All Children Lie—Yes, Yours Do, Too
Have your kids ever lied? If you answered no, you’re either lying yourself or dreaming. All kids lie and it’s not a sign that they’re headed for sociopathic behavior or delinquency—they are developing important psychological skills, according to this Slate article.
One skill that children who lie are developing is “theory of mind,” understanding that people have different beliefs and feelings. Lying children are also displaying executive function—a set of skills that includes working memory, inhibitory control, and planning capabilities. The paradox here is that they are demonstrating cognitive skills, but kids lie because they don’t have fully developed cognitive skills.
If you’re like most parents, you don’t really care about theory of mind or executive function when your kids lie to you. You’re concerned with not raising a delinquent child. There are things you can do to keep kids from lying. First, is not setting them up to lie. You already know Johnny threw his toy in the toilet or that Jane was on her phone when you told her not to be.
Another thing you shouldn’t do is tell your child you won’t get mad at him for telling you the truth, and then proceed to do exactly that when you get the truth. It sends the message that truth-telling gets punished—not to mention that you yourself are a liar. Which leads to the most important thing parents can do to keep kids from lying: be honest yourself. Adults lie frequently, too; you know, those little fibs we call white lies (“You look beautiful!” or “Yes, boss, I do have time for one more project.”). Is it possible that your child learned to lie from you?
Telling the truth all the time is a tricky thing. My children have lied to me and I have lied to them and others, although I mostly do my best not to. I don’t want them to lie, yet I do want them to add a little nuance to the truth. My 7-year-old daughter is beginning to understand that being polite, compassionate, and respectful means that sometimes the truth has to be massaged.
This does not mean that I’m teaching her to lie. The ability to use social graces is important and it’s not black and white. If a friend asks you if you liked the coconut cake she baked for your birthday and you hated it, you have to be able to think on your feet and use the proper language to convey that you deeply appreciate the time and effort on your behalf while NOT saying that it was the best cake you’ve ever had. It takes time, life experience, and precise language to do all that.
I liked this article a great deal because it gave me a chance to reflect on myself. I know that my children are paying more attention to what I do than to what I say. When I think about it, there never really is a need to lie. It is easier to live by telling the truth than it is to live by lying. You have to keep track of and remember lies. That’s one of the life lessons I want to get across to my children.
What do you do or say when your children lie? Share your thoughts below.