Children Who Lie

You will deal with many wonderful changes in your children.

Cherylyn Feierabend
4-minute read
Episode #15

Hey there!  You’re listening to the Mighty Mommy with some Quick and Dirty Tips for Practical Parenting.

Today’s Topic: Telling Tall Tales. When Children Lie: Tips for Setting Things Straight

You will deal with many wonderful changes in your children throughout their lifetime. Some of these changes will make you proud and some will not. One of these changes is the transition from “fantasy lying” to actual lying. I call the first type “fantasy lying” because small children don’t really know they are lying. When a child is still under the age of 5 or 6, they will probably engage in make-believe play. They may tell you all sorts of stories. For example, your daughter might tell you that her friend, Myrtle, has purple hair. Myrtle doesn’t exist in our world, but she is very real to your daughter. Your daughter isn’t actually lying when she tells you these things because she is still learning to distinguish the difference between what is real and what is imaginary. This is perfectly normal behavior from a young child and imaginary play should definitely be encouraged. Do not treat your child as though she is lying in these instances. I recommend that you play along to help her understand the difference. You could say something like, “Myrtle’s hair is purple today? That is very interesting. Maybe tomorrow, we can pretend that her hair is green.” This type of statement allows you to point out that you know she’s pretending, but you are still happy to play along.

I believe that, for most kids, lying is a learned behavior. Children may start telling lies for any number of reasons. When kids know they’ve broken a rule, they might be tempted to lie about it to escape punishment. If they’ve seen adults or other kids telling lies, they might decide to give it a try. Some other reasons might be to give themselves a self-esteem boost or to make themselves appear more impressive to others. Knowing the reason a child is lying can help you to stop the behavior and the sooner the better.

It would seem fairly logical, as a parent and role model, that we would want to avoid telling lies in front of and directly to our children. Unfortunately, little white lies can occur right in front of them and we might think nothing of it. If you are on the phone canceling an engagement due to illness, but nobody is sick, your child might pick up on this. You need to be sure you are setting the right example for your children. They are listening, even when you think they aren’t.


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