When young children tell lies

Try not to be too shocked if your young child suddenly begins to tell tales, bend the truth, or downright lie through their teeny teeth! When young children fib it’s rarely meant with the malice or bad intent that we as adults have come to associate with dishonesty.

In fact, children do much of their learning through testing boundaries physically, mentally, verbally and morally. Learning to lie, or not, is as much a part of a child’s development as learning yes or no, right or wrong, and good or bad. There are lots of ways we can guide our children to make honest choices in life and to know why the truth is important.

When and why do children lie?

Children may start to tell lies as young as 3 years. This is about the time that their vocabulary allows them to lie and they realise that you may not know exactly what they are thinking. But by school-age children may have taken the time to practise and perfect their fibbing skills, they know facial expressions and can alter their tone.

Lies are usually to get out of trouble, test your response, to exaggerate, to get attention or for some personal gain.

Promoting the benefits of honesty

As soon as your child is old enough to know true/not true, you can begin to encourage them to be honest. Always praise honesty, even if it takes a few attempts to get there! And above all ensure that you lead by example, children are incredibly perceptive.

Make sure that if your child has an accident, or makes a mistake, that they don’t feel lying is the only way to avoid negative repercussions. Stay positive and get them to help you to fix it, or clean-up the mess. The consequences of telling the truth must always be favourable, and if your child owns up to something be sure to give positive praise.

Some children use bragging as a form of lying, to get attention and admiration. Instead be sure to focus on the many things that your child can do and issue plenty of praise for that.

Make clear rules and stick to them and explain why honesty is important to you and your family. Explain why lies can be bad, and by all means, use fables and stories to better demonstrate your views.

Make-believe is different to lying, and should not be discouraged. Instead just ensure that your child knows the difference between a ‘story’ and real-life, and then encourage that story, you can even make it silly and farcical so their imagination can flourish and there is no resemblance to a real-life situation.

What about white lies?

White lies can be a grey area! Sometimes they are necessary to protect a child’s innocence, to save people feelings or even to keep children away from the dangers in life that they are yet to understand.

Protecting others feelings, like when receiving a gift, is something that your child will learn with empathy and other delicate and complex emotional skills.

For very young children the lines between proper lies and white lies may be hard to define and explain, so it is best to allow this skill to develop naturally as your little learner develops his or her own healthy moral counter.

Why not enrol your child with one of our Cherry Bridge Station Early Learning and Childcare centres in NSW? See them flourish mentally, emotionally, morally and physically with the help of our state-of-the-art activity-based curriculum.