I think it's a good time to talk about lying. Lots of grown-up people lie, even when it seems ridiculously unbelievable. Why?
Young children, too, often fib or tell lies.
But what kinds of experiences do kids need in order for them to see the pitfalls of lying before it gets so ingrained in their brains that they barely realize it's happening.
After all, it's always easier to correct habits in a preschooler than it is in, say, a 75-year-old.
In the first few years of life, more than 1 million new neural connections form every second.* After this period of rapid proliferation, connections are reduced through a process called pruning, which allows brain circuits to become more efficient. In light of these findings, focussing on early childhood only makes sense. -Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University-
Why Do We Lie?
Sometimes we lie because we think we can get away with it.
And.......we sometimes lie in an attempt to cover things up. After all, it's often much easier than telling the truth, especially if we know we'll get in trouble.
And sometimes we lie to make ourselves look good and special. Often making others look not so good in the process.
So in light of all that, should we punish kids when they lie, in order to make them stop? Or at least let them know how upset we are with them?
At first glance, both might seem like reasonable responses but when you look at them from the child's perspective, they might not work.
The child's goal isn't to get us angry, it's to make themselves look better. So they may try even harder to cover up their misdeed instead of owning up and admitting to it.
It took me years before I found a way to deal with toddler and preschool lying that felt right to me. But after applying what I learned through study and research to what I was really doing in the classroom throughout my 43-year career as a child and family specialist, I'm sharing what I discovered with you today. I hope you take it to heart and use it to help promote a good attitude about truth in young children.
My goal in dealing with lying in very young children is to show them that when you make a mistake it's better to tell the truth than it is to lie. Kind of like the lesser of 2 evils. So being too angry or harsh might cause them to lie more.
Ignoring the lie, however, might cause them to lie again and again since it worked. Believe me, you probably don't want to know what research says about young children who repeatedly profit from telling lies.
Instead of that grim thought, let's focus on the right things to say to a child in order to make them come clean without vowing to lie better next time. Our goal should be to help them feel good enough about who they are to be able to admit to a mistake, fix things if necessary and move on.
I'm going to use fibbing about handwashing as an example because it's a common problem and typical in the 3-5-year-old age group.
By the way, many adults lie about handwashing, too. Remember those cams designed to catch bathroom users skipping when no one was in the room?
Did you wash your hands?
Did you use soap?
I was watching you and I want you to tell me the truth! Did you use soap? Truth, please.
The child looks down. Says nothing.
Tell me the truth, I'll like that better, even if I have you wash again. Did you use soap?
Is that the truth?
OK, you told me the truth, give me a high five!
I still think it's a mistake to skip soap because of germs but thank you for admitting the truth.
The truth is an important thing and it's good to admit to it, even if you think you might get in a little bit of trouble. I'll watch you while you wash again with soap. Thanks for the truth!
I wouldn't go through all this if I wasn't positive they were fibbing and this is what I would typically say to a four or five-year-old. With a 3-year-old, I might just say, I was watching let's go use the soap together.
In the perfect scenario, the child wouldn't lie in the first place but we all know that's not going to happen in most cases. Kids are kids. And it's up to us to help them learn what they need to learn in order to be their best selves. Starting today.
That's why I'm inviting you to be a member of a very special group of people. We're Very Important Providers and Parents (VIPs).
We know how important we are and we know we're better when we support each other as well as the children we care for.
It's my role to boil down current developmental research and present it in ways that are completely accessible to all who spend time with young children. I want everything to be completely clear and useable. Otherwise, what's the point of study?
So this week I'm offering you a free gift when you join.
It's my 22-page list of secrets on How To Get Your Kids To Listen Without Yelling Or Time-Outs! Click the mock-up below to get your free copy and stay in the loop!
Thanks so much for stopping by! You deserve to have an extra special great day!
The Hand That Rocks The Cradle Rocks The World! Nanci
Nanci J Bradley is an early childhood and family educator, author, teacher, family aerobics instructor, and an all-around fun-loving person. She believes in the power of sleep, healthy eating, lifelong learning, and most of all, PLAY! She studied early childhood ed at Triton College and received her BS in education in 1986 from NIU. She received her MA in human dev from Pacific Oaks College in 2011. She lives and teaches in Madison WI and is the founder of early childhood rocks, a non-profit org dedicated to creating change through early childhood education.