Challenge the lie and define the truth

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, August 13, 2011

QUESTION: When do kids start lying?

ANSWER: Lying starts around preschool age, when kids begin to think abstractly. Most preschoolers understand that parents have expectations for them, prompting them to cover up actions that will meet with disapproval.

Because kids at this age want to please others, their lies may be more wishful thinking than deceit.

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Fact and fantasy can get confused at this stage. Preschoolers enjoy tall tales and may incorporate such stories into their realities.

School age kids learn to use a variety of lies. Early lies generally focus on getting material benefits rather than social rewards.

As children grow older they begin using social lies to avoid punishment or to protect others.

As the teen years approach, kids begin to struggle with separation issues resulting in secrecy and deceit.

Teens tend to lie to cope with the stressful world of adolescence and to cover up choices they know are against their parent’s values and rules. Some teens lie simply because they are not bothered by taking advantage of others or are trying to cover up another serious problem, such as drug use. Parents need to be aware of the degree to which their kids are exposed to others’ lying.

Teens in particular are vulnerable to adopting behaviors deemed “cool” by their peers, and, unfortunately, the ability to con others is sometimes considered “smart.”

When you realize your child is lying, it is important to challenge the dishonesty and define the truth.

Discuss the difference between make believe and reality, lying and truth-telling. If your child tells you something far-fetched, you might say, “Let’s think about that…” or “You’d probably enjoy things that way.”

With older kids, use appropriate consequences; remain firm and friendly.

If an accident is obvious, don’t ask whether it happened. Instead of demanding “Who did this?” try “I’m upset about this; please explain it to me.”

Make the conversation a discussion about what happened and why the child felt a need to lie, rather than an interrogation.

Lying is a behavior that all effective parents need to be prepared to confront. Young children are not very sophisticated when they lie.

Older children tend to deny or exaggerate. Preteens and teens can be quite intentionally deceptive. Remember the 10 to 1 rule as a guideline: A teen has probably been involved in a negative behavior 10 times to 1 admission of guilt to adults.

Unfortunately, human nature carries a liability for deceit. We do not love our children less for being realistic about the temptations of dishonesty.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434- 9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599.

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