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Why Do Children Lie?

Lyssa Sahadevan

Is your child a liar? A faker? A pretender? An imposter? A storyteller from way back? How do you feel about it? I love it! My son is an absolute liar. He lies all the time. He tells people he:

  • has a brother. (He doesn’t.)
  • is ten years old. (He’s three.)
  • rode a giraffe to preschool and it fell and landed on sweet Emma. (He did no such thing.)
  • is in first grade. (He’s not.)

My all-time favorite though, was his time-out story. He dramatically told my husband and me about his teacher putting him in time out for scratching another child. He had such details, such sadness in his voice, such emotion! We talked to the teacher only to find that his elaborate story was completely false. Wow.

My kid is a liar.

Is it attention seeking? Is it a full on case of the whackies? Nope. My pediatrician calls it a case of the “being three.” Now there is tons of research about three-year-olds coming into their own with experimental lying. While I buy that, I am hoping his gift for gab and extreme imagination stick around for a long time. Is there a line between honesty and storytelling? Sure. But the best writers, authors, poets, inventors have one thing in common--they are thinkers. To tell a good one, you must be a thinker. I want my son to be a thinker.

Plus: Dealing With Your Child's Lies

Angela Johnson, an award-winning author, says that she was also a liar, and still is one today!  She thanks her grandfather for it. He called the best lies, “big honking, elephant lies.” I smile just thinking about that! I am a liar too. I once told my friends a detailed tale explaining how my always-cold little sister was adopted from Greenland. I think for a time, she even believed it!  I thank my Granny for my gift of elaboration and exaggeration. She is a liar, too. She can tell some really good ones. Is lying hereditary?

The best storytellers share the dream they had last night in a way that makes you feel like you are there. Liars are the ones we all stand around at parties, laughing and watching as they welcome us into their world make believe. Most treasured books, the ones near and dear to a reader’s heart, are make believe--Where the Wild Things Are, Goodnight Moon, Harold’s Purple Crayon, Stuart Little and so on!

Do I want my son lying about the important things? No, of course not. But those are different kinds of lies altogether! I will cross that bridge when I get to it and to continue to instill respect in everything we say and do. As for now, I want to embrace my storyteller, encourage my little liar and record as much of it as I can.

Plus: Why Moms Lie to Their Kids

How can you support your liar…um, storyteller?

  • Tell your own stories. Share your lies!
  • Start with a story you know! Retell, add you own flair!
  • Make up stories as you go…. literally--in the car, on the train, etc!
  • Read fairy tales. Read nursery rhymes. Read!
  • Act out stories.
  • Walk and talk to tell a story.
  • Use your hands to add a dramatic flair.
  • Tell the same stories over and over.
  • Write them down or make them into a movie!

Most importantly, listen to your child, just listen. Have a conversation with your child and let the lies begin! You are creating fiction stories and building your child’s thinking skills. These are stories your child will remember.

Lyssa Sahadevan is mommy to an adorable preschooler. She is a first grade teacher in Georgia, wife to a terrific hubby, an education advocate, and Georgia’s 2011 Mom Congress Delegate. She loves all things books and tells all about it at My Mommy Reads.