Why Kids Lie and What to Do about It
A recent Canadian Study at Toronto University found that one-fifth of all 2-year-olds are able to lie, 90 percent of 4-year-olds are capable of telling untruths, and the rate of lying peaked around 12-years-old. Interestingly, the study further found that lying is not necessarily a bad thing.
Fibbing for the toddler set is actually a sign of a fast developing brain, an emerging quick wit, and a benchmark of future life success. Furthermore, the ability to lie well actually indicates that a child has strong executive functioning capabilities, which is the part of the brain that controls and manages behavior. Telling a lie is a complex mental process which includes the ability to not only merge multiple sources of information but also manipulate that data to one’s advantage. Children who tell “good” lies are typically intelligent kids.
Further, lying is a part of normal development. Parents should not be alarmed when their child tells a falsity, but should consider it an opportunity to have a teachable moment.
At one time or another, your child will lie. How a parent should handle this behavior varies by the age of the child and the situation.
* Preschool age kids don’t always know that lying is bad and may tell a tall tail to gain interest or impress someone. Correct the untruth and take the time to teach your child that lying is wrong and unacceptable.
* By the time your child is at the first grade age, however, kids understand that lying is offensive but still continue to engage in the behavior. These kids often lie to avoid punishment, impress others, boost their egos, get what they want and protect their friends. Now, however, it is time to have age appropriate consequences.
* Teenagers typically lie to avoid consequences, protect their friends and do something you forbid. And most parents I know will admit they lied during their formative years. It is best to have a predetermined consequence that is short, immediate, and painful to avoid an argument. But also ask what they were thinking which can provide needed insight into the adolescent mind.
No matter the age of your child, maintain your cool and consider the following when dealing with mistruths, tall tales and blatant falsities.
* Don’t be an angry interrogator especially if your child admits to the misdeed. Do, however, feel free to more calmly question and discuss the situation.
* If your child admits to the lie, show appreciation for the honesty which will also encourage your child to behave more honestly in the future.
* If appropriate, discuss how lying damages friendships. Explain to your son or daughter that if they can’t be trusted by their friends and family, it is difficult to gain their respect.
* Avoid calling your child a liar. You don’t want to label him, and name calling typically leads to further arguing. Talk about the act and express disappointment, but don’t criticize.
Lastly, don’t model lying for your children. While you may want to save money at the movies or while dining in a restaurant, misrepresenting your child’s age teaches that lying is acceptable. Also, if your child continually lies it may be time to seek professional assistance. Telling consistent untruths is often a defense mechanism a young person uses to avoid a more difficult situation or problem.