There are many reasons why children lie. Here are five.
1. Fact vs. fantasy: As part of normal development, very young children are unable to distinguish between fact and fantasy. In such circumstances, they may tell an untruth.
2. Seeking approval: Older children will tell a lie as an attempt to control reality/parents/teachers/or any number of other circumstances affecting their lives. Every child seeks approval and attempting to avoid disapproval is a natural response to the un-developed conscience.
3. Avoiding responsibility: A child attempting to avoid responsibility for an act is an indication to the adult that instruction in personal accountability is needed. Character education is an ongoing process in early childhood development, and gentle explanations in this area add greatly to the child’s character.
4. Fear: A fourth scenario is that a child will lie because of fear. Fear of punishment. Fear of consequences. Fear of the adult’s response. This fourth possibility becomes a warning sign to parents and educators that the child has moved from a place of trust and safety to one of fear.
5. An unmet need: Lying can also be a signal to the watchful adult that the child is in need. Feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, or pressure from parents or other significant persons in the child’s life may provoke the child to lie.
One Teacher’s Account:
Meet Katy: On the first day of school, Katy entered the classroom and evaluated her new surroundings. Slightly taller than the other children, her shining face glowed between two pigtails tied by bright yellow ribbons. I had no idea then that this bright-eyed child had a need.
What??? During the first parent-teacher’s assembly in October, I was startled when a towering man approached me and introduced himself as Katy’s father and pastor of a church in the community. In his sermon-projecting voice he asked me why I had led the children in hymns while I accompanied them on the piano. Wasn’t I aware of the separation between church and state? I had no idea what he was talking about. “Look around,” I said, “I have no piano here.” He stormed off.
The rest of the story: Several weeks later, during a meeting with Katy’s mother, the story began to unfold. Katy had returned home from the first day of school with an in-depth theatrical rendition of how I had gathered all of the children in a circle around the piano in our classroom and led the class in songs of praise. After I met with Katy’s father, he confronted the young thespian and realized that her version of the first day of school had not been accurate. Katy’s mother had come to apologize.
Perhaps if Katy had felt more secure with her position in the family, she would not have needed to create a story to elicit parental attention and approval. Being the middle child wasn’t easy, especially when the oldest daughter was brilliant and the youngest child was the long-awaited son. Katy needed her own identity. She needed her own star. That year, we worked together to let her light shine.
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