“Liar, liar, pants on fire!”
Most parents are completely flabbergasted when their offspring tells a fib, no matter what age they are. However, lying is a part of learning and growing and, as the parent, you need to know how to handle the tale-telling appropriately and effectively. It’s essential to differentiate between the lies that should be ignored and the ones that must be addressed and handle lying in an efficient manner with love and understanding, but also help your child recognize the value of the truth.
Little Ones – Storytelling
Young children who fall in the toddler and preschool age category may tell lies that are simply a representation of their creative imaginations running wild. When this happens, you can address the fact that they are not telling the truth by saying, “Wow! You are very creative!” Or challenge them by asking, “Is that really true?” Give your little one the chance to think about their tall tale, tell you more descriptions, and decipher the truth from the un-truth.
Do not be misled, however…children will learn early, usually beyond the age of 3 or 4, that lying might be the solution to avoiding the consequences of their actions and, ultimately, deceiving someone.
Essentially, your little one will lie to please you or get your attention.
Older Children – Avoiding Consequences
Your older child will lie to achieve a different outcome. When it all boils down, your school aged child and teenager will fib to solve some type of problem.
When you know that your older child has told a fib, let them know that you are aware of the truth and that you would prefer that they tell the truth rather than be deceitful. You could tell them, “I’m sure that you meant to do your homework, but you still have some work left to do. We all make mistakes, but in the future, I would prefer that you practice honesty when I ask you a question.”
Parental Lying – The Messages that We Send
Keep in mind that we all tell “little white lies” sometimes and that we need to set the example, as the parents. If our children witness us lying, they will get mixed signals that tell them that lying is okay sometimes.
Without thinking about it, you might tell your friend that you have an appointment that conflicts with meeting them today or – even worse – you might tell your child to tell the caller on the phone that you are in the shower when you honestly do not want to come to the phone.
Before asking your child to lie for you or lying in front of them, think about the significance of the message that it sends to your offspring and ask yourself if it is worth it to relay that message.
When handling a fibbing child, do not promise him that there will not be any punishment if they tell the truth – and then dole out a punishment once the truth is revealed. It is vital to teach your child that lying is not okay, both by holding discussions with them that help them to recognize truth from un-truths and showing them with our own behavior.