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No. 44 (Updated FEB-27-2011)

We all do it now and again, tell those little "white" lies once in a while when put on the spot about someone's new outfit or why we were late for work. As grown ups, we know that there are times when lying is a necessary, though not always appealing, choice. But when it comes to lying children, the behavior often sets alarm bells ringing in a parent's head.

No one wants to raise a liar, but before you demand the truth, look at the age of the child and the reasons experts believe your son or daughter might be telling that fib.

Experts have determined that very young children (2 and 3 year olds) don't really understand the difference between truth and fiction. The line between imagination and reality is almost totally blurred for this age.

The lies they might tell are self-serving... to get something they won't, or avoid something they don't. If you make an issue of it and demand the truth be told you'll actually accomplish little. Better to focus on the feelings of an injured party or the results of an action than to insist on total honesty at this age.

By preschool age children have a very freewheeling understanding of reality. Sometimes the lies they tell are pure play, sometimes wishful thinking and sometimes part of a fantasy world.

Lying at this age can also be a way of processing new ideas.

Interestingly, preschoolers who lie were found to have higher IQ scores according to research by Angela Crossman, PhD., a professor of psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who looked into the subject of children and lying.

By school age kids usually understand the idea of the "white" lie and know how to tell it. They have come to recognize the idea of lying to benefit themselves or someone else and to avoid hurt feelings.

Kids this age often lie because they're afraid of how disappointed you'd be with the truth or they feel pushed beyond their abilities.

You need to find out what's behind the lie and take that into consideration moving forward.

When it comes to lying about schoolwork for example, addressing the root cause can resolve the issue just fine. Getting your child extra help to do the work solves the problem and generally removes the need to lie.

When it comes to the tween age group (8 to 12 year olds), these kids are growing up fast, but they still have trouble with the "grey" areas of truth and fiction.

Your child at this age might also start to gloss over things that they used to share quite willingly with you last year.

This is a normal development, part of your tween's growing maturity. Lies about homework, chores or making their beds aren't all that uncommon at this age and your best bet is to just express your displeasure rather than demand the truth.

Chronic lying at this age or older requires professional intervention to help the child sort things out. Though in some circumstances it's merely the sign of a smart kid who's learned that lying is the easiest to cope or get what they want.

By adolescence, kids realize that lying can sometimes be the easiest way out. Kids at this age lie to protect their fledgling privacy or because they want to feel independent from their parents.

Remember sneaking out at night without your parents knowing? This is the kind of lie typical of these years. Some adolescents may fall into a pattern of repetitive lying, as it appears the easiest way to deal with the demands of everyone around them.

Of course there are those teens that lie to cover up a more serious problem, abuse of drugs or alcohol, and in these cases, professional intervention is needed.

In the end, if you don't want lying children, you need to be an honest parent. Even small things matter and give your child the impression that lying is acceptable i.e. no pretending about ages for discounts, no fibs to get out of tickets or dinner invitations. It might not seem like the example your setting is going in, but years down the road, you'll find that the message about honesty did indeed get through.

Next just head on over to the Daily Health Bulletin for more health tips including what to do about lying children and other parenting questions. Plus receive 5 free revealing health reports.

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