Why kids lie and how I taught my child what honesty means

by Manali Desai

Expert 04Find out top 3 reasons why kids lie and how to teach your child to stay truthful and what honesty really means in today’s day and age!

It’s funny that the most cliched phrases are “to be honest” and “honestly speaking” and we don’t even know what honesty means. You know what? One of the most important lessons of life it to teach the real meaning of honesty? What will we teach our children then? When your own foundations are weak, what to do when your child lies? For this we need to first understand why children lie.What honesty means 01

This again led me to thinking on what does honesty mean? Do we really know the meaning of honesty? So, I realized that before I could teach my child what it meant, it was IMPORTANT FOR ME to understand what it REALLY MEANT for me (as an adult, a parent, a mother of a child who was possibly making excuses and lying about a lot of things). 

So, before I even get on to telling you how to teach your child what it means to be honest, maybe I should just tell you why I think a child lies. The deal is that a lot of words and feeling could mean something to be and could hold a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT meaning to you. I will explain with an example. If say someone asks me how they are looking, and deep down I know that that person can look better, I would say it, albeit in a subtle way, but I will. This is honesty for me. Some people are of the kind who will lie and tell this person that they look good, and then go behind their back and make fun of that person or even snicker wickedly once this episode gets over.

I do not understand such honesty, if this is what we mean by honesty, at all.

So, I went deep and figured 3 major reasons as to why my child and children in general lie. I will also list down a few ways in which I was able to put a stop to my child’s habit of lying. In a way by teaching them what honesty means:

1. Ignoring the lies

I was shocked when I read an article in The Guardian which says that children start lying from the age of 2! Yes, that’s how early they begin. So maybe our fault lies in ignoring those denials of mischief that the little ones do. The laying of foundations should begin right when they start denying that they didn’t do something. The first lesson here could be explaining them the difference between truth and lies. Give them day-to-day examples on why and how honesty is important and helpful. But, never again should we ignore and find it adorable when the child denies doing something we’re sure he/she has a hand in.What honesty means 02

2. Fear of punishment or admonishment

This majorly holds true in the Indian context, as sometimes, we as parents, become too harsh in our ways of punishing our children for their wrongdoings. A new study from researchers at McGill University suggests it might be time for a different approach. The study finds that kids reprimanded for lying are more likely to bend the truth, while kids who are given a moral reason for truth-telling tend to believe that honesty is the best policy. Then I am definitely right in suggesting that “One should change with the changing times”, right? Don’t lock up your child or ground him for telling a lie. He will turn rebellious or think twice before opening his heart to you again. Try understanding the problem and then explaining why it was wrong on his part to lie. Sometimes hearing your children out makes them feel better than outright admonishing.What honesty means 03

3. They don’t see it as a hurtful act

Let’s say you’re driving on a highway and the speed limit is 65 km/h. But every other vehicle is either overtaking you or honking with irritation, so you increase the speed and drive at 80 km/h. If a policeman stops you, you will defend yourself by saying that it was just a little over the limit. Why are people dishonest like that? Because we understand that it’s wrong to drive that fast and there are consequences. But we don’t understand that it really hurts anybody and that it puts people at risk. It’s the same with kids. They know lying is forbidden. But they don’t see it as hurtful. Not the way those parents see it as hurtful. How to get rid of this then?What honesty means 04

So, how to tackle it?

  • The key lies in talking about it after things have cooled down, not in the heat of the moment. Explain what will happen if he/she lies again.
  • Maybe the answer also lies in teaching them what honesty means. Try explaining it to them by using examples from the past, such as situations where the child felt emotionally happy or hurt and what triggered such emotions.
  • And then tell them that when they lie, how it feels. Hence, they need to be honest.
  • Keep things and rules simple, follow a transparent communication system within the household, and I am sure our future generation will turn out just fine.

Who says parenting is easy, but we can definitely simplify it by following our instincts and tackling the problem by going deep and analyzing the cause. Afterall, good upbringing of a child is in in the hands of loving parents.

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8 thoughts on “Why kids lie and how I taught my child what honesty means”

  1. From my experience as a teacher, I’ve mostly seen kids lie because they are afraid of being beaten or have parents who talk so harshly that they ‘re frightened of them.

  2. The most validated point here would be about “Ignoring the lies”. We do think it is cute when the child denies the wrongdoing. It’s time we started treating that as a mistake. 🙂