Surviving the Lying Phase in Childhood!
When your kids lie, you feel hurt, worried and angry! You fear they might carry on like this and be labeled liars later on in life! You worry about them losing the privilege of being respected and trusted in society and thus having unsuccessful relationships!
Do you remember your first lie as a child? Can lying be avoided? Do we inherit it or is it a learned behavior? When do kids lie and what can we do about it?
Dr. Nancy Labib, psychiatrist, has been generous enough to share with us her expertise about this extremely critical topic.
1) When do kids start lying?
- Conscious lying, as we adults understand it, starts when kids are 5-7 years old.
- For kids younger than 5, the boundaries between reality, dreams and imagination are not clear yet. Therefore, lying for them is sort of exploring their imaginative power, story-making and creativity. My advice at this age is to just let the mental powers of the kids grow.
- If lying persists till after 8-10 years old, then maybe you should consider spending more time with your kid(s), and ask yourself a few questions:
a- Are you spending enough time at home? (Are you too busy, overwhelmed with duties; maybe this lying is a need for recognition)
b- Are you spending enough time with your spouse? (How often do you express your emotions to your spouse and your children? When you are too busy to express your emotions, they feel abandoned, lonely and consequently start acting out)
c- Are you by any means physically or verbally abusive to your spouse or kids?
2) Why do kids lie?
- If you argue with your spouse in an aggressive manner in the presence of your kids, you are then modeling aggression and sending them a false message that this is one way of communication.
- Are you frustrated and disappointed to the extent that you practice physical violence on your kids? If yes, then your child might be lying to give back the aggression or avoid further punishment.
3) How can parents find out if their kids are lying?
You will never find out if your child is lying unless you spend regular quality time together and you know what their hobbies are, and what’s going on in their lives. The minute your son/daughter shuts you out and starts hiding secrets, watch out as this might be a sign that he/she will start lying!
4) How could parents handle lying?
If you suspect that your child is lying, go back to question number 1 and check the priorities on your time table.
Check the reason behind his detachment from you and TALK to him/her about it. Spend more time together. This is a relationship like any other: it needs effort, time and nourishing. Start being actually IN the relationship, not just being a provider.
5) How can parents mishandle dealing with a child who lies?
Repeated confrontation, insults, and losing trust in the kid. Moreover, talking about it in front of strangers makes things even worse.
6) Can you tell us the difference between lying, joking, false promises and great imagination? How can we explain it to our kids?
The difference is clear when you relate the situation to their age. Very young kids don’t know the difference between truth and fiction. They are just exploring their story making abilities.
The best thing to do is: ACCEPTENCE. You can’t expect to teach your child all the proper manners and values in ONE year! He/she needs time and patience. Simply accept them, then bit by bit, start explaining what a story means and even start creating one together (Let’s make a story game) and at other times ask your child what happened at school that day. You’ll be amazed to find out that your child has discovered the difference between reality and fiction and he might even tell you, at times, “oh, sorry! I think that didn’t happen. It was just a story.”
7) What can parents tell their kids when they complain about another person who is lying be it another child, or another adult like a teacher or a parent?!
This is a very challenging question as it introduces the concept of “not everyone is honest”. For a start, we need to do our best as parents to say the truth in front of our kids. We need to build basic trust at home, then when this happens we simply ask them: How did you know that it is a lie? Are you sure? If it’s a conflicting issue in the classroom for example, maybe you can suggest he talks to the teacher about it.
8) What is the “journey of lying” inside the body?
When the child is put in a situation where he/she can’t cope with, he starts thinking about how to please others and get acceptance so his mind starts creating solutions that aren’t real. To avoid this, children have to feel SECURE and reassured of being accepted whatever they do.
We should reach a status where our child would think: “I’ve made a mistake! I won’t wait for my parents to intervene. I’ll start thinking about how to correct it myself!”
Even if at this very moment you don’t have this type of relationship with your child, it’s never too late. Start building a relationship, spend regular quality time together and you’ll notice the magic.
One last thing, I’d like to warn against: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE whether it is verbal, emotional or physical! It’s one of the main reasons why kids choose to lie.
So insulting, yelling, shouting, hitting and emotional abandonment does great harm to you and your child; that’s a point where you have to seek counseling to learn a few skills that might help you!
Noha is a certified Health Coach by Dr. Sears Wellness Institute, a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and a passionate mother of two. Through her blog, she hopes to empower families and parents to lead a healthy, happy and well balanced life inside out.