By Margaret Cheung

Not telling the truth is the quickest way to turn yourself into a stranger,” — Mark W. Perrett

Yes, children lie; but so do grownups — we are all guilty of telling a few little, white lies from time to time. The trouble is that lying some time can do more harm than good. The good news is that if you set a good example (with a no-lying rule), your little Pinocchio will follow suit.

Onset of Lying in Children

Most psychologists agree that children start to lie when they begin to mature socially and cognitively. As such, most kids start lying at the age of two. Toddlers between 2 and 4 have a little grasp of where the truth begins and where it ends. They don’t even have a clear idea of what’s a daydream, reality, fantasy, wish or fear. Nonetheless, expect a 2-4-year-old to tell “weak lies” like “the baby ate my cookie.” While it’s still too early to punish your toddler for lying, you can encourage her to tell the truth subtly.

Kids between ages 5 and eight will certainly begin to lie more to test what they can get away with. Most of their lies will have to do with their teachers, homework, classes, and even friends. Even at this stage, children cannot maintain their lies. Continue being an excellent role model because kids at this age are quite keen.

Tweens (9-12), however, are more adept at lying and maintaining their lies. The good thing is that tweens are more sensitive to consequences of lying. A good, long conversation about honesty and repercussion of lying is called for.

Why Do Children Lie?

The reasons, why children lie, vary by age.

Toddlers (Age 2-4)

Again, toddlers have a weak grasp of what’s reality, fantasy, right, and wishful. At this age, they often lie for the sake of fibs. In other words, children lie as toddlers to get something for themselves or deny they have done something wrong.

Preschoolers (Age 5-8)

The primary reason preschoolers lie is to “test the limits of what they can get away with,” asserts child psychiatrist, Elizabeth Berger. That’s why they often tell tall tales.

Tweens (Age 9-12)

Between 9 and 12, kids are fast establishing their personalities. They are looking to build a trustworthy, hardworking, and conscientious identity. Tweens use every opportunity to exercise their independence. That’s why they often stretch the truth a little to get people off their back. Tweens, however, might still tell an occasional lie about chores, homework, and the likes.