“No, I didn’t break it. The bad teddy did it”, your 5-year old says defiantly. Oh yes, that is creative and funny. But very soon your child begins to lie more often, to avoid punishment and you press the panic button.
While it is assuring for parents to know that all kids at some age lie and it does not mean that they will grow up to become a pathological liar, it is very important to insist on the importance of honesty.
Why do kids lie?
- To avoid getting into trouble.
- To get your attention.
- They forget the difference between fact and fiction, as they get stuck with a story and try to make it sound more exciting.
- Sometimes just to get an extra chocolate or brownie points, they can weave tall tales.
- Fear of being seen as less in comparison to other kids.
How to encourage honesty?
- Do not punish or react very harshly.
- Try to understand the real reason for lying. It will help you in finding more relevant ways to deal with the situation.
- Make sure that they get the positive appreciation for honesty and do not find lying as a means of getting your attention.
- Rather than attempting to confront and accuse the child, avoid such situations by saying “I saw you using the marker on the wall. You know that it is not the right thing to do. Help me clean up.”
- Keep reinforcing house rules and logical consequences. If you find he/she is trying to test your limit, avoid repeated warnings and quickly move over to the consequence.
- If your child is making up a story and you are concerned about stepping on his/ her imagination, you can use clever sentences that discourage lying while respecting creativity like ‘That’s a great story to write about. But tell me what really happened. I will not punish you.”
- Read books or tell stories that emphasize on the importance of telling the truth. Moral stories like ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ can be a good place to start.
- Teach them to say sorry. After the truth comes out, tell them ‘I am sad.’ This is such a simple yet effective sentence because kids this age wants to please you. When he/she genuinely feels sorry, encourage them to apologize using ‘I am sorry!’ and forgive in return.
Lying and testing limits is a part of normal growth. It is a way for kids to learn the right thing to do. Think about the real reason, respect their feeling and make your child feel safe and loved enough to tell you the truth.