We (parents) would be lying if we say we have never lied either to defend or promote ourselves. We often tell ‘white lies’ to ease a situation or spare someone’s feelings, yet we always fret about children lying, why? At what point or age should parents be concerned about a lying child? It is a fact that children would lie and for different reasons too. According to Dr. Miriam Stoppard, children lie for many different reasons hence, there are different types of lying.
Exploratory lying: this type of lie is told to see your reaction. A four year old could tell his mom that he didn’t enjoy his dinner though he ate it all. Your response to this kind of lie should be such that the child is discouraged to say things he doesn’t mean the next time because if the child notices he wins attention with this, he could want to use the tactic over and over again and it can grow into a serious habit if left unchecked.
Bragging: This type of lying takes the form of greatly exaggerated story and it is done to boost the child’s self-confidence. There is no need to pretend, when we were in primary school, some people bragged that their father owned the airport! Some said their conception was immaculate, others stayed in a mansion that had swimming pool whereas they actually were living in a room self-contained. Though bragging is harmless, it must be discouraged as it may become a permanent habit. Excessive bragging can cause children to lose friends when they are discovered and can cause them to be labelled liars. We must teach children to celebrate and be excited about genuine achievements not by boasting though.
Make -believe: These are lies that mix reality and fantasy and they serve to add excitement to everyday experience. These are often times described in colourful detail. These are not really lies and are best treated as a normal phase in children’s development. Personally, I feel this is a creative process (lol). Sometimes; I come up with interesting fictitious stories that cause my children to laugh or behave themselves. When I tell some stories, my children would ask me if I was there when it actually happened – fiction is the truth inside the lie . . .
Cover-up lies: are lies aimed to deliberately mislead. This should bother all parents irrespective of the child’s age. Children tell cover-up lies to avoid getting into trouble and they learn this tactic at a very young age. This type of lie become more sophisticated as children grow hence, they must be corrected. Children tell these lies to avoid punishments and reprimands. Therefore, we must be careful when punishing children. We should let our children know why they are being punished and we should not forget to reassure them afterwards that they are truly loved.
In conclusion, as parents we must endeavor to do the following:
- Talk to children about the implication of lying. Get them books that give clear messages about dangers of lying and values of honesty.
- Praise children when they tell the truth especially in awkward situations.
- Be honest: Parents who are honest with their children are likely to receive honesty from the children too. Start by keeping your promises and then stop sending children on “white lie” errands e.g., “Tell her I am not at home” meanwhile you are seated at the living room watching television.You may tell a fib for good reason but how do you think a child processes your action?
Finally, I don’t think it is humanly possible not to tell an untruth but that doesn’t mean we should make lying a way of life.