A little boy of five returns from vacation and narrates to my son how they met with an accident on their way back. Boys as they are, always intrigued by motor accidents, my son comes and tells me about the accident. I ask the boy and he narrates everything again. Everything he said seems to be true and falls in place as I see his mother going to the office in a public vehicle and both their personal vehicles were not in their porch. Worried, I ring up her mother and was as surprised myself as she was.
There was no accident or anything of the sort and their vehicles were in the workshop for routine servicing. While I was amazed at the boy’s ability of narrating a lie so naturally and convincingly, it also led to a train of thoughts about why should a seemingly happy child need to lie at all?
Kids up to the age of ten are basically innocent. They do not lie to intentionally cause harm to anyone, but they lie purely for themselves without much realizing the consequences. We should therefore try to fathom the reason of lying. Punishment does not help in case of young kids lying. Harsh punishment in fact is never advisable as it may aggravate the problem instead of solving it. Try to fathom out the reason for lying and work on it with patience and love.
Most causes are circumstantial, borne out of the child’s immediate physical and emotional environment. Some major causes of children lying are-
- Seeking attention- When a child feels ignored at home or school, he/she tries to grab attention by pretending to be in pain or making stories about herself/himself to derive sympathy. This happens mostly where adults/parents are too busy with their work and do not spend enough quality time with the kids. Kids want their parents not just to bring lots of toys and goodies for them. They want their parents to be their friends. They want to play with the parents and want the parents to listen to not just their school assignments but all about their friends and adventure too. When this does not happen they feel ignored and cook up lies to keep their parents near them. Such lying is not a habit but an innocent childish way of seeking due love from elders. Some parents feel giving much attention to kids will spoil them. But not giving sufficient attention too will harm them. When a child resorts to lying, look into your own life style. A happy child is better than a lying independent child!
- Fear- Fear is a cause of lying not just in kids but adults as well. Kids of very strict parents resort to lying. Strict means two things- one is you have set too many rules and restrictions for the child which she doesn’t like, and second when she breaks the rule or does anything against your liking, she is badly scolded or punished physically. The fear of getting punished desists the child from telling the truth. Take a simple example- A child comes home from school and says ‘I gave half my tiffin to my best friend’. If you scold him, next time he will say he ate it all himself. This way he not only has to lie out of fear, he will also remain hungry. Wouldn’t it be better if you explain to the child that it is good to share but not by remaining hungry everyday. Give some extra food for his dear friend. It is always good to explain a wrong doing to the child than scolding and punishing. Fear leads to lying becoming a habit. We certainly do not want our kids to grow on a foundation of fear. Do not ignore the child’s wrong doings, but explain the matter firmly. Realisation of a mistake helps better in being more careful in future and not repeating it again.
- T o boost self esteem- To establish their importance among friends or family, kids may make up fake stories about themselves. Society always lauds the talented and is indifferent towards the average one. Even kids sense this, which lead to jealousy and inferiority complex. They want to get appreciated too. In such situation they try to project themselves as better than what they are or like what they feel their friends or elders appreciate. The role of parents in such situation is to help boost the self esteem of the child, by appreciating what good qualities she/he has. Parents should refrain from comparing the child with others or telling things like ‘ you are good for nothing’ etc. Unconditional love, encourage and appreciation will make the children comfortable in their own skin. When parents are happy and satisfied with what they have, kids too would naturally learn to look at the positives of life.
- Excess parental interference- Too many questions and interference in the child’s activities repels them. This is particularly true for teenager who treasure some privacy. They may lie to avoid you. Parental worries are natural, but teenagers need certain amount of freedom too as they grow into young adults. Parents have to keep a watch on their activities to keep them safe, but this should mostly be done indirectly. You should wait for the right occasion to explain something lovingly and firmly.
- Role model- We as adults often tell harmless lies to avoid some situation. For example if I don’t want to attend some invitation I’ll make some false excuse to the invitee. For us this is harmless. But if we do it often with the kids listening, obviously they get the idea that small lies are okay. Gradually the small lies become big ones as they may find them convenient in many circumstances.
Parents are the best judge of a child. They should be loving and approachable enough for the child to confide in. If you find your child lying, do not scold, but try to find the truth with love. Children cannot put all their needs into words. So it is the duty of the parents to understand the child’s unspoken needs.
If you do not find anything amiss at home or your behaviour, try to know about the child’s friends and teachers with whom they spend considerable part of the day.
Listen carefully to everything they tell about school and friends. You will certainly get some clue about what or who may be the reason for the child’s lie.