“Tell a lie once and all your truths become questionable,” says a wise person.
If a child of yours was caught lying one day, what would you do? If that child has been your pride and joy, your source of motivation to get up and go and do everything that you need to do as a parent, it might feel as if someone has stabbed you from behind. You feel dejected, betrayed, confused. It hurts. A lot.
You begin to wonder how long this has been going on. How much of her is the truth, how much is made up. Where on earth have you gone wrong? Discovering that a child is a liar is a parent’s nightmare.
Here are 5 tell-tale signs that your child is lying:
- Not looking you in the eye. Looking down, sideways or anywhere else; possibly to hide the guilt.
- Evasive. Not giving easy and direct answers; choosing to reply in a roundabout way.
- Pausing to reply. Lying means you have to change the facts; you need time to reconstruct events to create a different picture.
- Nervousness. Fidgeting, blinking, wringing of hands, mumbling.
- Inconsistent Stories. If what your child says keeps changing, you have reason to doubt your child’s truthfulness.
Keep in mind that these are only possible signs, not proof that your child is a liar. Some children and adults do one or more of the above as a matter of habit, nothing to do with lying. If you’re close enough with your child, you’re likely to spot the difference.
Lying is not easy for a child, especially if he is not used to it. The brain has to work extra hard in an attempt to conceal the truth. Telling the truth does not require such an effort; you just need to recall what happened to who, where and how. The facts are already there, etched in your mind.
Perhaps you have read that all children lie. Some experts claim that at some point, all children lie; it’s part of their imagination. On the contrary, I have observed that this is not true. Children are honest. It’s not in their nature to tell lies.
Children lie for different reasons.
Some children have learnt from experience that lying might save them from the possibility of punishment.
Some even believe it’s OK to lie and habitually lie because when they’re caught lying, adults around them just laugh it off, dismissing it as a light matter.
Some children are so desperate to get attention from their parents that they keep lying. At a subconscious level, they hope that they would get caught and punished. To these children, negative attention is better than no attention at all.
Some children lie to protect someone. If they’re convinced you’re on their side and are just trying to help, they might tell you the truth.
Yet others lie because they have been able to get away with it once too often. Over time, it becomes easier to lie when you know people trust you and have no reason to doubt you.
In many cases, children lie out of fear, particularly if they have made a mistake. In our eagerness to do well as parents, we may put tremendous pressure on ourselves and our children. When things don’t turn the way we think they should, we might overreact, losing our cool, blaming the child in a most unpleasant way for the smallest error. In this case, the child is simply too terrified to tell the truth. The consequence of telling the truth is just too painful to deal with.
The wise parent knows how important it is to be fair, including making decisions on consequences for mistakes. It isn’t fair to label your six-year-old ‘irresponsible’ just because he lost his stationery box at school a few times. He could be a victim of bullying but scared out of his wits to tell the truth. It isn’t fair to accuse your 15-year-old of being useless when she fails her Geography paper without trying to understand what actually transpired.
What do you do if your child is proven to lie? Lying means broken trust. Trust is earned, not given. Now that trust has been broken, you need to create opportunities for him to earn your trust again. It will take time, but everyone deserves a second chance to prove that they can start anew.