It can be upsetting if your child tells a lie. However, the reality is that lying is common for children. And it’s not because they’re bad – children lie for understandable, developmental reasons.
For instance, under 3-year olds simply aren’t old enough to know the difference between truth and untruth. When 3-4 year olds learn that other people don’t know what they’re thinking, they may test this skill out by ‘telling stories’.
Primary school children often want to please their parents more than do ‘the right thing’, so they may lie to avoid making them cross. Teenagers may lie to protect their privacy. Children of varying ages also lie to feel better if they have low self-esteem, impress friends and fit in with the group, and say things they wish would come true in their lives that currently aren’t true.
What you can do
In general, it’s important to remember your child only gradually learns to understand about telling the truth as they get older. Specific tips include:
* Try not to get into a battle about telling the truth
* Teach younger children the difference between truth and fantasy
* Explain why it’s important to tell the truth, like ‘it helps us to trust you’
* Let your child know it’s safe to tell the truth and they won’t get into trouble
* Give older children some personal privacy, but still ask what you need to know to protect them
* Set a positive example and tell the truth yourself