Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why do children lie?

A question I get from parents often is "Why is my child lying?"

So here are some reasons why children make up stories (which is not unordinary):

1) They will fabricate a fantasy world if they are unsatisfied with something in their world. Make up stories, even believing them to be true. Typically, these result in stories about things they wish they could do or have done. They are a means of escape. Dr. Montessori calls these fugues.

2) Another reason for a fugue like this may be something he or she has seen on television. They will play out or live out stories from television or movies. Sometimes so much that being in reality is difficult or boring.

4) To relay a story they want to tell but remove themselves from the story so they do not have consequences. For instance, if a child got hit at school and he or she wants to tell the parents, conveniently leaving out the part that he or she hit first.

5) To get someone else that they are holding a grudge against in trouble. For instance, if another student accidentally ruined his or her work, or if a teacher stopped him or her from doing something he or she wanted to do a story is made up to get the offending person in trouble.

6) Sometimes stories are fabricated out of laziness. I do not want to think of the answer, so I'll just make something up.

7) Sometimes constant accusations of the adult drive the child to lie, and therefore not to expose his or her inferiority.

8) She or he is having very vivid dreams, so vivid that in the daytime it is believed that they have actually happened. This can begin suddenly because of a dietary change, medication, life circumstances, or maybe she just is coming into a cognitive ability to remember dreams.

9) We lie to them. All the time. Santa, Easter Bunny, I just do not have time to look up the real answer, oh that story is so cute I'll tell you that as if that is a real answer, a misplaced need to "protect" children from the truth, a mistaken assumption that they would not understanding the truth or are not ready for it, marketing, and a number of other reasons that we do not tell them facts. Really, adults lie to them so often, why would it NOT be all right for them to lie to us?

If your child is lying, look deeply to see why they might be doing this. And then fix their environment to remove the reason they are lying. If it is television, turn it off. If it is our constant badgering or nagging, try to stop. And, most importantly we need to stop lying to them. I am not saying lay out the world and all of its uglies in one fell swoop. But, if they ask a question, answer it. Honestly. Or, say "I don't know, but I will find out the answer." (and then actually find out the answer and tell them).

Remember, you only have to answer the question they ask. A question about where babies grow does not need to be a whole birds and bees conversation, just say "they grow in the uterus of the mommy, here is a picture of the uterus, it is here in the body." Notice, I didn't say to tell them that they grow in a flower field and then a stork picks them up and delivers them.