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PARENTING; TEACHING CHILDREN NOT TO LIE.

Byline: Greg Steckler and Gerald Deskin

As parents, we want to raise honest and trustworthy children. Yet lying is a normal function of young children until they reach the level of maturity and intelligence to realize that lying is wrong. It will take several years for children to understand what lying means and why it is advantageous to tell the truth.

For children under 5, separating reality from make-believe is a slow process. Children's fantasies are hard to separate from reality. At this age, children learn to lie to get out of trouble. It doesn't help to punish a child for lying at this age, parents can only impress upon the child that it is OK to tell the truth, and by doing so, the child will not get into trouble. Children at this age have trouble separating reality from fantasy. They may have imaginary friends, which they will defend as real. They may tell other tall stories, which they will try to impress you with as true. They probably believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. All that parents can do at this age is to encourage them to be honest and truthful.

For children from 5 to 8, both maturity and intelligence have grown so they lie less often but more creatively. Children will try out lying to see how it is accepted. They may lie about brushing their teeth, about homework or about anything that will keep them out of trouble. Blaming a sibling is a favorite way of avoiding getting into trouble. Children at this age can learn not to lie. It is important that parents also do not lie to their children or to others when their children know they are lying. They can, however, learn about white lies or ways not to hurt someone's feelings. You can teach your child, at this age, that there are consequences for lying.

From ages 9 and older, children lie for different reasons. They begin to develop a need for privacy and control. They share less with parents and slowly begin the process, which becomes so important in adolescence, of becoming independent and autonomous. They may begin to lie more and for less obvious reasons. They may lie to parents to protect their secrets. They may lie to friends to become more popular. Lying becomes a tool to use if a child doesn't feel safe about telling the truth. Parents can help by curbing their criticism of their children and creating a situation where the child can be honest. If there is no danger of criticism, there is no reason to lie. As parents allow for open discussions with their child, children will learn they are loved and accepted and will lie less or not at all. Remember, some children feel what they have done is ``stupid'' or ``wrong'' and will feel compelled to lie.

Different ways of lying are common. We think of children as committing lies. Children also lie by omission. That is, they simply do not tell you about what they have done and hope you will never find out.

Suggestions for parents:

-- 1. Set aside time for listening uncritically to your child.

-- 2. Let your child know that there will be mutual trust, meaning you will be honest as you can and your child should be the same.

-- 3. Encourage your child's maturity and responsibility by slowly giving more and more responsibility to your child.
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Title Annotation:L.A. Life
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 23, 2000
Words:572
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