Teachers often have to confront children who lie. Almost every day there is a child who claims that they have done their homework, have cleaned up their study area, have brought their show and tell item, when in fact none of this has actually been done. Often kids don’t really understand the consequences of lying, although even when they do many of them still choose to lie. I suppose in this way they are really a lot like us adults, only with less severe consequences. Children lie for many of the same reasons that adults lie. They haven’t done what they were supposed to do and they don’t want to face up to the consequences. They are embarassed and would simply like to avoid an unpleasant situation. Many of them are terrified of what an adult might do to them in the event of any kind of mistake on their part. While much of what kids lie about is pretty benign, there are other things that are really important to pay attention to. Most teachers have had a child lie to them about their home life at one time or another. Why do they do this? Clearly they are not trying to get away with not doing something, or to hide the fact that they didn’t bring their show and tell item. In many of these cases the child lies because they are trying to hide a situation that they percieve to be painful, abnormal, or difficult at home. When there is a really difficult domestic situation children respond either by telling everyone or by keeping it all to themselves. They might feel that speaking about the situation would get them in trouble with their parents or that it would be embarassing to tell someone about it. This is often the case in situations involving abuse.
Obviously as a teacher there is only so much that you can do to get involved in a child’s personal life. However, if you find that a child in your class is consistently lying about their home life you might want to look into it a little bit more. This is especially true if the child’s home life seems to be clearly affecting their work. Try asking the child a few more questions about their life at home to see if you can get any better information. The next step would be to talk to the child’s parent about the situation. Don’t be confrontational with the parent. This could lead to the parent lying about the situation. The point is to let the parent know that whatever is going on at home is troublesome and that it is creating problems in the classroom. Beyond this you probably should not get too involved in a domestic situation. There is little that you can really do to fix a stranger’s personal problems, and you will probably only be percieved as an intruder. If after speaking with the parent you get the feeling that the child’s home life is fairly difficult, this should prompt you to treat the child a little differently in the classroom. Show them a great deal of love and compassion. Let them know that you care for them and that you are a friend they can rely on. Many teachers don’t realize that doing so will help the child open up to them and tell them the truth. It will also allow the child to see you as a safe person in their life when there might not be very many other safe people.
If you suspect a seriously abusive situation, discuss your concerns with the school’s counselor, principal or social worker.