Fantastic Fibs

All children lie. The trick, as a parent, is to teach them why honesty is a good thing.

Why All Kids Lie

Shortly after my daughter, Sarah, then 4, returned from a playdate with her friend Jessica, the phone rang. Jessica's very irate mother was calling to tell me that while she thought the girls were quietly playing upstairs with their Barbies, they were, in fact, drawing on the wall with lipstick. I apologized, hung up, then reminded my daughter about the "paper is for drawing" rule. At the end of my speech, she looked me straight in the eye and said sweetly, "But, Mommy, we didn't draw on Jessica's wall," then ran off to play with her toy kitchen.

I was stunned -- not so much because Sarah had indulged her inner Picasso but because she had so blatantly lied about it. It turns out I shouldn't have been. "All kids lie occasionally," says clinical psychologist Richard Gallagher, PhD, director of the Parenting Institute at the New York University Child Study Center. "In fact, it's a normal part of their development." This doesn't mean, however, that you should ignore the behavior. "Parents must teach honesty," says Joseph Di Prisco, PhD, coauthor of Right from Wrong: Instilling a Sense of Integrity in Your Child. "When you catch your child in a lie, look at it as an opportunity to talk about why it's important to be truthful."

To do that, it helps to understand why kids lie, and how those reasons change as they get older. Our guide gives you the best strategies to handle deception at every stage and smart ways to teach your child to value honesty.

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