One day, probably in the early school years, your child will open their mouth and lie. The fact that a child starts to lie is not necessarily the result of disobedience. At the school age, there are plenty of developmental and emotional reasons to lie,  for example, a child lies because they have the need to feel important and want to save someone’s feelings. The good news is that your child knows the difference between good and evil, otherwise they would not bother to lie.

How to react to your child’s lies?

First, you need to know what you have to deal with. Before you teach your child why a lie is not profitable, you need to figure out why they decided to change the facts.

Here are the most common types of lies that school-age children say and ideas on how to deal with them:

Tales. Despite the school maturity of your child, he/she is still small and creates stories in own imagination. When a child says that they did a triple somersault during PE lesson this may be happening because a child is not able to fully perceive the difference between reality and fantasy yet or maybe tries to attract attention. If a child has a tendency to exaggerate, to embellish a story so that it is almost completely untrue, they may lack self-confidence and feel the need to boost their self-esteem. Maybe a child feels pressure to be good at something or thinks that must prove something to be accepted by a particular group of peers. No matter what reason is behind the embroidered stories, it is important not to make fun of your own child because her/his self esteem will decrease even more.

Show your children that you appreciate them as they are and praise them for actual achievements, even if it is a small achievement. When it comes to lying, it is best to turn the conversation away from it if you can, or calmly tell your child that you know that what they said is not true and that you love them even if they do not do triple somersault.

If a child lies to someone else, do not react in the company of strangers. Wait instead until you’re alone with a child and then gently explain that you know that they say untrue stories and that it can have unpleasant consequences.

Chances are that until a child is nine – when the boundaries between reality and fantasy will not be blurred any more for the majority of children – imagined stories will become in the past.

Covers. When your child points out that did not leave the gate open which led to an escape of your dog and knows that did something wrong so  tries to conceal own participation in the event. The goal is to avoid troubles or punishment. Children learn these tactics at a young age and master it as they grow up. A lie told in order to avoid discipline can put you in a difficult situation. If you discipline your child when they admit that they did something wrong, a child may decide that it is better to lie. However, if you do not use discipline, the behavior will not change. The case becomes even more complicated when you punish your child for lying and for what they did originally. The trick is to find a balance between being a liberal and punishing parent.

According to research, parents who take advantage of the moral principles in order to explain that lying is bad, get better results in telling the truth to their children than those parents who punish their children for a lie.

A lie spoken to put somebody off. The way to what extent your child is telling you what you want to hear, may be the path of least resistance: “No, I don’t have any homework for tomorrow”, “Yes, I have already brushed my teeth “, “No, I will not watch TV”.  These lies can seem relatively mild but do not let them get out of control because a child may come to the conclusion that honesty does not matter.

When you catch your child in the act, let them know that it is not right. Remind your child how important it is to be honest. If your child lies about doing homework, tell them that they will have to show you the completed tasks for the next few evenings. If a child lies on the issue of oral hygiene, maybe the idea of a routine control of breath before going to sleep will motivate them to do this next time. If a child lies about watching TV, consider his/her request for permission or strict limitation of time of watching.

A white lie. Parents are often surprised how early children use the so-called “social lie” or a lie which helps them to keep their own face or to protect someone’s feelings. At the age of 6, a child may insincerely pay compliments about a friend’s shoes or tell friends that he/she does not feel enthusiastic about My Little Pony. Of course, it is important that children learn empathy and avoid hurting the feelings of others. Make sure that your child understands the difference between a well intended distortion of the truth, such as: “Thank you, what a wonderful gift” when they receive a gift that they do not like, and between ensuring a grandmother who has just dyed her hair badly: “Your hair looks nice”. You need to tell your child that they may hurt someone or that such “polite” lies do not have any purpose.

You need to be especially vigilant about the girls who tell little lies just to be nice. Girls often receive a message that kindness is the most important thing, even if it means dishonesty about their own feelings. Trying to be liked, your daughter may experience very strong feelings and replace them with silence or a bunch of beautiful lies. In order to help her develop a sense of self-esteem and emotional strength, you have to teach her to value her own reactions and opinions and to express them without remorse. So make sure your daughter knows that her emotions and preferences are not only important, but are also characteristics that distinguish her from the crowd and make her unique.  Help her find ways to say what she really feels, thinks and wants, while supporting the fact that others have the right to their feelings, thoughts and preferences.

Cry for help.  Your child may lie because he/she is overwhelmed at school or in society and needs help because has to deal with pressure. A child may be also desperately afraid of disappointing you. If you suspect that a child lies to you out of one of these reasons, show your heart and inspire them to talk to you about their concerns. You may have to consider lowering your expectations so that a child can succeed in smaller, easier steps and which would increase his/her confidence. Instead of expecting the best results from all school subjects, for example, choose one and focus on this one. Calm down your child by saying that you’ll always love them, no matter what he/she says or does.

If the lies become chronic then probably there is a deeper problem underneath. In this case, the psychologist or therapist can help you find the source of the problem.

Marta Pociecha