How a child understands truth and how we as adults see it can be quite different. Understanding truth and telling the truth is something your child will learn over the years; it is not something they innately know from birth. In cases where your child does tell a lie, noticing when may help you to understand why or what the circumstances are: Is your child with peers? A friend? By him/herself? Your child may be trying to impress you or someone else; or really wish what is being said were true; or really believe from their perspective that what is said is true.
Children like to make things up. They exaggerate stories to give them a bit more ‘flavour’. Pretending and imagining are important to your child’s development, and it’s good to encourage this kind of play. ‘Tall tales’ don’t need to be treated as lies, especially for children under four years. With young children, lying is more a problem-solving issue than a moral issue.
Some tips for parents and carers:
- Avoid arguing about what has been said.
- Look for opportunities to teach your child the value of truthfulness.
- Avoid accusing a child: Did you leave the toys in a mess? Instead, ask your child to tidy the toys.
- Notice when your child tells the truth and positively encourage it.
- Be truthful yourself.
- Avoid calling your child a ‘liar’.
- Help your child learn the difference between truth and fantasy – That’s a great story…
- Reflect on the issue of ‘white’ lies and how you will explain this to your child.
Some websites which deal constructively with this issue are:
Parenting → Why Kids Lie—Age by Age
Huffington Post → What to Do When My Child Lies?
At Angel’s Paradise, we aim to deal constructively and in an age-appropriate way with children who are still learning about truth.