Why and When a Child Lies


Some quotes get stuck in our minds and one that got stuck in my mind is: “Everybody lies.” It doesn’t really matter if you’ve heard this from an episode of Dr. House or from another source. The truth is that everybody lies, and children are no exception. The reasons why and when they do it are different from one child to another. A very interesting idea that I’ve read is this: children can understand that lying is bad, but they don’t see it as harmful. And here starts the lying, the original issue and the parent’s anger.

Let’s take a step back, take a deep breath and a short trip to our childhood and adolescence. We’ve been there, we’ve told a few small or big lies. What were the reasons we did that? What are the reasons our children do it also? Let’s start with this: kids aren’t born with moral code and they need time to figure it out. As our children grow, their ability of understanding the concept of lying grows also. So age plays an important role in truth telling.

From birth to the age of 3, kids find the surrounding world a very confusing place to be and their survival is directly linked to adults. They sometimes tell a lie because they are afraid of upsetting their parents, the ones they so much depend on.

From ages 3 to 7 children develop their creativity and create fantasy worlds. The limits between the real world and the imaginary world they create for themselves are very blurry and confusing. We encourage the small ones to believe in the existence of an old man dressed in red that travels in one night all over the world but we get mad when the child tells us he heard the dog speak?

From ages 5 to 10, kids gradually develop an understanding of what it means to lie. They develop the need to be approved by adults so they start understanding the limits of lying and the consequences implied by it.

From the age of 10, the child is already capable of understanding if what he is about to tell is or isn’t a lie.

A question still remains: why are children lying? There is no short answer and this is why each parent should have an open relationship with their children.

Mistakes – we all make mistakes and kids are in the same place like us. Did you ever find yourself in the situation of lying just because you made a mistake? Next time your kid makes a mistake, remember that nobody is perfect.

Fear – no one likes to be yelled at and children avoid this input on them by lying. After hearing the lie your kid just spoke, take a deep breath. Be calm, don’t raise your voice and try a conversation from adult to adult. It’s difficult, but it’s worth it!

Doing something they don’t want to do – We hate doing things we don’t like when others want us to do them, so we lie. Let’s face it: tasks like doing homework or cleaning up a room are not in a top 3 favorite things to do.

Fitting in – behind this reason lays another one, a much deeper one: self-confidence. When a child wants to be accepted by a group of colleagues, friends or even family, they tend to tell all sorts of lies.

Strict rules – a bad paper can mean a week without internet access? Then a lie is expected. This doesn’t mean any consequences; this means a dialogue between parent and child. Rules should not be made by parents only; they should also be discussed with the young members of the family.

Imitation – if one of the adults lies, it is very probably that the child will copy this certain type of behavior. One of the principles of a child’s learning mechanism is this: “Monkey see, monkey do!”


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