When and how do kids start lying?
Psychologists say that lying is a sign of the development of complex thinking. The kid begins to deceive when he realizes that the actions and feelings of other people are not predetermined, they can be influenced by words and thus turn life situations in their favor.
With age, the deception itself also changes. Child psychologists Penny van Bergen and Carol Newall of Macquarie University describe what is happening like this.
How a child lies at 2–4 years old
The first lie is clumsy and funny. For example, a toddler may sincerely claim that he did not eat a chocolate cake, although traces of a crime are clearly visible on his face. Or that he did not take the toy that he is holding behind his back. At this age, the child seems to be tasting the possibility of lying – to check when a lie can work and when it will be useless.
How a child lies at 3–8 years old
The lies are getting more sophisticated. The child learns to hide the obvious traces of a crime and hide emotions. Nevertheless, he still quite often gives himself away.
So, in one study, children from 3 to 7 years old were left alone in a room with a musical toy standing behind them. The kids were urged not to watch what was playing. Most of the children, left alone, of course, turned around. And when the experimenter , returning to the room, asked if the child was peeping, he most often received a negative answer.
The children lied skillfully: the experimental adults, who were offered to look at the video of the answering kids, could not recognize by their faces who was lying and who was not really looking at the toy. But the preschoolers were betrayed by further conversation: almost all the liars in a conversation with the experimenter accidentally blurted out, describing the toy or calling it by name.
How a child lies at 9-10 years old
By this age, self-control in children reaches such a degree that they are able to lie surprisingly believable, without betraying it either by appearance or contradictions in words. However, by the age of 9–10, an understanding of morality is also formed.
Then the children realize that lies can be different, and try to lie less often, making an exception mainly for “ lying for good ” – that is, they hide only the truth that can upset the interlocutor or negatively affect relations with him.
With age, moral self-control usually increases, due to which cases of lying become less common.
Why is the child lying
If the child tells a lie only from time to time, you should not worry. This is a kind of developing lie, an experiment with which the baby checks the boundaries of the world and learns to navigate in it.
But chronic lies that are repeated day after day are a cause for concern.
1. The child is afraid of the consequences of the truth.
Adults may lie in order not to arouse the wrath of superiors or to avoid some unpleasant or overwhelming duties. Children often begin to lie for the same reasons.
To be honest, that we have been given a lot of lessons, it is easy to be left without an evening rest. Therefore, it is easier to say: “I did all my homework at school.” If you admit that you lost a toy, you can listen to many unpleasant accusations and be punished. It’s easier to imagine that he gave it to a friend for a while. The situations are different, but the result is the same: the child lies to avoid the expected troubles.
2. The child suffers from self-doubt
Sometimes children lie to raise their status in the eyes of others – because the current one seems to them too low and inspires anxiety. This is how stories about invented victories appear: “I answered best in mathematics” or “and yesterday we played football with the boys, and I scored four goals in a row.”
For the same reason, a child may invent a long list of expensive gifts that he allegedly received for his birthday. Just because a friend showed off his new phone. Or talk about amazing travel experiences in response to friends’ summer travel stories.
Uncertainty can also give rise to aggressive and defiant lies. The child will deceive again and again, as if testing adults for strength: do you love me like this? And like this? And if so? Behind such endless lies lies the fear of being left without support . In fact, a lie is an attempt to find solid ground under your feet, to get confidence that adults will not quit, no matter what.
3. The child is too impulsive
He doesn’t have time to think before he says something. And then he is forced to defend the stated version, so as not to lose face.
4. The child has a mental or behavioral disorder
A child or teenager who suffers from anxiety may chronically lie to avoid fearful situations. For example, feign illness in order to skip a test at school. Or come up with a story that will allow you to skip a workout or a party.
Also, chronic lying can be a sign of serious behavioral problems, such as oppositional defiant disorder. But in this case, in addition to constant lies, other symptoms arise: disobedience, aggression, intentional harm to people around them and their things.
5. The child spares the parents
He may lie that school lunches are free and quietly steal money and sandwiches from classmates. Or hide bad grades so as not to upset mom. Or say that everything is in order, and hide the bruises – if only not to strain those close to you, exhausted by life’s troubles, also with your problems.
This happens if the family, for various reasons, cannot provide support to the child. And he, in turn, loves his family very much and tries to protect them.
6. The child fantasizes too much.
This usually applies to young children, who still have blurred the line between fantasy and reality. Such a child can excitedly talk about the robbers he met on a walk or imaginary friends. He will always be late for serious reasons: he met a kitten who had to be moved across the road, or helped some grandfather start a stalled car. The mess in the nursery is the work of a monster, the missing cake is the fault of the cat, the painted wallpaper is “a boy came in and painted.”
In fact, this is not a lie, but a fantastic fairy tale that captivates the child to such an extent that he himself begins to believe in it. As they age, closer to school or in the lower grades, children learn to draw a clear line between imagination and reality.
What to do if the child is lying
The main rule: in no case do not punish him. At least until you figure out the reasons for lying. Children who are physically punished for lying are more likely to lie . It becomes a way for them to survive.
Also, children from families where strict rules of behavior are adopted and lying are considered completely unacceptable are more active in lying. In this case, the child is forced to hide his inevitable accidental misdeeds, since he cannot count on the tolerance of adults.
Child psychologists Penny van Bergen and Carol Newall recommend that parents do this.
1. Make sure it’s a lie
Young children may genuinely not see the difference between reality and fantasy. If a monster made a mess in the nursery, this is not at all because the child is lying to spite you or wants to avoid responsibility . Life is a big playground for him. And the task of parents is to gently, through the game, teach the child responsibility.
There are also more dangerous situations. Sometimes children voice things to their parents that “simply cannot be!”. For example, about the terrible attitude of the teacher to the students. Even if you do not really believe in this, it is important to double-check such information first, and then make a decision.
2. Show your child that you love him and he can count on you
The child should know that if he stumbles, he will be supported and helped to cope with the situation. If parents help mend a broken vase or solve a difficult school topic that bogged down a test, children will gradually lose their fear of failure and accidental missteps. And over time, lying will cease to be a way to protect yourself.
3. Talk to your child about the emotional and moral aspects of what happened.
“You broke the vase and didn’t tell me because you were afraid I’d be upset, right?” – such a phrase will help the child to realize the motives of his actions. “I’m really a little upset. But we can fix everything, let’s think about how ”- and this will set you up to find a solution to the problem.
Discussing emotions allows children to understand what lying is, what inner experiences make them lie, and how this affects others and themselves.
4. Support your child when he speaks the truth.
Being honest and open is dignified and makes you strong, not vulnerable. Transmit this thought to the child and try not to punish, but to encourage for the truth.
5. Consult a child psychologist
If lying becomes uncontrollable, spoils relationships with others, and is accompanied by other behavioral disorders, such as demonstrative disobedience and aggression, it makes sense to contact a child psychologist. You can find a suitable specialist yourself or ask a pediatrician for recommendations.
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