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Why Children Tell Lies

(adults lie much more, but we will not go into that for now)

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

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Why children tell lies

The child’s world is very limited. He has no right to select his home, friends, school, activities, schedules, food etc. Hence many children develop a feeling of helplessness and frustration, and start looking for the easy way out, the path of least resistance. And what better than to tell a lie and escape the situation at least for that moment? These are some of the reasons kids want to escape with “bending the truth”:

  • Covering up guilt or deficiencies – low self esteem
  • Wanting to avoid punishment – strict adults
  • Imitating adults – bad role modeling
  • Hoping for praise and affection – lonely/insecure
  • Not sure between fact and fiction – make believe
  • To boast to others – false values
  • Believing it is true “He started the fight” – injustice

And most important ….

Fear of unknown consequences, confusion when forced to answer immediately or in presence of others, and a helplessness and distress of not being able to face the situation.

Unfortunately most discipline techniques are based on telling what NOT to do, and not on training the child WHAT to do.

why children tell lies
Take child’s opinion in framing rules,
or explain that certain rules
cannot be changed (and why)
  • Explain rules clearly – repeat periodically, when there is no issue.
  • Do a brainstorming on “what is truth” and then “why is truth necessary”
  • Teach the child to delay gratification. Listen to him, teach him to listen
  • Take child’s opinion in framing rules, or explain that certain rules cannot be changed (and why)
  • Explain what punishment is given, why, how (including for repeated offences)
  • Punishment to be given without delay. Describe child’s lies, and how they affected others
  • Bring in the human element – your emotions – “I felt sad when you …..”
  • Do not pull down self-esteem of the child. Punish the act, not the child
  • Ask yourself truthfully whether YOU are truthful. Also, is the punishment is necessary?
  • Think of constructive punishment (no hitting please – it makes him tell more lies)
  • Consistency: e.g. the word “shit” is not allowed at home. If it is allowed/not allowed on different occasions, it confuses the child and gives the impression “It is me who is bad”.
  • Ask the child what he would have done in your place.
  • Immediately after punishing, show friendliness and concern for the child
  • Develop assertiveness – calm and forceful personality
  • Keep identifying and appreciating good qualities of child

Never take up a confrontationist attitude with a child resorting to untruths, sulking, refusal or tantrums. Understand your own responsibility, follow some of the simple techniques mentioned above (add your own based on your personal experiences) and then see the change.

It works !

About the author

This website was initially conceived and designed by the late Sitaram N
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