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Three Lies Children Tell...and What You Can Do About Them


Honesty is the basis of good character, so when our child lies we need a strategy to teach him that it is wrong. One approach does not fit all situations, so wise parents go below the surface of the child's lie to find the key to choosing the appropriate response.

Lying as Fantasy

Especially common in younger children, tall tales flow so easily from some children. A playful approach will get you through this stage. Playing along with a young child's fantasy story does no harm, but it's best to let the child know this is just 'pretend'.

Lying to Divert Blame

More seriously, all children at some point will try lying to divert blame for something they did wrong. Younger ones will blame an infraction or accident on an imaginary 'bad' child. Older kids will tell an outright lie to cover up their guilt and avoid punishment. The emotions at work here are guilt, anxiety, and fear.

The best approach to this kind of lie is a matter-of-fact acknowledgement that the child is lying while giving the appropriate consequence for the misbehavior. A gentle explanation to your younger child that you expect her to tell the truth when she does something wrong should be followed by an opportunity for her to make amends. Your older child knows that lying is wrong, and he should receive a consequence for both the misbehavior and the lying.

Compulsive Lying

Lying that becomes a habit is even more serious and should be confronted consistently. You do need those eyes in the back of your head if your child lies frequently. Most parents learn to recognize the non-verbal signals that their child is lying, but a child who lies compulsively gets pretty good at it. To break the cycle, you need to keep the upper hand and continually give consequences for lying. A long-term consistent effort may be needed, but it should pay off when the child learns that lying is never his best option.

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