Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

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Nobody wants their child to become a liar, but it is sometimes harder to manage than we think.

We all know of the little white lies, but there are a few other types of lies that we need to be careful of, below you will learn what they are and how to manage them successfully. A lie is a deliberate deviation from the truth, it is used to intentionally mislead or deceive.

  • The little white lie: (Yes thank you Granny that dinner was lovely)
  • The exaggerator: (There were hundreds of kids that also went to detention)
  • The excuse maker: (I did not come first in the race because my shoe laces were too tight)
  • The lies for self-gain: (I don’t have any lunch; can I share your tuck money)
  • The over active imagination: (Living in a world or fantasy and storytelling)
  • Malicious lies: (He can’t come for a sleep over because he still wets the bed)

Children will at some stage attempt one of the above, but when does the lying turn from a phase into a problem? If you are having a problem with your child in one of the above areas, here are some ideas that you can try.

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Let’s think about if for a sec, what would make a child steer away from the truth, why would they feel the need to lie?

  • To avoid punishment, disappointment or responsibility.
  • Fitting in and pleasing others or to gain attention
  • To cover up serious behaviour problems
  • To protect someone’s feelings
  • For self-enhancing reasons
  • To purposely deceive, or manipulate others/situations
  • Protect themselves from potential harm

Take a look at the imagination phase, most children start with this phase, and it is incredibly important as they are expanding their creative brains, and learning how to entertain themselves. These range from pretending your teddies are pupils in your classroom, and you are the teacher. There is doctor, doctor, cops and robbers and so on.

Our youngest son used to pretend that he had a construction company, he used to tell us stories of his labour and what they were building, sometimes he used to pick up something and pretend it was his cell phone. He would stand there having a long conversation, saying things like, “don’t worry, I’ll pick it up from Pinetown.” Or “why didn’t you finish building that room?” He would all of a sudden start telling us that he has a problem, his bob cat is not working. (As you can guess, my Husband has a construction company.) This was all very sweet and at times, I was even blown away by how much he knew about construction, this kind of make believe is a very important part of a child’s development in their early childhood days, but it can become a problem if it continues past the age of 6 and 7 as this is an indication that the child is trying to avoid reality by living behind their make believe. This should be addressed as there could be an underlying problem as to why the child prefers to escape from reality.

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Children will initially lie to see if they can get away with it. The older they get, the better they become at telling a more convincing lie. They learn how they can intentionally manipulate a situation by telling a lie. Lying to avoid punishment, this is understandable, as nobody likes to be in trouble, but they need to learn that if they lie, the punishment will be far worse than if they tell the truth from the beginning. If you know that your child is lying to avoid punishment, try and avoid setting them up. For example: Your child is the only one in the room and you walk in to find a piece of art drawn on the wall, don’t ask them if they did it. By asking them you are giving them an opportunity to lie. Rather say, “Why did you do that? I am not very happy and now you are going to have be punished.” One of the biggest reasons that children lie to avoid disappointment is that they are feeling insecure about their ability to perform and they don’t want to disappoint whomever is relying on them. If you are finding that this is a common lie, maybe lower the bar for a while and see if it changes. Lying to get out of responsibility could be the same as lying to avoid disappointment, the child feels that they are not capable of the responsibility that they have been given and need some encouragement, or it could be because they are lazy, and would rather do something fun that they want to do. In this case, they need to learn that responsibility comes first and the quicker they finish what is required, the quicker they can go and play.

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The Children who lie to fit in or gain attention are very difficult to deal with, and the way you get to the bottom of things may be a very tricky one to handle.  This stage of lying often happens when they become Teenagers and one of the biggest reasons for it is that, Teenagers Peer approval is more important at that stage of their life than Parental approval. Everyone has an inner need to fit in and be liked. The best lesson for children here is to learn to love themselves and believe that they are great in their own way. It is far better to be confident in yourself than to be cloned. This is one of the hardest lessons they will face and they will need your constant reinforcement along the way. The biggest lesson for them to learn and understand is the impact of dishonesty and the knock on affect it can have.  Another lie that is often present at this stage of life is lying to cover up behavioural problems, these can range from smoking, alcohol, drugs, steeling or sexual activity. The child knows that, what they are doing is wrong and unacceptable, so they have to lie to cover it up. These lies are the hardest to uncover and deal with, so make sure you listen and take the time to drop and fetch them when they go somewhere, it is much easier to pick up a lie if there are a bunch of friends all together in the car. Someone will slip at some point. You will also be able to monitor any strange behaviour.

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They need to fully understand the negative effects of malicious lies; those lies that are told to purposely told to hurt another person like telling rumours about them or setting them up.  These lies are becoming more and more popular through technology and social media, the problem is that something that has gone viral is almost impossible to get back.

Lying to protect someone’s feelings, the little white lie is one that our children need to know is the only acceptable lie to tell. The reason you are lying is not for any other reason than you are being kind, loving, polite and respectful to others this is acceptable behaviour and the only lie that is not a negative. Your children will witness you telling this lie and because actions speak louder than words, make sure you explain why you lied. “Yes I did tell Aunty Peggy that I loved the jersey that she knitted for me, you know that I don’t really like it but I did not want to hurt her feelings. Sometimes we have to tell little white lies to protect people’s feelings and to be polite, and these are ok. If you tell a little white lie to avoid hurting someone else, always tell Mom and I can let you know if it is ok”

We need to make sure that our children understand that these “little White Lies” are to protect another person’s feelings and not for self-gain.

Exaggerating does not have a negative effect like serious lying but it should be curbed, as if your child gets into a habit of exaggerating, people will stop taking them seriously. Yes, we all exaggerate, “I have told you a million times to put your cloths in the wash basket” I mean really a million, but it just sounds better, packs a better punch, but the person that constantly exaggerates when relaying a story to others will become a lot less credible, if people even listen at all.

If you know that your child is lying, instead of calling them out on it and making yourself look like the bad guy, why not call their bluff?

Child- “We did not get any reading homework today.”

Mom – “Oh that is great, well let’s get a book and read anyway so you can practice and be top of the class in reading.”

Now all of a sudden the lie has lost its impact and the child realizes that it was not worth lying in the first place, by reacting this way, you have taught your child not to lie, but they have made the decision themselves without you having to tell them that they were wrong. Their EQ just went up.

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Children with a good relationship with their parents, feel closer to them and are often more comfortable telling them the truth, even if they know that there will be consequences. When you continue building a good relationship with your children, they begin to build a huge amount of respect for you and this respect works like and internal Jiminy Cricket, constantly reminding them to listen to their concerns. Children with a greater respect are less lightly to want to hurt or deceive you so they feel a moral obligation to tell the truth.

Dishonesty must be challenged and dealt with, children need to understand that lying is not acceptable behaviour. Observe lie patterns and see if there is a common reason for the lies. Lying that is consistently self-serving with no other motive is a serious issue. The problem is that the more they practice the better they get with the perfect “Poker Face”

Children who do not learn that lying is unacceptable behaviour and will not be tolerated, stand a great chance of becoming compulsive liars. This is very dangerous as it could lead to a life time habit of deceit. They eventually have no moral conscience and it will not bother them whether they lie or tell the truth. Work on building an ethic of truthfulness, reward your children for telling the truth.




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