Why Your Child's First Lie is Cause for Celebration

Family Matters on 05.27.11


Photo: Jupiterimages/Thinkstock

While your child's first lie isn't the kind of milestone you put in the baby book, Stroller Derby points out that its still a big deal -- and in a good way, says Frances Stott, PhD, on Scholastic's blog. 

Here's why you should be just a little bit proud the first time your child makes up a story instead of telling the truth: It's a sign that he's developing key traits, like perspective, independence, and control of his emotions, that will serve him well in the long run. 

"The first successful lie can be pegged as a developmental achievement because it marks the child's discovery that her mind and thinking are separate from her parents'," writes Stott. (This often goes hand-in-hand with learning the word "no," Stott says, "which helps young children delineate the boundaries between their own desires, thoughts, and feelings, and those of others.")

As kids grow up, their ability to lie successfully improves in part because they're more able to predict what their parents and teachers will and won't believe. A three-year-old, for example, might tell you a wandering story about an obviously made-up event that happened at the park, because he's not able to assess your interpretation of what he's saying. A six year old, on the other hand, knows that a lie he tells will need to fit in with knowledge you already have in order to be believable.

So what should you do when your child starts lying? Stott offers several suggestions, including giving yourself time to calm down before you decide on a punishment, choosing consequences that will appeal to your child's conscience, and talking to them about the logical side of lying (a few tellings of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" can help with this one).

But most of all, says Stott, don't get upset -- after all, with adults reporting that they lie on average 13 times a week, your kids probably learned to fib from you.

More from Scholastic.


Top Articles on Child Development
Young Children Have Memories of Earliest Experiences, But Forget Them as They Get Older 
Goodbye, iPod: How Singing to Your Kids Improves Development 
Can You Spend Too Much Time Playing with Your Baby or Toddler?