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Reasons Children Lie
posted by Karen Quinn, The Testing Mom - July 17th, 2013
Today I want to talk about the reasons children lie. Children lie really for the same reasons as adults. The content of their lies may be somewhat different. Why does anyone lie? They lie for self gain. They lie for self protection, to get out of negative consequences. You might lie to your boss about why you were late into work. Rather than saying you slept in or just were slow and didn’t feel like it you’ll tell a lie, “Oh, got stuck in the snowstorm,” or something like that to avoid negative repercussions of your boss getting angry at you for instance.
We also lie for impression management reasons. You want someone to think well of you so you tell a lie that makes the person think well of you, such as, “I’m one of the best students in my karate class,” a child might say. They want to impress you.
Those are lies that are very self-oriented, for our own self motivations. We also tell lies that are more motivated to help others. These are a bit more or a social nature, such as you’re trying to protect the feelings of another person so you go to dinner and you have a meal and you don’t really like the food but your host asks you, “Do you like the meal?” You say, “Yes, it’s very delicious,” because you want to be polite and you want to retain amicable, social relations with this person. You don’t want to be rude. These types of lies, parents either explicitly or implicitly often encourage in children because these are almost not see in quite the same category because they’re seen as being part of being polite.
Then there are the other types of lies which are pure altruistic lies. These are rare cases, but sometimes we lie when there’s actually no benefit to ourselves and there’s just a cost to ourselves. If you had a friend who if they get one more demerit point they’re going to get in trouble, be expelled or go in detention but you have no demerit points so you lie to cover up something so they don’t get in trouble but you actually end up with a demerit point on your record.
Your child can pick up this behavior from you, classmates, or simply as an intuitive leap from other things he or she has learned.