By Marli Naidoo
Lies can totally destroy relationships. So, when our children lie to us, we take it very seriously and easily feel that we cannot trust them anymore. Children are not born with a system of values. It is something that they have to work out for themselves with time. They know about social rules and are constantly watching the adults to see what they are supposed to do and how they are supposed to negotiate in their world. The need to tell the truth and the ability to understand the concept of lying, are things that children develop as they grow and develop.
From birth up to the age of three children find themselves in a very confusing world in which they depend on adults for survival. At this age they tell lies because they want to preserve the connection with adults in order to feel safe. They are too small to tell the truth when they are spoken to in an angry tone of voice.
Children between the ages of three and seven do not always know the difference between fantasy and truth. At this age we can begin to learn the difference between innocent fantasy games and lies.
From the ages of five to ten children develop an understanding of what it means to lie. In good circumstances where they are taught the value of truth they eagerly want to tell the truth and win the adults’ approval. They are also fast to smell a lie and make sure that the liar gets his just deserts.
Children older than 10 know exactly when they are stretching the truth. They will lie to avoid trouble, because they are scared of their parents’ reaction, or to wriggle themselves out of a chore. They will also lie to fit in when their parents control too much of their lives or when parents themselves regularly lie about things.
How can you help your child to drop this habit?
Instruct smaller children in the value of truth. Stories about how bad it is to lie do not make much of a difference, while stories about people who made a difference by telling the truth, even if it was difficult, inspire them to do the same.
We must be the best examples of honest lives to our children. Do not lie to the traffic officer to try and persuade him not to write you a ticket.
Stay calm, because anger is not going to inspire your child to tell the truth next time.
Take time to educate and explain.
Moral issues are difficult. Give your child the benefit of the doubt and encourage him to tell the truth. Give him a second chance and if he then comes out with the truth, you can have a quiet talk about how he can handle it better next time and avoid lies.
Try to find out the reason for the lie. Then help him to find better ways to get the same outcome but without lying.
Never stigmatise your child as a liar. He must know that you still believe in him and that you trust him to tell the truth next time.
If you feel that you have tried everything but that your child’s lies are still out of control, he may need psychological counselling.
Psych Central: https://psychcentral.com/lib/when-a-child-lies/?all=1
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-nature-deception/201906/why-is-my-child-lying
Good Therapy: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/why-do-children-lie-normal-compulsive-pathological-lying-in-kids-0107197