Is It Normal For Kids To Lie? (Part Two)
How To Reinforce Truth-Telling In Children
In the last article we discussed how lying usually starts between the ages two and four, and that it is developmentally normal for a child to lie, hence, rarely a cause for concern. In this article we will discuss what parents, caregivers, and teachers can do to reinforce truth-telling in children:
Avoid excessive punishments – Discovered through a study, children who were given punitive punishments such as hitting, slapping, and pinching were found to be more effective liars than those children who were given less harsh punishments such as time-outs or scolding (Talwar & Lee, 2011). This depicts that using less harsh punishments would discourage the child more in their lying rather than using punitive punishments on them. Adding on, children who grow up in environments that require excessive rule-abiding by dismissing open dialogue also report lying more repeatedly (Jensen, Arnett, Feldman, & Cauffman, 2004).
Use Emotion Coaching – Using Emotion Coaching with the child can help reinforce truth-telling behavior in the child by discussing moral scenarios with them. Discussing with the child how lies can be harmful, what effect they can have on other people, and how a child might feel about herself or himself after lying will help the child to anticipate feeling proud of herself or himself when she or he tells the truth. Children need to know what the positive aspects of truth-telling behavior are. This would help reinforce truth-telling behavior in the child.
Judge whether the child’s lie really is a lie – Very young children often do not mean to lie. They use both their imagination and the concept of reality to tell things to other people. A child might say that they saw a dinosaur in their room while they were doing a “bad” thing so they decided to change that and do a “good” thing instead. The child obviously did not see a dinosaur but he or she may have decided to do the good thing. This is how children express reality with imagination. Also, if a child says something indicating physical or sexual abuse, there is no room for judgment there. In such a case, the emphasis should not be on whether the child is lying or not, but instead investigation should be done in this matter.