It’s very frustrating when anyone lies to us, especially kids! We’ve all seen a brother punch his sister and then flatly deny it even though we witnessed it or a teenager saying they didn’t stay out late even though you were up when they came home. For many parents it feels as though their children are lying to them all the time. If you take a strong lead on a no-lying policy in your home, then you can create an environment where your child feels safe to share the truth.
So, why do children lie?
“Children will tell a lie every single time they think telling the truth will bring them really scary feelings of ‘my parents are so mad at me,’ ‘my parents are punishing me,’ ‘my parents are looking at me in a way that makes me feel unsafe,’ ‘my parents are super disappointed in me’ or ‘I’m going to get in trouble,’” says Dr Becky Kennedy, a clinical psychologist and the founder of Good Inside who recently posted a series of stories on her popular Instagram page discussing this very topic.
She goes on to explain that kids aren’t trying to manipulate their parents to avoid getting in trouble, but rather it’s an evolutionary mechanism of attachment. “Staying close to parents ensures biological survival and psychological security – both necessary for a child to grow and thrive. From an evolutionary standpoint our children need to feel safe with us, which means that they need to feel that we want them around and that we love them,” says Dr. Kennedy.
According to Dr. Kennedy if a child feels like telling the truth will result in them feeling alone, shamed or fill their parents with any negative emotion, it isn’t that they will choose to lie, but rather that they will be compelled to lie to preserve the connection with their parents.
Do your best to create an environment where your child feels like you will react to the truth with concern and understanding and they will be more likely to be honest. Obviously this is hard to do when your child has just done something infuriating, but thinking of the bigger picture will likely improve the situation in the long run.