5 reasons why kids lie – and what you must do about it

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — July 25, 2019
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    Some preschoolers love to tell lies, either by running to the teacher (if the incident happens in school) or to their parents (if the incident happens at home).

    Shouts of “I’m telling the teacher” regularly ring out when children play together. The difficulty is teaching your child the difference between tattling and sharing necessary information. 

    Here are some reasons why children of this age tell lies. 

    (Also read: Is your kid telling lies? Spot these 5 signs)

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  • Moral sense
    2 / 13 Moral sense

    Having reached school age, a child usually has a well-developed sense of right and wrong. This doesn’t mean he always follows the rules, but it does mean he is aware of them and that they shouldn’t be broken.

    (Also read: How to help your child make friends)

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  • Approval
    3 / 13 Approval

    Six-year-olds love adult approval from parents, teachers and carers. And what better way to curry favour with a grown-up, thinks the child, than by pointing out what someone else has done wrong.

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  • Revenge
    4 / 13 Revenge

    A throwaway remark, or exclusion from a game can upset a child who may feel rejected and left out. To tell lies about the child who upset him is a great mechanism for gaining revenge.

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  • Stability
    5 / 13 Stability

    Sometimes telling lies to a grown-up is the only solution available to a five-year-old child who wants, say, another child to stop disrupting his play. He is likely to have tried other ways but they have failed.

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  • Attention
    6 / 13 Attention

    A child who feels unable to get attention from an adult may tell lies in order to achieve his goal. He thinks that the adults might ignore him personally if they are too busy, but that they are unlikely to ignore his tattle.

    (Also read: 10 good habits to teach your preschooler)

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  • 7 / 13

    The problem you face is knowing how to react to lying. After all, you might want to ignore your child if he constantly comes running to you with tattle, and yet you don’t want to risk discouraging him from sharing necessary information with you.

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  • 8 / 13

    That’s why it is important to listen when your child tells you: “Mum, you should see what he’s doing…”

    This is the only way you can establish the underlying motivation for his behaviour. Hear what your child has to say, decide on its significance, and try to identify the reason for his need to tell you this particular piece of information.

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  • 9 / 13

    If you think your child just wants attention, give him a cuddle, tell him you will have time to chat to him later, and say nothing about the lie he just told. Suggest that he returns to his play situation.

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  • 10 / 13

    If you think he is seeking revenge on another child who has upset him, reassure him that he has nothing to worry, make a neutral comment to indicate you have listened, and then continue with what you were doing before.

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  • 11 / 13

    If you think he is concerned because a rule has been broken, explain that you are glad he knows right from wrong and that what the other child has done really is naughty. Add that you are pleased he doesn’t behave that way.

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    If you think he does this because he is bored and wants a bit of excitement in his life, ignore his lies. Look at him when he talks to you, say nothing, and return to your previous activity.

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  • 13 / 13

    If you think he has shared something important with you, take appropriate action to sort out his concern. Thank him for telling you, but point out that he should try to avoid telling unnecessary tales.

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

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