The Truth about Lying

Dear Mr. Dad: Our 9-year-old son is a habitual liar. He fibs even about the smallest, most insignificant things. But whenever we challenge him, he stands his ground and tries to convince us he’s telling the truth. What can we do?

A: Before we get to the what-you-can-do part, we need to find out what’s going on and why. Children lie for a number of different reasons, primarily to impress others, boost their self-esteem, feel less insecure, or avoid punishment. (Hmmm. The same reasons many adults lie, too.)

For example, your son might be bragging to his friends about all the latest games he has in his room—even though you can’t afford any of them. He may figure that if he told the truth, nobody would be interested in him. If he’s feeling especially insecure, he might spin some incredible yarns about his talents or abilities to help him feel better about himself.
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My Cheatin’ Kid

Dear Mr. Dad: My six-year-old son has suddenly begun cheating at games, at school, in sports—pretty much every chance he gets. This has come out of the blue. I can’t help feeling it’s a moral issue. How can I nip it in the bud?

A: If you hadn’t told me your son’s age, I’d have guessed it within a year or so. The good news is that he’s right on schedule for the little social experiment he’s conducting.

A very powerful thing happens in child development right around age six. Developmental psychologists call it Theory of Mind—the point when kids begin to truly grasp that other people experience the world from their own unique perspective, and that they don’t always know what’s going on in other people’s heads. Before that, kids have a kind of “universal mind” idea, believing that everyone sees and experiences things in the same way and shares the same knowledge.
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