance of being honest.
Research says that children lie more at 4-6 years and by the time they are eight years of age, they are expert liars. So how do you know he/she is lying?
- A common sign of lying is repeating part of a question as part of the reply—a trick to stall for time while their clever minds construct a story.
- Scratching an ear, touching the nose or head and licking or biting the lips are signs of lying.
- You might find some inconsistencies in their stories.
- Lying makes people defensive. It’s true of children too.
- Suddenly your child has new gestures to accompany their story? Or he/she is wringing her hands or squirming? Something is definitely up.
- An eye contact for too short or too long? Blinking too much or not at all? Don’t overlook it.
- Is your child telling you too many details voluntarily? Unless he/she is normally a thorough story-teller, it should ring a warning bell. He/she is trying hard to make you believe.
- Your articulate child is suddenly looking for words? His/her usually loud voice is squeaky? Better dig a little more.
How to deal with your child’s lies:
- Don’t empower lies: Sometimes we may express extreme hurt when our child lies to us. Your child may use this knowledge to lie to you in situations where they are frustrated or upset with you. It may make them feel that they have some power over you. So don’t give their lies too much limelight to begin with. Just deal with it calmly.
- Praise them: Sometimes children make up stories and lie to impress their friends and parents or to earn their approval. Praise your child more often so he/she does not feel the need to lie. When he/she owns up to making a mistake, praise them for being honest and brave.
- Don’t call him/her a liar: Do not use labels as they may get imprinted on young minds. Lying is a bad thing to do but it doesn’t make your child a bad person. If your child believes you consider him/her “bad”, he/she may lie more to avoid looking bad to you. He/she will lie about every mistake to gain your approval.
- Consistent consequences: Ensure there are consequences every time your child lies. For instance, the first time he/she lies, no TV for the day; the second time, no phone; and so on. Make it simple: one lie is equal to one privilege withdrawn. The discomfort emerging from the consequences will be remembered and will discourage further lying.
- Ask the right question: Do not ask why did you lie? Ask what were you trying to achieve? Then help them realise that there are better ways to resolve a problem than lying. Talk when both of you are calm and inform him/her of consequences if he/she lies again. Don’t make it a moral issue but a technical one.
- Be calm: If you lose your temper on spilled milk or a broken vase or a complaint from school, it is likely your child will lie yet again to avoid your displeasure. So as much as you want to lose your cool, be calm because your child will then trust you to be fair and will feel no need for making up stories.
- Introduce the concept of trust: Let your child know that if he/she continues to lie, everyone around him/her will have a hard time believing anything he/she says. No one will trust them. “The shepherd and the wolf” story might come in handy here.
Parents often say white lies—harmless, little lies—to manage the child’s behaviour. If your child catches you with one such lie, you may end up with an argument or trust issues. So don’t overdo them. The concept of truth and lies is an important part of your child’s growth and learning. So catch their lies, stay calm and teach them the value of honesty.