HOW TO DEAL WITH A CHILD THAT LIES
Your maturing preschooler probably gives you plenty of reason to feel proud. When he remembers to say “thank you,” for example, or gives you an empathetic hug if he sees you’re sad. So you may be thrown for a loop the first time your child tells a bald-faced lie or to see a 5 year old telling serious lies. It’s not deviance. An active imagination and a tendency to forget what happened ten minutes ago explain away most lying in this age group.
WHY CHILDREN LIE
For preschoolers, the line between fantasy and reality is blurry, which may explain their tendency to lie. Your child’s intent isn’t to deceive you. Rather, she wants to say what will make you happy — even if it isn’t true.
Lying is children’s tool to preserve their self esteem among those who matter to them. Parents and teachers do matter to them.
Children fear annoying parents and teachers, both out of love and respect for them and the consequences that may follow; punishment and withdrawal of favors. But we scare and punish them for tiny faults. The fear generated instigates lies and ignoble childhood prank gets compounded by lies told.
WHAT TO DO WITH LYING CHILD
Make it less scary for her to tell the truth and you’ll help her avoid fibbing. For example, if she denies drawing on the wall, calmly help her clean up and point out that crayons are for coloring books and paper. Counter intuitively, humor can be another useful response. Go along with the tall tale and embroider it yourself, and your child will probably catch on to the absurdity of her story.
Two-year-olds’ lies also sprout from their active imaginations. They come to believe certain things they’ve imagined really did happen: Maybe it was the dragon under the bed who messed up all those clothes all over the floor.
And sometimes what seems like a lie is sheer forgetfulness. You ask, “Did you put your finger in the frosting of that birthday cake?” and if it happened much earlier in a busy day, she just might not be sure whether she did it or her big brother did.
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