Creative Child

Why Kids Lie and How to Encourage Your Child to Tell the Truth

by Deborah Song

When parents first begin to catch their child lying, they often feel betrayed and alarmed. ‘How could my sweet innocent child look me straight in the eye and deceive me?’ might be a common reaction. But lying is quite normal from a developmental standpoint. It’s actually a sign that other cognitive skills are developing. When kids lie, it shows they understand other people have different desires, feelings and beliefs – a quality that enables empathy and cooperation. And kids seldom lie intentionally to betray or hurt people.

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While you don’t want this developmental lying to turn into a life-long habit, it’s important not to treat your child as if they’re on their way to become social deviants on the first onset of lying. The impulse to nip this immoral behavior in the bud might make it tempting to dole out a harsh punishment or a good tongue-lashing. But when dealing with kids and lying, it’s important to first understand their motive, then follow through appropriate consequences that don’t inspire more lying. 

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Why Kids Lie

Avoid punishment. One of the most prevalent reasons why kids lie is to avoid punishment or an unpleasant outcome.

Seek approval. Sometimes the motive for lying can be a cry for more attention or acceptance. It’s not uncommon for kids to lie because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. They would rather tell a fib than have a parent think less of them.

Get a reaction. One of the more surprising reasons why kids lie is because they love seeing a reaction from people. So if you catch your child telling an outlandish story, it might be because they’re trying to make an impression.

Testing boundaries. A lie can also simply be the result of testing new boundaries. They might just be curious about how far they can get away with a new type of behavior.

Speak before they think. Without much thought, a child might utter the first words that come to mind. Learning to think before speaking requires discipline and practice.

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