Toddlers: first fibs
It's usually pretty obvious when one of Eric Lutzker's 2-year-old twin boys, Merce and Jacob, has a dirty diaper. The trick is determining which one. "If you ask them, they'll each simultaneously say the other's name," says the Seattle dad. "They don't want to go through the rigmarole of a diaper change, so they lie about it."
Such self-serving fibs are the first kinds of lies many young toddlers try out. As any mom of a toddler or preschooler can tell you, kids as young as 3 -- sometimes even 2 -- will tell very simple lies, denying they've done something or in order to gain something for themselves.
It doesn't make sense to punish toddlers for truth bending, since they don't get that what they're doing is wrong. "If a two-year-old pulls the cat's tail and says that her imaginary friend did it, the best response is to say, 'The cat has feelings, too,' " says Elizabeth Berger, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of Raising Kids With Character. "Don't get into a wrangle to get the child to admit that she was the one." An even better strategy is to avoid the showdown in the first place. "Rather than asking 'Did you break the vase?' say, 'Look, the vase got broken,' " says Dr. Brody. "If you make an angry accusation, you'll get a lie."