Little Lies: Your Preschooler and Lying
Your son tells you he didn’t touch the dish, even
though you watched him drop and break it. Or your
daughter is caught with cookie-crumbled hands just leaving
the cookie jar, yet insists she took no cookies.
A bit unsettling to parents? Yes. The end of
innocence? Maybe. A predictor of future immoral
conduct? Not at all. It’s just typical behavior.
Young children lie for a number of reasons:
- To make themselves look better in the eyes of
others because they don’t feel good about
- To avoid facing the consequences of their
- Faulty memory—when Kyle grabs a truck from
Chris, he may already have forgotten that he
grabbed it in the first place.
- Difficulty distinguishing between reality and
You may be upset or even embarrassed to find your
child is lying. And while lying should be discouraged,
most children tend to lie at one time or another. When
a child feels the need to lie, it can tell parents
important information about the child. Try to
understand the motivation behind a lie.
Children are less likely to lie if they feel their parents love them, even if their parents don’t always approve of their behavior. It’s important for parents to separate the deed from the doer and convey unconditional love.
Since a young child’s fibs are usually not malicious or
calculated, they are probably not a cause for concern. Assuming a child lives in an atmosphere of honesty
and trust, the fibbing stage will usually end. In the
meantime, deal with untruths and nurture the development of honesty.
untruth. Don’t ask, “Did you…?” If you know
the answer is yes, say instead, “I know that
“Something happened to this cup of juice. How
did it get on the floor? I wonder….” You stand a
much better chance of securing a confession than
if you accuse. “Look at what you did—you
spilled your juice again!” is more likely to elicit an
indignant, “I did not!”
When you suspect your child is lying, ask, “Do
you think I believe you right now?” Or “Do you
think I might be struggling to believe you right
admits to coloring on the family room wall and
you react with rage, it’s easy to see how the child
might be discouraged from admitting future
misdeeds. If, on the other hand, you show
appreciation for honesty (“I like when you tell me
the truth.”), the child is more apt to be truthful. Of
course, even when misdeeds are confessed, the
appropriate disciplinary action still needs to be
taken. For example, the penalty for coloring on
the wall might be to help scrub off the drawing.
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN