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Contemporary Parenting Questions


Last updated on 08/22/08

What should I do if my child lies?

Dishonesty can be a very irritating behavior for parents to correct. It is important to keep in mind that behavior that is learned can also be unlearned. Often, the biggest problem for parents is being able to manage their own feelings. How do you deal with the unsettling idea that your loveable, innocent preschooler could be lying, stealing or falsely accusing others?

As children grow older, their lying becomes more sophisticated and takes on the characteristics of their respective cultures, revealing to psychologists rich cognitive properties beneath the deceptively common practice.

Children first begin lying verbally around age 3, the time when language development and the ability to control one's own mental skills combine to form a child's theory of mind. Also at this age, children have learned their parents' rules and the consequences of breaking them. So what does a child do when Mom finds a hand in the cookie jar? Lie. A child's initial lies tend to be of the punishment-escaping variety. Although they do not intend to be bad, deceptive behavior can escalate and should be dealt with immediately.

In the Jewish Community:

Logically, one would think that Jewish children are less likely to lie as dishonesty is against the Torah values. Sadly, that is not the case. The majority of both non-Jewish and Jewish children tell lies in their childhood. Regardless of religion, children are ingrained with a sense of honesty. This instinct, however, can easily be overrun by intense emotion and desire. Although a child attending Cheder knows that deception is wrong, his fear of failing a test or getting an answer wrong can override his dread to commit a sin. Children are human beings; no one and nothing is perfect.

Use the following links to learn more about deception in children. Learn why your child lies and how to deal with your child’s problem.

Frequently Asked Links:

Why does my child lie? more more more

Why does my child cheat?

Why do competitive contests decrease honesty in children?

By Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

When does lying become a problem?

How should I deal with my child’s dishonesty? more

Should I punish my child for lying?

Where can I learn lie prevention techniques?

What is a good way to explain the importance of honesty to children?

How can I encourage honesty to my child?

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