When was the first time you lied in childhood? Were you rebuked? Did the scolding succeed in arousing your sleeping conscience? Or did you shrug off the incident as petty and hurl it into a perpetually abandoned region of the mind? Anything is possible, but the indifference in the latter would probably promote the habit to germinate, feeding on the attitude of lethargy, misguidance, clinging on to it, polluting it, devouring the better impulses and finally bursting forth in the form of a great irreparable flaw.
Angela Burr Cloyd from California recounts, “My son told me that he had killed a polar bear in grandma’s backyard, and they were eating it.” A harmless make belief story, or a lie. Most parents come across this term in some phase of the developmental period of their kids, and the most likely reaction entails disappointment, irritation, and a deliberate denial of the fact. However what they are ignorant of is the crucial recognition of a theory put forward by eminent psychologists that firmly advocates that lying is a natural part of the growth process of the child. In fact, a child that lies is steadily utilizing his/her creative faculty, for a lie necessarily feeds on imagination to make it appear credible.
Lies nonetheless can prove destructive if they surpass their innocence limit. It is natural for a kid of 3 years to make up a story of a deadly monster or fairy, but a 10-year-old lying blatantly to evade punishment is something severe and needs proper handling. Hence, we need to decipher the obvious causes that prompt a kid to lie.
Why kids lie
The lies kids say vary according to their age:
Between 3 and 4 years
- Belief in fantasy: When they are between 3- 4 years old, most dwell in a fantasy land where the fine line between reality and imagination is blurred. Consequently, stories of Snow White and Cinderella seem real. Consequences of their false utterance are unthought-of. The mind is vulnerable, and it seeks protection, praise and also at times a bit of pampering. Naturally the unsoiled mind creates a gullible tale simply to ward off any possibility that might disrupt that protective shield.
- Fear: Another possible reason is fear… fear of being punished primarily on being caught. Many parents use extreme punishments as means of correction and this, unfortunately, leads the child to lie.
Between 5 and 7 years
- Added abilities: As children move up the age ladder from 5 to 7 years, their sense of understanding having developed, they are prone to spin yarns more coherently. Being conscious of the inability of parents to read minds and aided with the benefit of improved vocabulary, they are more adept at using lies to suit their needs. “Did you see tv all afternoon?” “No mom,” the kid replied, “I did my homework and never went near a tv at all.”
- Attention seeking: Children also crave for attention- from peers, parents, relatives and this too unknowingly causes a child to lie and even stretch it to impossible limits.
Children who tell everything to their parents are not growing at all’’ says Dr. Brody and by this he impresses upon the need to kindle individuality, ingenuity amidst teenagers, the years spanning between 11 to 18. Teens go through a volatile period that puts a lot of pressure on their emotional and social lives. Naturally several occasions arise where a teenager feels secured to lie. The lure of that false world is tempting, and the teen falls a prey to it.
How to stop kids from lying
- Stop your child when he/she strays from the truth.
- Instead of giving direct punishment, take a voluntary break or timeout.
- Make the child go through proverbs of honesty to get the negativity of lies
- Teach your kid not to lie by uttering clear statements that it’s not ok to lie.
- The child can be made more empathetic towards the consequences of his/her lying through emotional conversations as “I was much sad when you lied.”
What to do when kids lie
- If a child lies to avoid punishment, try to make the child see the consequence of his/her action. “Who spilled the milk?”, the angry mother yelled. The natural response of the kid was, “The cat did it, mama.” Now the mother can skilfully make the kid see the damage done by saying, “Ok… let’s see why the cat did so…” Here, shouting and rebuking would only have aggravated the child’s guilty conscience making him/her recede to her shell.
- As the child grows, it’s beneficial to talk casually about reality and fantasy, how both are essentially different. Likewise, emphasis should be given on honesty, about the need to harbor truthfulness. For a child to appreciate this virtue fully, the entire family should participate in following it. Rules should be the same for everybody. Stories like The Emperor’s New Clothes can be narrated to the child.
- With older children, the basic tool is to remain patient all along. Never should a child be labeled as a ‘liar’. The simple connotation reduces the self-esteem of the child and makes him feel a victim. Instead, the need to be honest can be established as a ‘privilege’ and the impulse to follow so, a responsibility. When a child lies deliberately, the parent needs to carefully seek the root of the ailment and then proceed to undertake action. If confrontation arises, it should result in repentance.
Lying is not an incurable disease, it’s a habit that can be outgrown but it demands careful observation of certain do’s and don’ts. To stop kids from lying, the parent should follow these rules religiously and keep a record of the rate of lying of the concerned kid. Harmonious results would follow eventually.