Tip of the Month: Understanding Why Children Lie

Your helpful hint for April is Understanding Why Children Lie
Did you know that lying is developmentally normal for children of all ages, even when a child lies regularly? Lying allows children to test the boundaries between fantasy and reality, to protect themselves from the consequences of their actions, and to better understand how other people think.
Children can begin lying as early as 2 years of age! By 4 years of age research shows that 80% of children lie to conceal their own transgression. However, Identifying the reason is more important than stigmatizing or punishing the lie. Punishing lies may even encourage children to lie more, in the hopes that they will not be caught next time.
Therefore, we encourage you to address the lying and to get to the root of why the child is concealing the truth. Is the child trying to avoid getting in trouble? Scared of your reaction? Does he/she not want to hurt your Feelings? Are they gaining something if they lie?
It is important to consider the following since the children in your care have experienced Trauma:
Trauma and abuse. Abused or traumatized children may lie to cover up the abuse, lie about their experiences, or fear telling the truth to adults.
Anxiety. Children with anxiety-related diagnoses may lie because they are worried about the consequences of telling the truth.
Low self-esteem. Some children lie because they worry people won’t like them if they know the truth.
There are different ways you can promote honesty in children. What is key is that you remain calm when you know your child is lying and to Not ask a question that will encourage more lying. Therefore, asking “Why did you do that?” will cause a child to lie more to prevent getting in trouble. Instead you can say “I need your help wiping the crayon marks off the table.” If a child tells a “story” you can say “Do you want to think about that and try again?” We need to also remember to thank the child when the child owns up to a lie.
Most importantly, let the child know that even if he/she lies, your love for them does not change! Promoting safety while helping the child address their lying will let the child know they can come to you even when they have made a mistake.
Hope you find this helpful! Thank you for the work you do in this healing journey for these children!

Talwar, V., & Lee, K. (2008). Social and cognitive correlates of children’s lying behavior. Child Development, 79(4), 866-881. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3483871

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