Why children lie and what to do about it?

December 26, 2016

Popular family psychologist Lyudmila Petranovskaya heard this parent question thousands of times. Fortunately, she has something to reassure us.

Lyudmila Petranovskaya, psychologist

Lyudmila Petranovskaya


To begin with, that lies not only children – all the lies. It is a universal feature. If someone or other says he is not lying, he’s probably lying. A lie is an important social technology is necessary for every person. It is a kind of social lubricant, which is necessary to avoid conflicts in dealing with others and with yourself. When lies are too much, it prevents to resolve conflicts. Rather than discuss and solve problems, we lie.

But sometimes a lie helps to avoid excess conflict. Because if we clashed every time we have a conflict, we probably would do just that to sort things out.

Now, about the children. Lie – the technology is complicated: it requires analysis, risk assessment, assessment of the significance of relationships, the willingness to go to the aggravation, for example if it’s worth it. We cannot expect that such a complicated thing falls upon men as a gift in the head, or loaded as a program. It does not happen. We develop it for years, first passing primitive levels, making mistakes, getting trapped.

If we want to see a grown man know how to use the lie is sensible, that is evaluated when and when not necessary, to what extent and what is more evil – to lie or not to lie – we understand that the need to learn. And begin to learn in childhood and with very simple cases, for example: “have You washed your hands?” “Yes, wash,” although in fact he did not wash. The child discovers a terrific thing that requires a certain development of thinking – that we can say something that actually does not exist.

The first lie or the exercise of magical thinking

The first lie happens to be somewhere in the region of three to four to five years. This is one of the early discoveries that the language allows not only to describe what is, in reality, but in order to hide. Many children come from this in complete delight. It’s like a toy that they begin to right to left to use. And the main thing that parents started to get so defensive and blame the child in violation of the tenth commandment.

The first lie is not a lie, pure and simple. The child just says what he wants to be.

For example, he broke something or broke, and when asked: “Who is it?” he says “Not me!” He really wants it wasn’t him. He wants to be innocent. Turn on children’s magical thinking: if he words describe the situation as he wants to see her, she is and will become.

Now let’s formulate as the task that the child needs to understand at this stage? But at this stage he should understand that from what you say “halva”, it will not become sweeter. Yes, the language can describe something that is not in fact, but it is not able to alter reality itself.

It is necessary to note that at this age, in the area of 4-6 years, children get a huge portion of endorse examples of magical thinking. The same parents who scold the child because he lied, I thought I’d read him fairy tales, where everything wished the words changed reality for the better. They talk about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Say “the cat sick, dog sick, and doesn’t hurt”, and the knee must re – become ill.

It’s also about the magical effect of the words. But at the same time we want to in some other cases, the child that magic is not used. That’s a double standard.

How to respond to the parent in a lie about unwashed hands? If we see that hands are not washed, we say: “No, I see that you didn’t wash, go wash”. That is, we do not fixate on this: “How could you lie to your mother?! Aren’t you ashamed?!” We just give him to understand that words are words, but reality is reality. Our task is to gently show your child what is right so magical thinking doesn’t work. From what you said, do not be.

Therefore, since children at this age still lying very unsophisticated, it makes sense to ignore the lies and to draw his attention to reality: “I know that you broke, that’s too bad, don’t do that, man.” We just referred to, without any charges, without offense, that we, adults, distinguish between right and wrong. And here is unnecessary, “I see right through you”. Here, as in the tale “highly I sit, far I look”. And it is not necessary in early childhood a lie to look for serious problems in the relationship.

At this age, a lie is a pure experiment with new social technology. Magical thinking has to develop, it is a necessary stage. In animals, for example, no magical thinking.

Why lie to the students

Next stage starts after 7-8 years, when the child already understands what you say, it will not. But he chooses this way in order to in some sense to simplify life, it’s a way to quickly solve the problem, not bothered. Well, put the two, and the parents ask: what’s in the journal? And if you say about a deuce, then begin a: why, Yes, shame on you, yeah take another additional job, but do not watch TV and so on… He just don’t want to, and he says he never asked what did not put. This is the same case when adults lie when the lie performs the classical function of social lubricant: I don’t want conflict, don’t know how to be with him, I realize that this statement might lead to some unpleasant squabbles, I have no strength to do this now.

Someone who is “boss”

A typical case when adults are lying, – lies to his superiors. You definitely need to go to some day job, but you know that if you call the real reason the chief will not be pleased. So it’s easier to say that you have a fever. And when the child is lying, it is a sign that he sees you as the boss. Each of us dreams of such chief, who would sometimes call and say, “you Know, I have no fever, but very necessary today to go to work, something I feel overweight and want to get back to normal”. And I’m sure there are bosses who can say, “Yes, of course.” They trust their subordinates.

And there are those bosses who don’t know how to say that really want to be home. Many parents behave like bosses of the second type: they don’t trust them, based on the fact that he wants to take time off and do nothing.

They monitor everything the whole time, and every mistake, every misconduct entails pain, prolonged removal of the brain, a lecture, discontent. If the parent behaves like the head, the child to him as head, lying. A little bit childish.

I think it is important to make sure you their children is not as strict and stupid head. This is the first. And the second: it is important to explain to the child that the family is the place where you can not lie. That is its value. A close relationship and the need to ensure that you can be honest. But if we say “family is a place of trust”, followed by “I have everything about you know, you don’t ever lie” is contradictory theses. Or – or.

Again, a lie, deception is a complex social technology, including related moral choice. The child should have the opportunity to try to lie and make his own decision when he is lying and when he’s not lying.

If we in the beginning want to make sure that he never lied, we deprive him of the opportunity to try it out. Including to experience a sense of unease, to understand the other party lies.

If the child continues to lie, then he so needs right now. Very often children lie because they don’t want to upset parents. And we need to think about whether we portray the all-seeing eye, and not because he is lying, that we behave as the boss. Often people do not notice this, I think that if they are not chasing your child with a belt, they are very understanding parents, credible. It is possible to do without punishment. You emotionally to make such a drama out of any little thing that the child will think ten times before saying something.

As for fears that the child may be in a difficult situation because of the lies, he lies, there may be.

We will not be able to control all the difficult situations in which, in principle, can be our children. The child may lie about how much he was sitting on the Internet or if he did lessons, but be honest in the more important things, some things related to his experiences. On the other hand, the child may not be able to lie and get into the story.


  • Remember that a lie is a social technology, and do not panic because of this.

  • Don’t lie to yourself that you never lie and that it’s even possible not to lie.

  • Look at it as a development challenge and not be stuck on the fact lies. If you know that the child lied to you, push this fact aside and react to what is actually, in reality

Maria Vasilyeva

Article Categories:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Free WordPress Themes