How to Help Children Who Are Chronic Liars to Tell the Truth
Mon, October 25, 2021

How to Help Children Who Are Chronic Liars to Tell the Truth

Children learn things as they grow up, and that includes telling a lie. While this is a normal part of childhood, parents should still guide them with this / Photo by: Aleksandr Davydov via 123RF

 

Children learn things as they grow up, and that includes telling a lie. While this is a normal part of childhood, parents should still guide them with this. If this will not be addressed immediately and properly, it can turn into compulsive lying, otherwise known as pathological lying, mythomania, or habitual lying. This is when a person tells falsehoods out of habit, even for no reason at all. 

Sometimes, the onset of lying is sudden and intense, but this could change. Matthew Rouse, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, said: “It’s a new thing where they were pretty truthful most of the time before and then suddenly they’re lying about a lot of stuff.”

Pathological lying in children is alarming because they can bring it with them as they grow up. According to GoodTherapy, an online site that aims to make it easier for people to access mental health services and the dedicated professionals who provide them anywhere in the world, the condition was first described by Dr. Anton Delbruck, a German physician, in 1891. 

There are several signs that parents can watch out for to tell if their children have become pathological liars. For instance, their lies are believable and may have truthful elements; it continues for a long period and is not caused by some immediate pressure; the lies tend to present the person lying in a positive light; and most of all, if the lies have internal motivation. Parents need to understand why their kids are doing that. From there, they can determine how to help them.

 

Why Children Lie

Parents should know that children lie for a reason. Identifying the reason/s is more important than punishing or stigmatizing them. In fact, punishing them may even encourage them to lie more. Often, this drives them in hopes that they will not be caught next time. Lying tends to peak between the ages of three to eight. Thus, their lies tend to become more sophisticated and center on gaining self-esteem and avoiding punishment. Here are some of the reasons why children lie:

Avoidance or escape.

Most of the time, children lie because they want to avoid doing homework or other tasks. They say that they are done doing the task, pretend to be asleep, or hide items. This is a normal part of growing up since they want to have control of themselves. Children want to do their own thing instead of being instructed or forced to do something else.

To gain attention.

Chronic lying often falls into this category. Their desire for attention usually grows because they feel that they are not seen. Sometimes, children create elaborate or fantastical stories that have no basis in truth just so they can talk with their parents or other people. They may try to sound impressive. However, parents or guardians can fix this through positive attention for real accomplishments. This will reinforce correct and truthful behavior. 

To gain approval and self-esteem.

Pathological liars often lack self-confidence. As a result, they lie to make themselves seem more impressive, special, or talented. This inflates their self-esteem and makes themselves look good in the eyes of others. According to Child Mind Institute, an independent nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children struggling with mental health and learning disorders, Dr. Rouse recalled treating an eighth-grader who was exaggerating wildly about 80 percent of the time: “They were kind of incredible experiences that weren’t within the bounds of plausible at all.”

To test out a new behavior.

One of the reasons why children lie is because they have discovered a novel idea and are trying it out to see what happens. According to Dr. Rouse, they are curious about what happens if they lie in a situation or what their parents will do to them. 

Parents should know that children lie for a reason. Identifying the reason/s is more important than punishing or stigmatizing them / Photo by: easyclickshop via 123RF

 

How to Help Children to Stop Lying

When lying becomes chronic, the more parents need to help their children. Lying can become a bad habit when kids see it's an effective way to get out of trouble. Thus, it is important to address the problem straightforward and discourage it from happening again. Here are some ways to do it:

Talk about the importance of telling the truth. 

Parents need to discuss with their children the difference between telling the truth versus telling a lie. This will help them understand the consequences of both and the importance of honesty. According to Verywell Mind, a modern resource that offers a realistic and friendly approach to pregnancy and parenting, it is also equally significant to talk about telling the truth versus being brutally honest. They should understand that honesty and compassion should come together most of the time. 

Provide an extra consequence.

Also, parents can tell their kids they will face a consequence if they continue lying. It is effective to give them extra chores instead of just taking away their gadgets for the day. At the same time, discuss with them why you are doing this so they will understand that lying is never right. 

Provide positive reinforcement.

Children need to be praised to feel that they are doing something right. Parents can do this by saying, “I know that must have been hard to tell me that you broke that dish, but I’m so glad that you chose to be honest about it.” They can also give them something to reward them for telling the truth. 

When lying becomes chronic, the more parents need to help their children. Lying can become a bad habit when kids see it's an effective way to get out of trouble / Photo by: lightfieldstudios via 123RF