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I write for a parenting magazine and this is a question I frequently get asked, “Is it normal for children to lie?”

While the answer is YES, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to lie. It is not, and parents have to deal with this behavior.

Proverbs 6:16-19 says, Here are six things God hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath,  a troublemaker in the family.

Children begin to lie around the age of two. The reasons they lie vary with developmental age. For example, two to three-year-olds often lie to avoid getting in trouble. Four to seven-year-olds usually lie to avoid punishment or hurting others. Teens can lie to keep their parents from really know what is going on in their lives. Other reasons for lying include not feeling safe and wanting special attention.

Interestingly, when researchers at the University of Virginia studied lying in adults, they noted that most adults lie once a day. So the message from parents can be that you do not always have to be truthful. Therefore, make sure you are not setting an example of lying yourself.

Researchers also tell us that harsh punishment for lying doesn’t work well with children. A better approach is to address the lying, give the child a chance to come clean and then give a consequence. Basically, you want to create an atmosphere in your home where truth is valued. So next time that adorable little child looks at you and tells you a lie say, “We all do things we shouldn’t at times, but it is not OK to lie about them. I need the truth now.  Here is a chance to tell the truth. And the consequence will be lighter if you come clean.“

Parents we have to lead by example in this area and then teach our children that lying is wrong.

If lying becomes a persistent pattern, it can indicate other problems such as conduct disorders and should be evaluated by a mental health professional.

 

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