Telling tall tales
07 September 2019

Telling tall tales

Charity we know, begins at home. This is the case with most traits and habits we have. We model our behaviour most times, on what we have seen in the home; how our parents and siblings react to each other and in different situations. The same can be said for being honest or dishonest. Parents are often concerned when their child - young or adolescent, lies.

Kids will often start to make those intentional attempts at deception from preschool years. This shouldn’t be seen as a huge cause for concern and could be erring more on the side of normality at this stage. Why is this…? This is so because they will have begun to engage with books and stories, possibly at home, but definitely at school. They will have started to develop their own sense of imagination and start to apply this to what they have experienced.

It will seem to be a normal activity for them because they enjoy hearing stories and will begin to try and emulate that by making up stories for fun. This could make the lines of distinction between reality and fantasy a bit fuzzy, which will more likely (at this stage) be more a result of an active imagination as opposed to an attempt to deliberately lie about something.

In the case of an older child or adolescent, the motive may be slightly different as the truth may be coloured for more personal reasons such as trying to get out of doing something like a house chore or other tasks. In such cases, a good and well insightful talk with your child about the importance of truthfulness, honesty and trust, should be the way forward. In most cases, it is a matter of short-sightedness on the part of the child, as he/she will only see the situation as it affects them, and how they feel they can best avoid it. A discussion with your child about the other options available, should help them see that telling lies needn’t be their first choice of action.

In other cases, and to some adolescents, it could be felt that certain types of lies may be a considered a necessity and thereby acceptable in certain situations in order to avoid things getting out of hand or leading to a more awkward situation. As our children grow up and they find themselves in such situations, their motives for being stingy with the truth will also evolve. The instances could be because they don’t want to hurt a friend’s feelings, or they don’t feel comfortable/confident in a certain situation.

As we get older, we become more conscious of ourselves, our situation and others around us. We try to keep the equilibrium in our immediate surroundings in whichever way, shape or form that may take and lying might be one of those measures taken to achieve that.

There are many examples to choose from and in some cases, we may not be that aware of what we are doing, especially as we become adults and are thrown into multiple situations on a daily basis. We feel we have to get on with our schedules irrespectively – trying to create that ‘equilibrium state’ around us and our family, and become unaware of the impact this may have on our children. How so…? You may ask. Telling lies mustn’t always be that blatant as saying no, when the answer should be yes, for example. It could be more subtle – withholding some parts of the information, exaggerating the truth, going along with the consensus (not saying anything at all). These subtle forms can become so often used that they will no longer be considered lying, which will be the ones our children pick up, because they will have been used around them so often.

We as parents should lead by example and try not to cross that line of deceit. We are (of course) humans but should we find ourselves on the other side of the truth, we should do the right thing - express remorse and regret for making a deliberate decision to tell a lie.   We should also establish and discuss clear and understandable consequences for lying.

As parents, we are the most important role models for our children, as such, we should take some time to have a serious talk and discuss the difference between make-believe and reality, and lying and telling the truth. We should establish an open and honest line of communication to find out exactly why our child felt they had to tell a lie, and to discuss the other options to lying. 

There may also be a deeper cause for concern in some children, especially those who are able to make that clear distinction between telling lies and the truth. This could be an indication of an underlying problem. They may feel they need to tell very colourful stories to help boost their profile and get a lot of attention.

Lying might also be a coping mechanism for some, as a way of meeting the demands of others.

There will be other reasons why children or adolescents feel the need to lie, which should not necessarily relegate them to the ‘dark side’. But the emotional and mental side of their behaviour will need to be monitored and where necessary, the help of a professional should be sought.

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