Why do children lie -- the psyche of lying
Created by Swapna Nair Updated on Dec 08, 2020
Children being children – sometimes they break your precious glassware, lose things, or sneak in snacks when they’re not supposed to - sound familiar? Has he or she said ‘no’ when confronted? Could your child be lying? Does it make him/her bad? The children are not bad, neither are all lies bad! In fact, all lies aren’t even lies!! Let’s find out more about the psychology of lying among children, and what we can do to help -
Why do children lie?
Children below five years are prone to make up things as an extension of their creative minds. They love to live in a fantasy world. It is part of their wishful thinking when they say things like,’ I was the best at school’/ ‘all of us have pets’! As a parent, you need to make an attempt to understand he difference between lying and make-believe.
- To Avoid Hurting Someone: After the age of 10 children are usually aware of truth and untruth. Adults use the ‘white lie’ option a lot to escape unfavourable situations and to be diplomatic. Children observe and absorb the behaviour and use it. They find it easier to lie because they do not want to hurt their primary caregivers- their parents
- Peer Pressure: Children ‘always’ want to fit in. It is imperative they are accepted in their friends’ circle. In the teen years (nowadays teens start at 10!) Most parental rules are perceived as rigid, unfair and strict. This stage is often stressful when they cannot get to do what they want to do In order to be accepted by their friends they lie their way around – to one another (to be accepted) and to parents (while breaking rules). This is also the period when parents are most suspicious and lay down several restrictions. Do remember, like moths drawn to a flame the youngsters are drawn to excitement and will find a way somehow
- Lying is convenient: Children sometimes feel trapped or threatened. They are scared of punishment. Telling the truth results in being shouted at. So to avoid parents’ anger children find it easier to lie. Here it is a warning to us parents/adults. How are we behaving when confronting our child? Lying brings more peace (at least for the moment!). It is just the easiest solution to their problems of dealing with parental anger and their own guilt
- Psychological factor: Largely children outgrow this habit of lying. As adults if they continue to lie for every silly reason then they may need professional help. Such cases would mean that there is some unresolved sadness, pain, hurt or conflict
How can we cope and help our children?
First and foremost - make it safe. Focus on the lie and not on the child. Keep up to your promises. It is difficult but worth trying this. Reassure your child that being truthful would not beget anger or lashings. And keep your word, however irritated or angry you are with your child’s behaviour. Please note that we are angry with the behaviour and not the child. We need to keep reminding ourselves and our children of this statement. This will encourage them to be open up to you. Children will also learn not to cover up their mistakes. If we backtrack they will also do the same and then we lose out terribly. Here are 6 other positive and productive ways to cope –
- Break the pattern/cycle: While grounding and punishing them be practical and stand by what you said. If you have said no TV for a week, STICK to it. Do not give in after two or three days. Children are smart. Once we give in, they realise that they can get away with their lies
- Attack only the behaviour: Once we label children as liars or dishonest they believe themselves to be those things, and continue such behaviour. It is important that we make it clear that we love them, but they broke the rules. Hence we are upset and punishing them
- React vs Respond: All of us battle with this at every stage of life. It is typical of us to react in anger and we feel when we shout or scream they would listen. The opposite happens. They shut us out. It breeds fear. They will continue to lie out of fear and to escape punishment/rage. Instead of reacting like,’ how could you / how dare you… Respond like this: well, you did this/because you lied about.… Hence you will not be playing outdoors for 2 evenings
- Parental bragging: Often we hear parents brag about how their children have escaped punishment or scolding at school by lying. This is dangerous. Children immediately learn that lying is cool
- Address the problems: Lying is an outcome of deeper problems. Look beyond the lie to see what has caused him/her to do so. Understanding the trigger will help in resolving the issue.If a child lies about marks/results/grades, look beyond the lying. Address the problem of fear in the child. Become a safe ‘go to person’ for your child
- Look inwards: Children aren’t born with a moral compass. They learn from us. Breaking traffic red lights is a very common act indulged in by parents. Children quickly grasp that doing anything is okay until one gets caught!
Remember to tell your child that a good person is not one who does nothing wrong, but someone who OWNS up to it– since we all make mistakes sometimes. Appreciate honesty. Reinforce with stories that have positive consequences for honesty than choosing stories that have negative consequences for lying. Set the ‘goodness’ rolling.
Did you find Swapna’s blog on lying in children useful? How do you maintain an open, honest relationship with your child? Do leave your comments…. We love hearing from you!
| Aug 16, 2017
really. satisfactory blog it was.. I do try keeping sch things in my mind.. for eg, as my kid just got over with his bad cold. he was den asking me for a glass of cold water. instead of saying a complete no no I asked him to take mix.. yes I know if I would have said a straight no to his question he would have unheard my words n would have a glass of cold water.
| Aug 17, 2017
good share.. most of the time we fail due to sympathy, when we give punishment. after few hrs or a day we feel sympathy towards them!! smarts kids would show souch innocence in their face too.. u can have those nice moments. we should make them understand the mistake. the good things when the mistake is not done and bad things when it is done.
| Aug 17, 2017
Are you concerned about your child lying? This article discusses the reasons why your child might lie and ways to help her overcome it. https://www.parentcircle.com/article/why-children-lie-an-age-by-age-analysis/