Why do kids lie?


Quick Answer

Young children do not understand the difference between fact and fiction, and lying is often done to gain something for themselves, protect themselves from punishment or respond favorably to a parent. An angry tone can scare children into lying in the hopes of rectifying a confusing situation.

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Full Answer

Preschoolers often develop lies purely out of playfulness or wishful thinking, and concepts like imaginary friends and fantasy worlds are often done due to needing a way to process new ideas and information. Adults encourage these with beliefs in the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny and Santa.

Between the ages of five and ten, children develop the understanding of truth and lying. They also begin to develop the idea of prosocial lies, those that benefit others or are told to protect another person's feelings. Interactions with neighborhood and school peers can bolster the importance of telling the truth, as long as there are clear rules to guide them.

Preteen children wanting adult approval monitor, or tattle on, one another to gain parental respect and praise. Setting a personal example for what behavior is desired is the ideal method to encourage sharing and truthful responses. As they mature, kids aim to gain more independence, reflected in a desire to share less, and lying can be a result of anxiety or stress from a situation they feel unable to handle.

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