Toddlers often lie to try to make parents happy.

How to Explain Lying to a Toddler

by Kimberly Dyke

You might be shocked the first time your toddler lies to you. Just like people of all ages, children are motivated to lie because of various reasons — perhaps they are trying to avoid getting into trouble or they may be trying to please a parent. Whatever the motivation, by taking the time to teach your toddler about lying — and its impacts — you can help him understand a concept that will be important for the rest of his life.

Refrain from immediate scolding your child when you catch her in a lie. Instead, guide the conversation to expose the whole truth. For example, if she claims that she cleaned her room, and you know that she did not, have her show you what she did to clean her room.

Search out teachable moments. Look for moments to teach your toddler about the difference between the truth and a lie. Talk about the bigger picture — the difference between right and wrong. And search out scenarios in which you can apply the concepts of honesty and of right and wrong to everyday activities.

Make the consequences for lying clear to your toddler. Create fair disciplinary actions for poor behavior and enforce them consistently. If a child is afraid to tell the truth because of harsh repercussions, then you might struggle with getting the truth. Enforce a less severe punishment if the child admits to the lying.

Read books or make up stories about lying and consequences. Read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” with your child and point out how lying impacted the character in the story. Then, point out real-life consequences as they come up; when another child lies, for example.

Live a life of honesty because your child is watching. He will learn more from your behavior than anything else, so be honest with him and in front of him to other people. Set an example of integrity for your little one to follow for a lifetime.

About the Author

Kimberly Dyke is a Spanish interpreter with a B.A. in language and international trade from Clemson University. She began writing professionally in 2010, specializing in education, parenting and culture. Currently residing in South Carolina, Dyke has received certificates in photography and medical interpretation.

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