“Lying and Stealing in school age children”
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It’s not really surprising young children sometimes take money – it seems to have a magical quality and they can see that it gets you almost all you want!
You need to explain how hard it is to earn, why it’s important to have enough and why we can’t just take it from others.
Children need to learn about money and possessions – most importantly about the moral side. You need to teach your child that life would be impossible if we all just grabbed each other’s things.
It’s much better to explain why it’s inappropriate to take money or possessions from others, than to impose strict rules. Your saying to him “You’ll be in big trouble if you ever touch my purse” only uses negative fear of punishment to control the poor behaviour.
Eight-year-olds and above should have an understanding of why stealing is wrong. If your child steals you should insist he returns the items he’s taken and makes an apology.
You should talk to your child about why this isn’t acceptable and you may choose to punish for example, less time on the computer, not having friends to stay, early bedtime.
Lying in school-age children
Fibs told by younger preschool children – “The doll broke the toy” or ‘I saw a giant at the park” – show either they muddle up fact and fantasy, or demonstrate an understandable desire to avoid getting into trouble.
It’s only from about seven to eight years of age that children can fully understand the difference between truth and lies – before that they’re not ‘lying’ in the adult sense, as they may genuinely believe they saw a fairy in the garden!
By about eight or nine years of age most children have an understanding of right and wrong. The development of conscience means your child will feel bad when he tells a lie – even though he may still do it.
For ages five to ten
At the younger end, children begin to understand the difference between fact and fiction. A six-year-old knows he’s not really in a space ship when he plays at going to the moon.
However, it’s sometimes easier to go back to the type of fantasies that worked well when younger – particularly to avoid unpleasant experiences. If the truth is too painful, he may use fantasy to make it go away.
You child may also lie to avoid getting into trouble or for fear of being punished: “It wasn’t me that broke it”.
Why your child might lie
Wishful thinking – this lets your child impress his friends and allows him to imagine that a dream can really come true. If a friend has an enviable new computer game, he may insist he has it also. This tends to lessen around eight or nine years.
Difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality – younger children under eight years of age often believe if they really want something badly enough it can happen – “My daddy is taking me to see lions in Africa”.
Trying to please parents – “I have done my homework” or “I did wash my face”. A child older than seven knows you’ll check but wants to make you happy! This may feel more important than being caught out in the lie.
Suspects your love and approval are conditional – “I was top at Maths” or “I got in to the football team” – he thinks it’s more important to gain your approval than be truthful.
To avoid punishment – the more harshly a child is punished, the more he’ll lie to avoid it – “Jack did it, it wasn’t me.”
Your child needs to understand that you’ll still love him even if when he does something wrong. He needs to learn that honesty is the best policy.
How to deal with difficult child behaviour problems
Respond to ‘wishes’ by recognizing when your child is expressing a ‘wish’, then say ‘you wish you could go to an exotic island, maybe one day’.
Be clear – stress that you don’t want your child to lie and would prefer honesty, even if the truth can be unpleasant or have tough consequenses.
Show love – make it clear you’ll love your child no matter how well or bad he does in school or how un/successful he is at games.
Check your reactions aren’t too hard on the child as their FEAR of punishment can turn a child into a habitual liar. Your child must be able to trust you not to scream or hit him.
Show your disapproval by verbally letting your child know you take stealing very seriously.
Discuss each incident with your child and explain why the behaviour is unacceptable and must not be done again.
Avoid harsh punishments always BE CALM in your reaction, don’t overreact. Punishments should suit your child’s age. If you are in an aggravated state, YOU need some “time out” to consider how to best respond and NOT ACT IN HASTE.
Get the facts – always listen fully and patiently to your child’s side of the story and consider everyone’s view that was involved.
When your child has taken something that is not his, stress to him how bad it makes others feel to lose their possessions.
Don’t allow your child to profit from wrongdoing – ALWAYS and IMMEDIATELY take away any stolen object.
Teach your child about money – think about giving pocket money in return for chores (such as tidying their room) as this will help him appreciate that money is earned. Don’t leave cash lying around if you know it will tempt him.
Work out better ways for your child to get attention – if his bad behaviour seems to be an attempt to get you to take more notice of him. See some of the other strategies on this site for positive parenting tips on communicating with your child and kids activities so that your child doesn’t feel the need to use bad behaviour to get your attention
Contributed by Helene Malmsio, a successful business entrepreneur for nearly 30 years and has been operating Strategic Services group of Companies since 1987.
With over 30 years of personal and professional development, Helene has produced a powerful self help website with over 80 FREE SELF HELP BOOKS and 1000 free personal development guides for your greater Happiness, Health and Prosperity at
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