Lying is something every parent has to deal with at some point. Whether it is a blatant lie, a white lie, a tall tale or a fib, lying is often difficult to handle. So, let’s take a look at why kids lie, and at what age they start lying.
When your child is just a toddler they tell their first lie. Most parents do not think of these as lies though. Basically your toddler is going to deny something, or lie to get something; this is self-serving. You may ask your toddler if they have a stinky diaper, and because they do not want to stop playing in order to get a clean diaper, they will say no. They often fib in order to get what they want, without realizing that what they’re doing is wrong. A two year old, for example, might tell you that they went potty on the toilet, so that they will get a potty treat, even if they did not. They may deny drawing on the walls to avoid punishment. Their fibs are about pleasure, what will get them more of anything good and what will help them avoid doing without a treat or lost play time, for example.
When your child hits the preschool years, their lies get more creative, but are still just as innocent. Usually they will make up stories, or events, and insist they are real. This is very much akin to having imaginary friends, and is often an outward exposure of their heart’s desire, or just a way for them to have fun. They might tell you an outrageous story about their other parent or their grandparents, just to see your expression or hear you laugh. They might insist that they have an imaginary friend that needs dessert, too. These are lies told in play, or out of wishful thinking, and are typically not hurtful.
White lies start to emerge in the school age child, between ages 5-10. These are lies that show they are starting to grasp social awareness and sensitivity. They may lie to a friend telling them they look geat, when they really don’t or they might take the blame for something they did not do, just so you will stop asking. They might say they did it, to keep a friend, or sibling from getting into trouble. These are usually white lies, done for the good of others. However, at this age, lies of omission also start to take root. When mom asks, “Who tracked mud through my house?”, kids neglect to admit to it. At this age, when they lie by omission it is usually because they are afraid of the consequences, they are trying to avoid something difficult or they do not want to disappoint you. For example, you might ask if they have math homework; they lie because they are bad at math and do not want to face it.
When kids hit the tween stage, this is when lying starts to really develop. Kids at this age often lie to test you, their parent. They lie to see how far you will extend your trust to them, and they lie as a convenient way to get what they want. In addition, they continue to lie in order to avoid difficult or stressful situations. So, if you are mad and ask them if they cleaned their room, they may lie in order to avoid being yelled at.
It is when your kids become teens that you need to worry the most about lying, as it becomes incredibly self-serving and is a way to manipulate you or someone else to get what they want. For example, your teen may tell you their car won’t start, because they are low on gas and do not want to spend their money to fill up. That way you will drive them, or let them take your car.