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When your child lies

I did not do it!”You did!”
I didn’t!”
You are lying!”

Parents often feel cheated and betrayed when faced with blatant lies. But angry words wont fix the problem. It needs to be tackled at a deeper level.

Pre-schoolers who lie

For pre-school children, the line between imagination and reality can sometimes be thin. When asked what they ate in class, your child might make up stories about the giant chocolate in her friends tiffin box, because she forgot what she ate, or has an active imagination.

If your child imagines herself doing something heroic, or talks about imaginary friends or activities, listen with amusement. Don’t treat it as a lie. Its normal for children below five to blur the distinction between reality and make-believe. But if your child obstinately refuses to admit to eating unhygienic, forbidden snacks, you need to be stern.

For pre-schoolers, lying is simply a way to escape trouble; they are too young to think about moral implications. Counsel them that lying is wrong by explaining how lying can make a person untrustworthy. If I told you I have a real rainbow cake at home, and you come home to find that I lied, you wont feel like trusting me the next time, will you?” is an example.

Little children need to understand why lying is not acceptable. Help them get over the fear of telling the truth. If you admit your mistake, I might scold you, but I will be happy inside because I will know that you are telling me the truth,” is a good line to take.

If your child admits to lying and apologises, make sure you are appreciative of her honesty and help her mend her ways.

When an older child lies

Its easy to feel let down. But remember that children lie to avoid reprimand and/or punishment. Therefore its tempting to brush the issue under the carpet by telling her not to lie again. But that’s the easy option. While confrontations are unpleasant, if you want your child to absorb the right values for the long term, you need to take more pains. First, cool down and think calmly about it, so that you don’t make things worse by accusing your child of bare-faced lying which might make her rebellious. Acknowledge that your child may have a deeper problem that she is attempting to resolve. Discuss better solutions. If you really had to go to your friends house, you should have asked me again. I might have suggested going on Saturday,” you could say while explaining your prohibition in the first instance.

Moreover, offer a way out. The next time you feel tempted to tell a lie, remind yourself that only brave children tell the truth, and have the courage to face the consequences,” is how you should explain. Parents need to teach children to tell the truth because there is a real danger of your child becoming a habitual liar.

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