Ask Tina: My Child is Lying to Me. How Worried Should I Be?

Q:  My almost-five-year-old son is starting to lie.  I’m worried that this is starting a terrible pattern, and I don’t know how to handle the situation.  I’m just really upset because I’ve always stressed how important it is to tell the truth.

A:  First, take a deep breath.  This is typical behavior for a child.  Most kids tell fibs at this age.  In fact, lying is developmentally normal, and if he’s doing it to avoid getting in trouble or disappointing you, it is actually evidence of a developing conscience and moral code.  He knows what he’s done is wrong, so he lies to avoid being bad or to avoid getting in trouble or losing your approval.   If he’s doing it to be silly and trying “story-telling” out, it’s evidence of creativity and imagination.

So now, let’s talk about how to respond when kids are lying to deny that they did something wrong.  When I know my son is lying, I try not to say, “I don’t believe you,” or, “You’re lying.”  Instead, I say, “Why don’t you take a minute and think about what really happened and then start over.”  Sometimes I also say, “It’s really important that you tell me the truth and tell me what really happened so I can believe you when you tell me things.”  For smaller children, it’s even OK to sometimes simply say Continue Reading »

Do You Rescue Your Child Too Much?

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Resist the temptation to rescue your children every time they struggle.  Struggling a little bit, and having to learn to deal with difficult situations and emotions, is great for kids.  When they’re NOT given many opportunities to deal with disappointment about not getting their way, and not given opportunities to have to be flexible and figure out how to solve a problem, they’ll have trouble developing these skills.  It’s important that they practice giving in and being flexible to the needs of others in the family as well.  And as they get older, they should be given more and more chances to do this.

Allowing our children to feel sadness, disappointment, resentment, and other tough feelings, allows them to develop empathy as they mature.  The next time they have a friend or sibling experience one of these emotions, they’ll have a much better feeling what it feels like.

Another reason not to rescue too much or solve too quickly is that when we do, we are communicating with our actions that we don’t believe our kids can do it, or that Continue Reading »

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