What can I do?
Remember it's a normal milestone.
Under-fives often don’t know the difference between truth and fantasy. They have no idea of any consequences that may result from their ‘stories’. It doesn't make sense to punish toddlers for bending the truth since they often don't get that what they're doing is wrong.
Avoid making them scared of telling you the truth.
If you’ve reacted badly to a lie in the past, your child might be scared to tell you the truth – especially if it means they’ll get into trouble. Think about how calm you are when you talk to them. If you get angry and shout, they’re more likely to deny or lie about a situation
Focus on what happened and how to make it right, rather than who is to blame.
Rather than asking 'Did you break the vase?' say, 'Look, the vase got broken,' now we have to clean up". When dealing with accidents, calmly remind them about the rules to prevent it from happening again - e.g. “Bouncing balls are outside games”. If your child pulls the cat’s tail and blames their brother, calmly remind them that the cat has feelings, too.
Set a good example.
Try and set a good example with your own behaviour. Do you or other family members ever lie to, or in front of the kids? Even if it’s to spare other people’s feelings (it’s not until 7 or 8 that kids understand about that sort of lying). Don’t promise things that you can’t or won’t follow through with, because a child can interpret this as lying to them.
Try and encourage tactful truth rather than lying.
Sometimes the truth can be hurtful especially for people who are easily offended. Parents sometimes tell kids to say they like a gift, or meal when they don’t, just to be polite to a family member or friend. But this encourages kids to lie, and confuses them. So to avoid embarrassment, teach your kids to just say ‘thanks’ for that meal or present and leave it at that.
Praise kids if they do own up.
Rewarding behaviour you want to see will encourage your child to do it again. So when your child confesses to breaking her brother’s new Lego creation, thank her for telling the truth. Then ask her to clean up the mess and apologize. Honest communication is really important for any positive relationship!
Try not to set kids up to lie.
Avoid asking obvious questions like "who ate all those biscuits?" when the packet is empty and your child has crumbs round his mouth. Of course your child will say ‘not me!’. Instead you could say “I see you wanted a biscuit. Please ask me next time – if you eat too many you might get sick and not be able to eat lunch. Now let's get you cleaned up.”
Try to be relaxed about imagination and story telling.
A young child's lies are often just wishful thinking – so if your child says there’s a dragon in the garden, you could just laugh and say ‘that would be cool, wouldn’t it!’ and move on. Sometimes their stories are made up to impress - try a response like ‘that sounds like a good story book idea’
Teach the difference between secrets and surprises.
To encourage openness and honesty - make a “No Secrets” family rule – it can keep your kids safe from sexual abuse, inappropriate behaviour or bullying. Remind them they can talk to you about anything and promise you won’t get upset (and mean it!). Explain that it’s OK to have surprises – birthday and Christmas presents for example, but being asked to keep a secret from your parents isn’t OK.
And what about you?
Over it? Use your phone timer to set a time limit for a play activity – your full attention for five minutes is better than half pai for longer.
Had enough? You may feel like you need alcohol or drugs to relax – but they often make the situation worse, especially when you have to deal with kids. Who could help you cut down or cut it out?