What would you feel if you found out that your pre-schooler was lying to you? Sad, angry, disappointed, offended or hurt….or all of the above? You may even end up punishing yourself for it, but keep in mind that you have done nothing wrong. You have not failed in your teachings of moral behaviour. In fact, pre-school children do not really have a good sense of moral behaviour as they are just learning it at their age. It is your job now to catch the lies, correct them and provide moral instruction as you do so.
Your first response should be one of calm. Before you respond, try to find out if your child knows the difference between reality and fantasy. Children of this age are pretty engrossed in pretend play and do not realize when their pretend play is becoming a lie. She may not even realise that she is telling a lie. If she did not know the truth and lied, it is a fantasy.
Most preschool children lie for three main reasons:
Look at how you have reacted when your child has done something wrong and honestly confessed to you. Do you have a tendency to get angry? Do you go an accusations trip? Or do you voice your disapproval calmly but firmly and still manage to tell your child that you love her? Remember that for a young child, it is very difficult to own up to a mistake and if you are going to throw a fit when she does own up, would she ever want to willingly admit to a mistake next time? Probably not!
It is a good idea to take a re-look at your disciplinary measures. Are they too harsh for a young child? Does she even comprehend why these punishments are meted out? You definitely need to correct wrong behaviour, but at the same time, you must keep in mind that punishments are consistent and more importantly, reasonable. Are yours?
Some parents follow a parenting technique that is generations old; not speaking to the child till she apologizes. Now this is something that used to work back then, you’d be so scared your parents will never speak to you again that you will apologize and probably never repeat that behaviour. Kids today take this in a completely different manner. Parents withdrawing from kids equals to no love for kids; this is how they view this today. Always remind your child how much you love her although you disapprove of the behaviour.
Explain to your child the consequence of lying. Your child should know that if she keeps on lying to you, you will never know when she is telling the truth. Read story books together about lying and consequences. The classic story of ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ is a classic one.
Lastly, if we expect our children never to lie, we should not lie ourselves. Adults tell the odd little white lie at times for good reason, but young children do not understand this at all. So, be careful when it comes to these situations!