Leaving her seven-year-old son Aditya to play in the drawing room, Sarika went to the kitchen to prepare some snack for him. While she was in the midst of cooking the meal, she heard a loud crash. Leaving everything, she rushed back to find little Aditya standing with his cricket bat in his hands and staring at the shattered glass top of the centre table.
Overcome by desperation and anger, Sarika picked up Aditya and asked him, “Why did you break the table?” Without even batting an eyelid, Aditya replied, “I didn’t break it mama.” No matter how much Sarika tried to make Aditya own up his mischief, he stuck to his version. The thought of her son lying to her hurt her more than the sight of the damaged centre table.
Discovering that their child has lied to them, comes as a rude shock and an unpleasant surprise to parents. They start feeling guilty of not teaching their child good moral values and giving him a good upbringing.
However, if parents know the psychology behind their child telling a lie, perhaps, they may not feel so heartbroken.
Talwar and Crossman conducted a study titled, ‘From little white lies to filthy liars: the evolution of honesty and deception in young children.’ Their research was published in the journal Advances in Child Development and Behavior in 2011. According to the study, “Children lie to preserve self-interests as well as for the benefit of others. With age, children learn about the social norms that promote honesty while encouraging occasional prosocial lie-telling.”
So, while realising that your child has picked up the habit of lying should set alarm bells ringing, all is not lost. With proper guidance, you can help your child kick this bad habit.
But, between your child beginning to lie and getting over the habit, he may resort to telling you either all or most of these 13 lies. Being aware will help you handle his behaviour better.
Some lies your tiny tots would utter:
1. I didn’t do it: This is the most common lie kids, including adults as well, say whenever they make a mistake and don’t want to own up the responsibility.
2. I am sick, I won’t go to school today: While children are usually eager to go to school, sometimes they come up with this excuse to try and get a day off.
3. I ate up all that you sent me for lunch: To make their moms feel happy and prevent them from resorting to force-feeding, most kids tell this lie.
4. I am thirsty, I need to have a glass of water: While you have excused yourself from a fun-filled outing to help your child with his homework, you make a startling discovery, your child is perpetually thirsty. This ‘being thirsty’ proves to be a distraction and an excuse to your child to avoid doing his homework.
5. I am too tired, I need to go to sleep: On the days when you sit with your child to assess her progress in studies, you find that it was the most tiresome day for her and she just can’t stay awake another minute.
6. The notebook is with my friend: When most of the answers your child has written in the test paper is wrong and you want to compare them with his notebook, you find what a good Samaritan your child is! He lent his notebook to his friend who was absent the previous day to help him complete the notes.
7. I won’t do that again: Once your little one understands that she can’t get away with just a ‘sorry’ but also needs to make you believe about her good intentions for the future, this is what she would say.
Kids will lie, for two reasons – at the cognitive level they are testing their thinking skills and at the emotional level they are going into survival or escape mode because of the mixed feelings of fear and guilt. The difficulty arises when the adult wants to prove a fact, and insists on the truth being told, usually with threats and emotions running high.
It would be helpful to avoid attacking the child’s self- image. Often silence and a firm look of disapproval will send a clear message to the child; and gives time for the child’s emotions to settle. Make sure to talk about the situation when the air has cleared. — *Arundhati Swamy
As your child steps into teenage, the sophistication of his lies also indicates his growing cognitive abilities. Some lies that teens often resort to are:
8. I am going for group study to my friend’s house: On quite a few occasions, children get together for group studies at a friend’s home when her parents are away, providing the perfect opportunity for a party.
9. I was just browsing for some study materials: No sooner do you step into the room, your teen immediately forgets that he was busy on social media chatting away merrily with his friends. All the tabs of the browser are closed and the computer is shut down.
10. I am telling the truth: This sentence is voiced with the utmost sincerity when you suspect that your teen is lying and she knows that she is walking on thin ice.
11. I am studying: Just before the exams are about to begin, almost all parents, before going out to attend any event, tell their teen to study. And, when they call to check, this is the oft-repeated lie by almost every teen.
12. I have an extra class and will be late: When a theatre in town is screening your child’s favourite star’s movie, you may get to hear from him that he has some special classes to attend in college or school.
13. But I never got your call: Your teen is late in coming home and you ring her to find out what happened. No answer. You ring again, but there’s no response. Finally, as she walks in and you ask her why she didn’t pick up your call. At such times, she would utter this lie with such conviction that you may wonder if you really did make that call.
Lying among teens is common, especially when they are seeking more freedom to do things, to break boundaries set by parents, or to get out of trouble and avoid consequences. Lying breaks parent’s trust in teens can take a very long time to rebuild. Be alert and deal with their lies before they become a hard to break habit. This is the time to explain to teens the difficulties a series of lies can put them through - the guilt of hurting parents, awareness that they are also hurting themselves, the pressure of maintaining the lie, dual consequences for the offence committed and for telling a lie, how difficult it is to rebuild broken trust. Parents can choose to react mildly to playful lies but must not avoid the ones that can have long term negative consequences on the child. — *Arundhati Swamy
*Arundhati Swamy is a counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programs at ParentCircle.
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