Help ― My kid is lying!

From little white lies to tall tales, here’s what to do when your child lies to you.

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It can be a disheartening discovery when parents realise that their child has told a lie.

At first, Jessica Lee, a stay-at-home mum to Joshua, 3, laughed it off when her son told his preschool teacher that mummy was a doctor. “We thought it was funny at first, then I got a bit unsettled. Why would he tell her something that was not true? Did he not know the difference between his imagination and reality? Did he secretly want me to be a doctor?”

Another mother, Chia Soo Ying, mum to Marc, 6, and Stephanie, 9, worries about her kids’ lying. “They sometimes lie when they haven’t finished their homework, or when they say that daddy has given permission to buy something and he hasn’t. I get upset because I’ve always stressed the importance of honesty in our family.”

Whatever age they are, children tell untruths for a variety of reasons, notes Karin Goh, a child and adolescent psychologist at The Center for Psychology.

She notes, “They may lie to protect their parents’ emotions, play out fantasies, avoid responsibilities, protect their own privacy or demand attention. And parents feel a sense of betrayal, confusion and frustration when children lie.”

“They may lie to protect their parents’ emotions, play out fantasies, avoid responsibilities, protect their own privacy or demand attention.”

The problem is that when a child lies, the trust is broken and your relationship may suffer. Says Goh, “Rather than take lies personally, parents can take the time and openly discuss the value of being truthful. You may also discuss alternatives to lying.”

Toddlers and younger children
Younger children start to fib at about the age of 3 ― when they realise that they can say things that aren’t true, without you finding out. It might start with a simple “fantasy”, something that your little one is dreaming up, just for kicks. In the case of Joshua, Lee was worried that reprimanding him for saying she was a doctor would crush his creativity. “I want to encourage his imagination, but I want him to know what’s right and what’s not.”

In fact, lying may not be such a bad thing. A study by the Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto actually says that whether a child lies can determine his future success, since skills like quick thinking and the ability to use information to your own advantage demonstrate a highly functioning brain.

 

So, how do you ensure that junior knows the difference between fact and fiction? Read on…