Children often tell lies, what is the reason behind this? A parent recently wrote to us as follows:
My seven year old girl is starting to lie a lot. She will make up stories for no reason. The other day she told me that she got star pupil of the week. When I asked the teacher about it, she said it wasn’t true. What worries me is how elaborate the lie was, she had a big story about how she got the star. When I tell her off, or ask her why she told a lie, she closes down and doesn’t say anything. It is not the first time.
Dr John Sharry offers the following advice:
Children telling lies can be quite embarrassing to parents, especially if you, (as most parents do) place a high value on honesty. Though all children tell lies from time to time, it is easy to take your children’s lies personally or as a slight on your values. Children tell lies for many different reasons and it is first important to understand why. Sometimes it is to avoid getting into trouble (‘I didn’t break the glass’) or to gain a treat (‘daddy said we could have a cake’). Other times it is because a child feels inadequate or is looking for attention, which may be the case with your daughter. Is your daughter struggling at school and made up the story because she wants to do well, or is she looking for your approval? Remember when dealing with young children lying, asking them why they lie is unlikely to help (you have to work that out yourself!). Generally, they won’t know why and are likely to feel embarrassed or defensive. The best thing is to explain to them the importance of telling the truth and to help them learn how to get what they want without telling lies.
For example, with your daughter you could say ‘I talked to your teacher and I know you didn’t get a star, but it sounds like you really want a star. Well if you do your homework well you might be able to get one, would you like me to help you?’ or ‘I know another way you can get star: I will make a star chart at home and each time you clean up the dishes I will give you one. Would you like that?’
You could also use the fact that your daughter has an elaborate imagination to her advantage. Make up stories with her about a little girl who goes on an adventure together or succeeds in a special way and let her fill in the details. Such an activity might be a lovely way to spend time together and be a boost to her confidence.
The long term aim is to help your daughter learn and to gain your approval and attention and to feel happy about herself without resorting to lying.