Good Kids, Bratty Behavior

Problem: Lying and Cheating

Fear Factor: "My child will grow up to be a liar or cheater."

Trouble Signs: While all kids fib occasionally, if your school-age child tells lies on a regular basis -- or cheats, whether at games or in school -- it's cause for concern.

Fast Fix: Preschoolers are too young to understand exactly what a lie is -- their tall tales are a form of imagination. Also, kids this age have a hard time distinguishing between what's real and what they wish were true. For instance, your little one might tell his friends, "I had ice cream for breakfast." If you discover this kind of "lie," don't punish your child. Instead, respond in a playful way that acknowledges the fantasy, such as, "I had spaghetti for breakfast!" Once a child is 6 or 7, he'll begin to understand what it means to lie or cheat. If your 6-year-old is breaking the rules of a game, and you're sure he did it intentionally, take him aside and discuss why it's important to always be fair while playing, says Dr. Ramey. Then talk about consequences: Explain to him that nobody wants to be friends with a cheater.

Lesson for Life: "Parents need to address lying and cheating early on -- starting around school age," says Dr. Ramey. "Honesty is related to trust, which is the basis of all relationships, so it's critical for parents to make a big deal about it and to strictly enforce the rules." One of the best strategies is to "catch" a child doing the right thing and praise the good behavior, rather than waiting to punish the bad. If your child got into trouble at school but fessed up when he got home, say, "I don't like the fact that you hit Sammy, but I'm glad you were honest."

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment