A.R. asks from Park City, UT on February 27, 2008
My 3 Year Old Lies
I have a three year old, almost four, and she tells lies all the time, I'm having a hard time explaining exactly what a lie is and why not to do it. She will do things like push her sister and when I ask her why she lies and says she didn't do it, even though I just saw her do it. So any suggestions on how to teach her not to? I am at a total loss
M.W. answers from Boise on February 28, 2008
M.S. answers from Denver on February 28, 2008
You may want to try looking for some books at the library. My son has one of the Beranstein Bears books "The Truth". This has relped him understand what lying is. He still does it occasionally and he gets a timeout for it.
T.W. answers from Salt Lake City on February 28, 2008
This problem was on Supernanny last night. It's great that you want your young child to understand, and it's better that she learn now before it gets out of hand.
She is old enough that you can say something like,
"Saying something that is not true is telling a lie. That means if I say my shirt is red and it is really blue, that is a lie. If I say I didn't touch someone but I really did touch them, then that is a lie. When you say that you didn't push your sister, but you really did, then that is a lie. When you tell a lie, you will have to sit on the naughty stair for extra time."
If you have a belief in God or Christ in your home, you can further reinforce that there are some behaviors that make Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ feel happy and some behaviors that make them feel sad about our choices. Telling a lie is something that makes them feel sad because God and Jesus teach us through scripture that truth is important.
After that, you are the one who enforces time out or your form of discipline. You can trust your instinct when you don't see what happens. Good luck!
J.O. answers from Boise on February 27, 2008
A three year old really doesn't know what a lie is, at least not like adults do. Self preservation thats different, she knows that the action was bad, hence the "lie". With mine I just say "I saw you push your sister, and you knew it was bad, but when you said you didn't do it, you told me a lie, and a lie is not the truth so lets try to not lie or you will get in trouble for the lie and for pushing sister" this is repetitive and I stae it slowly so the can absorb the information, but once I am sure they understand what a lie is they get a consequence for it plus whatever they did that was wrong. It doesn't happen overnight and come gradually to them, just take a breath and know that she isn't intentionaly trying to lie, and as lots of parents say.....this to shall pass!
J.N. answers from Salt Lake City on February 28, 2008
In general, 3 year olds are not equiped with the capacity to understand truth versus lying and especially WHY lying is wrong. So the first thing is to be patient.
But, don't give up and accept her lies. Gently explain that what she is telling you is not what really happened and that you her to tell you what really happened (she may still not be able to because she is still figuring out fact vs fantasy). Let her know what you saw, and deliver appropriate consequences for misbehavior. But at this point I really don't think that there would be any benefit to punishing the lying itself - if she can't understand that it's wrong (other than you said so) she won't understand why she's being punished. In the next few years she will begin to understand it more. Continue to have discussions about telling the truth (and not always just when you catch her lying) and when she is ready you will probably see the light go on.
Finally, set a good example. NEVER lie around her or to her, because what you do is much more powerful than what you do.
N.W. answers from Salt Lake City on February 28, 2008
When my daughter went through this stage, my husband got really upset. He made it clear that lying was way worse than anything else. He talked to her about trust. It's important to be able to trust your family. he told her that being able to trust her was more important than anything else. She knew it made mom and dad very sad when she lied.
my daughter's punishment for lying was always worse than her punishment for the thing she'd lied about.
Additionally, we didn't ask her questions that made her feel like she had to lie. like - "did you do it?" when you already know the answer. There's no good answer to "why did you do that?" instead we'd say 'awww. that made your sister sad - go tell her you're sorry and give her a hug'. If she did lie, I'd either say "did you mean to say something else?" or remind her that we don't tell lies and ask if she wants to try again.
she was pretty young, and it took patience, but the lesson was worth it in the end.
N.J. answers from Salt Lake City on February 27, 2008
Along with the advice the others have provided, I would look at the cause of the action. Why is she pushing her sister? Try to eliminate cause of action. Is she seeking your attention? You said you work full time, maybe she finds this is the best way to get your attention quickly when you get home. Look at what precedes the incident...then you can help her understand a better way of dealing with her emotions.
M.M. answers from Great Falls on March 01, 2008
A., dear, one thing is certain: a three years old brain is totally incapable of answering the question: WHY. this is beyond their capabilities at this age. I would not ask any questions, but affirm what I saw: "Honey, you pushed your sister and she hurts!!!! Are you happy when you get hurt?" She will probably say no. Then suggest her not to hurt others. Keep the conversation very simple, and loving. Always show her how much you love her! She might do it out of jealousy also, as you take more care about the little one as she needs to be picked up, held on the lap and so on. Then, the elder one feels abandoned. You have enough space for two of them on your lap, make sure when the elder is in the room and you need to take care of the little one, that the elder girl feels as happy and being cared for also. To do that, there is one 'trick': I made my elder son feel very important by telling him that I absolutely need his help to raise a good friend for him (his younger brother, 2 years younger), and I asked the elder son to help feeding him, folding his clothes, walk quietly when the little one was asleep, hug him a lot and so on, you know little tiny things that she (4 yrs. old) can do and feel important, responsible,happy with you. This takes a lot of feeling left out and abandoned away. Then, you praise her for what she helped you with, invite her into being your friend and little helper, not just another big girl who is not so little to need so much attention as the smaller one does... you know what I mean...? there are tons of things along the road that you can incorporate into this main formula and approach. Maybe, she will quit pushing the little one, and feel much happier, not needing to do things that are nice, to just get your attention! Good luck, A., and be happy, all!
A.H. answers from Grand Junction on February 28, 2008
My three year old has just started realizing that he can say an answer that is not the truth, but he doesn't understand the concept of lying. Doesn't this sound weird? Just as kids begin to figure out that they can do things alternatively than the way they're presented (like wearing a hat on their knee, or driving a car without wheels) they're trying out using language that isn't the usual method of communicating. The first time a kid lies is the first time they're presented with the language of "truth" and "lie." Take a step back and remember the language you've used up to this point, such as when they do something against your instruction (You're in trouble because you ran when I said walk.) and use it for this situation, (You're in trouble because you said No and you really did do it.) Then look at how you introduce new vocabulary (This is called a zebra. It's not a horse.), then use this same method to introduce the new concept of lying. (This is called lying. This is not a good way to answer someone.)
When the concept of lying really kicks in, then you will be able to treat it as a deliberate use of deception. For now, though, the whole idea is just a game.
D.K. answers from Denver on February 27, 2008
Three year olds are just on the cusp of learning about the truth but my three year old son does know what a lie is. If you catch her in the act, ask her, then if she lies you need to be very stern and say, "that is called a "lie", I saw you push your sister", now punish her for both infractions.
I tell me kids since day one, you need to be honest, you may get into a little bit of trouble for what you did but if you lie about it you will get into A LOT Of trouble. Explain about honesty and why it is important she is honest. Ask her maybe two times, the second time saying "I am giving you a chance to tell me what really happened"..reward her with hugs for telling the truth when she does and say "thank you for telling me the truth, now you know you shouldn't push your sister and need to go sit into time out for a few minutes"...
My three year old has picked up on me dealing with his six year old sister with lying and he has picked up the concept quite quickly. When I know he lies I will ask him a second time and say "is that what really happened?" or I will say "you need to tell me the truth even if you are worried about getting into trouble".
Then about five years of age, becomes the fine line between them "kidding" and lies, or at least I had to get through that. Just explaining as you go, have consequences for lying on top of the infraction they lied about and stay consistent. Make a positive deal out of when they do tell the truth for reinforcment.