Why Do Children Lie?
God is truth itself. He can neither deceive nor be deceived, as we say in the act of Faith. And thus He has given us language in order to express, like Him, truth alone. So why do children, who are created in His image and likeness, tend to lie?
First of all, there are little ones who have too much imagination. They easily invent stories and create personalities or imaginary situations. The boundary between dream and reality becomes unclear in their minds. In the evening, for example, they say that the teacher punished one child for saying bad words, although nothing of the sort actually happened and they simply mistake their dreams for reality. We must teach these children to keep their feet on the ground, for example by entrusting them with a concrete responsibility like setting the table or feeding the dog, and requiring them to do it regularly every day. When we read them a story, it is important to point out whether it is a true story or a fictional story, and we should choose stories preferably from the former category. Need we add that television, computers, and video games cause even more harm to them than to other children, since they flatter their tendency to flee reality?
This unfortunate habit of not living in reality can also be the fruit of pride. In the stories he makes up, and of which he is the hero, Peter always takes center stage. To brag to his comrades, he tells them he lives in a very big house, that he takes fencing and karate, and that his dad is a fighter pilot. It is the virtue of humility that will bring Peter back to reality. His father will explain to him that there is no stupid job, and that besides, he loves his job even though it is humble, because he sees in it his duty of state, God’s will for him to feed his family and sanctify himself, just like Our Lord, Who was a humble carpenter in Nazareth. In the family, simplicity and poverty are loved and practiced, for that is the spirit of the Beatitudes.
But now we come to Theobald, who is also a liar, but for another reason. He has a fearful temperament, shirks his responsibilities and is afraid of being scolded. He lies to cover up his naughtiness (“It wasn’t me.”), even if it means someone else will be punished in his stead. So he needs to be encouraged to face the truth. Besides, a fault confessed is half redressed. “But,” says Mom, “if I find you have lied, you will be punished twice, once for your naughtiness and once for your lie.” He will realize that a lie has a heavier price than loyally owning up to his fault. To make it easier for children to confess, our attitude must be like that of our Father of Mercy, always ready to pardon the repentant sinner; parents who are severe and not understanding enough will only strengthen their child’s fear and the lies born of it.
The Truthfulness of the Parents
The habit of loyally recognizing his faults can only help a child to make good confessions in which he humbly sees himself for what he is—and what we all are, in truth, before God: poor sinners in need of forgiveness.
Let us give our children the example of unfailing truthfulness: no false excuses to the teacher (“I’ll write you a note saying you couldn’t do your homework because you were sick.”), and no false reports given by Mom to Dad or vice versa (“I’ll sign this test you got a bad grade on myself, don’t mention it to your father, he would scold you.”).
A child in the habit of always telling the truth receives here below a reward for his loyalty: he earns the trust of his parents. He is proud to deserve it and his parents are proud to grant it to him:
“Are you the one who dented the car with your ball?”
“No, Dad, it wasn’t me.”
“Good, I believe you, you are not a liar.”
And a complicit smile unites father and son. “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’; all the rest comes from the devil.”