Honest Is The Best Policy : What To Do When Your Child Lies
It’s a hard truth that between the ages of approximately 4 and 6 years of age, most children will have learnt the ability to lie. Nearly every parent of a speaking child will have experienced their child offering up an ‘untruth’ at some point – whether it’s the denying, “It wasn’t me!” to the fantastical, “Maria pushed me over at nursery today.”
At these ages, children begin to understand that you are not able to know all things at all times and that they can, sometimes, ‘bend’ the truth in order to get what they want. The motivation to lie may be anything from gaining attention, sympathy, a treat, or avoiding getting into trouble. By the time they reach school, a child’s lies – even if they are few and far between – they may be more complex as they develop better vocabulary and understanding of how those around them think, act and feel.
The problem with lying is, of course, the harm that dishonesty causes. Whilst a child may have their eye on possible short-term gains, they fail to grasp the long-term damage that can be created by lying.
How to Tell if Your Child is Lying to You
Each child is unique and no-one knows your child better than you. Often your gut instinct will tell you when something is a little ‘off’, even if the incredulity of the lie itself isn’t a big giveaway.
However, the following signs may give you an indication of lying:
- Not looking you in the eye or looking away and up.
- Repeating the same phrase over but unable to expand on it in detail.
- Discrepancies in what they say – when things don’t quite add up!
- Touching or covering their face – young children often have little control over their facial expressions and may try to hide this.
- Over-defensive when questioned – a particularly strong and emotional denial may be an indicator. The little one doth protest too much!
Whilst it may be said that lying is a natural developmental phase for young children, if it is not curtailed it can lead to an older child who sees lying as normal and acceptable. As their lives develop and life throws more challenges and temptations at them, the importance of a truthful relationship with your young person becomes increasingly important.
How to Encourage Honesty
Creating a home and family culture where honesty is valued is absolutely essential in raising a child who understands the importance of telling the truth. It is also one of the foundations of the character of the Muslim – one who values the truth and stands up for the truth. Muslim children in particular can be reminded that lying is something which is considered haraam by Allaah (subhaanahu wa ta’aala).
The following are some ways in which you can encourage your child to choose the truth:
- Honesty really is the best policy – remind them that lying will only lead to more trouble. It is always better to own up and apologise. Have clear consequences for lying.
- The truth always comes out – it may not be right away, but the truth always has a funny way of making itself known!
- Praise your child when they tell the truth – tell them that you appreciate their honesty and thank them for telling the truth.
- Model honest behaviour – don’t lie to them or in front of them. Avoid ‘white lies’ as these are confusing for young children and ultimately are dishonest. Avoid keeping secrets from them where possible.
- Help them develop the vocabulary to tell the truth – “I made a mistake” or “Something happened which I need to tell you about.”
- Avoid putting them in a situation where they may need to lie. Instead of saying “Did you do this?” in an accusatory tone to make them confess; instead opt for “I can see that you have made a mistake/had an accident. Let’s talk about how we can fix that.”
- Praise them – some children lie to boost their self-esteem by seeking attention from others. Boost their confidence – when they do something great, let them know how amazing they are! A quick cuddle and “That was such a kind thing you did – well done!” can work wonders.
- Finally – let them know that mistakes are OK. We all make mistakes, there is nothing to be ashamed of. The important thing is to learn from it, try not to repeat it and move on honestly.
Using resources to teach your child Islaamic values and morals can be an ideal way to capture their interest and deepen their understanding. The Ummah Stars app can help you teach your child why lying is wrong and that telling the truth is always the better choice. With engaging stories to read with your child, Ummah Stars app will help ignite their imagination with relatable characters, familiar scenes and moral content for their lives as little Muslims growing up.