Is Lying Ever Age Appropriate?

Your child is little, say kindergarten-age or younger....but she seems to lie all the time. Is it just a 'developmental thing' or an area of concern? We got that question from the mom of a 5-year-old. So, we turned to Dr. Maureen O'Brien, a developmental psychologist and author of 'Watch Me Grow: I'm One, Two, Three', for answers.

The truth is that all children lie. Sometimes kids lie to impress their peers or to fit in. Lies at this age are usually more impulsive than purely manipulative. So don't be too alarmed at the occasional mistruth, but you don't want it to become a pattern for your child. (Ask teachers if they've noticed a problem.) Motives matter. Ask yourself why he is lying. Some possibilities include:

* To get out of trouble ("I didn't do it").

* To exaggerate the truth ("I ate 100 cookies!")

* To feel in control of a scary situation ("I killed the monster under my bed.")

(Tired of always being the bad guy in your house? Click here.)

Parents shouldn't sweat every lie, but should deal directly with ones they consider harmful (vs. boastful or blaming of others). Avoid accusing a child of lying without proof. Luckily, between ages 3 and 6, kids are generally poor liars. Like a poker player, they have a "tell" (averting their eyes, squirming with discomfort) which is a visual clue to parents. If caught lying, your child should apologize and be given the chance to make things right. Let your children know that lying is wrong and won't be tolerated, but let them know you trust them to tell the truth next time.

(Do your kids have 'What Do I Get?' Syndrome? Click here.)

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