How do you get a 3 year old to stop lying!!

Kate - posted on 04/08/2010 ( 1 mom has responded )

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My just turned 3 year old has recently picked up a bad habit. She started lying! She picked it up from a 4 year old that I watch, and it is just frustrating. My daughter will lie about anything she thinks that she may get in trouble for. Like the other day she attached a ballon to her little sisters carseat and my hubby asked her who did it and she said that it wasnt her so he asked if I did it and I was starting the dishwasher so he asked her again and again she said it wasnt her and she blamed her friend that wasnt at our house! We tried to explain that we werent mad about the ballon my hubby had thought that it was nice of her to share her ballon and just wanted to see if it was her that shared so nicely but for some reason she thought she might get in trouble so we put her in time out for lying. But it is always things like that. Plus if it is something that she would go in timeout for I dont want to not put her in timeout if she tells the truth. I dont know what to do. I dont like putting her in timeout but that is what works for her and I dont want her to feel like she has to lie to us all the time. Any ideas?

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Heather - posted on 04/12/2010

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I know there are times that toddlers seem to be "lying" but are just experimenting with their imagination, or testing us to see what response they'll get. I don't know if they totally grasp the concept of what lying is at this age, but they're definitely toying with the idea. I know my son has said he didn't do something (when he did) to avoid possible punishment, but there are other times he "lies" for no apparent reason & insists on maintaining his statement. I guess the important thing is to pick your battles. One thing you can do to help them understand when it's acceptable to be more "imaginative" or when you just outright need to know exactly what happened is to engage them with a series of questions. Example: You ask your daughter who tied the balloon to the carseat & she says it wasn't her. Ask her if she knows who it is. If she says it was Mom, walk with her to ask Mom about it & let her hear the interaction. If you ask her again or she changes her story to say it was her friend (who wasn't even there) then you have an opportunity to teach her about when it's acceptable to "pretend" and when it's not. You can say something like, "Wow, your friend was here & tied this balloon & left without us even seeing her? She must be super-fast like a cheetah!" Lighten the mood, giggle a little, and then explain, "No, you're friend isn't a cheetah! And I know she hasn't come to our house today, so I think you're being silly." Now that she sees there's no threat, I'm willing to bet if you ask her, "Are you the one who tied that balloon, you silly girl?" she'll fess up willingly. Then you can use the moment to explain that being silly & telling stories can be fun, but sometimes Moms/Dads/whoever need to know exactly what happened, so we need to just answer right away and we can be silly and tell stories about it afterwards. It's super helpful use these "lighter" instances of unpleasant behaviors as teaching tools to lay a foundation for future instances. Then the next time, if say, you found her with a tube of adult toothpaste that's half empty, you can ask her if she ate any or if she put it down the drain, etc. & explain to her that this is not a time for "silly answers". I guess my bottomline would be, for now, don't focus on punishing for lying, focus on teaching the difference between when it's acceptable to say things that aren't true (like being silly/pretending) and when it's not. If there is a behavior that happened which requires punishing, then treat that as a separate issue. Ex. If she broke a plate & then lied saying she didn't do it, I'd explain that because I saw her hit it with a toy (or whatever evidence/logic) she was in time out for breaking the plate.

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