I think my child may have a problem with lying

Often times, young children tend to extend the truth and lie. While this is understandable, what happens when the lying becomes constant and extreme?

What are some potential causes for this behavior at such an early age?

Can this behavior lead to future chronic lying? How do you handle a child that constantly lies to gain attention or feel more "interesting?"

Any feedback and additional sources are greatly appreciated.

Response:

Young children do not reason the same way as adults.

Children go through different developmental phases where different types of reasoning and expression occur. And at a young age, it is normal for children to engage in fantasies, pretend play, and to have creative imaginations. Most children eventually outgrow this phase (see developmental stages – Wikipedia).

If the lying you are concerned about is related to your child’s imagination and it is playful in nature, it may help to create activities where this type of behavior is appropriate. It is important for children to be able to express their creativity during play time.

If this type of behavior, however, is constant and becoming problematic—it is driven by the desire for attention at all times—then you may want to consider how you are responding to your child. Again, it is helpful to encourage creativity when it is appropriate, but then reward other types of behaviors at other times. You may be able to solve the problem by showing a lot of interest in your child when he or she is not using exaggeration and/or fabrication to gain your attention.

Finally, if lying is driven by fear, it is important to establish rules and consequences without creating excessive fear of punishment. Creating excessive fear in a child may actually reinforce their desire to lie rather than solve the problem.

It is also helpful to create an environment where children feel comfortable telling the truth (see get others to be honest).

 confront lying | stop lying

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