Why do children lie to parents and grown ups?
It is important for our children to know that Islam teaches that lying is wrong. We should try to help them to avoid lying and acknowledge that lying can indeed put them in danger.
Sometimes children lie out of fear. They worry about what the consequences will be if they were to tell the truth, and this worry leads them to lie. This is one of the reasons why it is crucial for us to nurture a relationship with our children in which they know they can tell us the truth about anything and we are there to guide, support and advise them.
Children also lie when they believe that telling the truth will not result in them feeling accepted.
For example, they may think that we will be more pleased with them, or that their friends will praise them more, if they say something which is different from the truth.
We could try to support our children in understanding that in this world, everyone has their own opinion and we should not follow the opinions of others or act in a certain way just to please others. Our focus on pleasing others can lead us to do wrong, such as lying or not being clear about the truth. Our ultimate aim should be to do what is right and pleasing to Allah.
Similar to the previous point about acceptance, sometimes children lie because they feel insecure about themselves. If they feel that the truth about something does not make them look ‘good’ enough to their friends or other people, it may cause them to lie in order to avoid those feelings of insecurity. They may try to cover up a reality which they should not feel insecure about, but factors such as peer pressure and reputation in the community may pressurise them to do so.
Younger children may not always understand that it is wrong to lie and they may not have been taught about this.
Therefore, it is important for us to be patient with our children, especially when they are at a young age, as they can only really put into practise their knowledge about what is right and wrong when they have been taught the difference. For example, if children say something which is considered impolite and they are not aware that it considered impolite, it is our responsibility to explain this to them.
Furthermore, younger children may not be able to predict the negative long-term repercussions that lying will have on them. They may have been taught that lying is wrong and why it is so, but it is also vital for them to know about the risks and disadvantages associated with lying. When they are made aware of these, it will act as a deterrent for them. With both adults and children, when it is clear what the disadvantages are of a certain behaviour, it serves as a warning. Of course, the warning is not always effective for people, but it is indeed better for both adults and children to know the risks and downsides of negative behaviours.
When children know about the rewards in Islam for telling the truth, it will be another factor that motivates them to be honest.
In the same way, when we praise children for positive behaviours, it will encourage them to continue. Honesty is described as something which is alongside righteousness, as we read in a hadith:
Abu Bakr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “You must be truthful, for it is alongside righteousness and they are both in Paradise. Beware of falsehood, for it is alongside wickedness and they are both in the Hellfire. Ask Allah for wellness, for no one is given anything better after conviction than wellness. Do not envy each other, do not hate each other, do not cut each other off, and do not turn away from each other. Be servants of Allah as brothers.” (Sunan Ibn Majah)
May Allah protect all the children of this world and may He enable us to guide and support them. Aameen.