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Question
Posted by: Maria | 2007/08/14

5 year old lying

My five year old daughter has over the past few weeks gotten into a bad habit of telling lies. It is usually over silly things (did you wash your hands? or did you put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket?). Sometimes it is very premeditated. She has a recurring vaginal infection and when I asked her if anybody had touched her inappropriately she spun an increasingly unlikely tale about two friends at school. After I told her to think very carefully she decided to change her story and said it wasn't true. She also frequently pretends to be ill, to such a degree that I don't believe her unless there are obvious symptoms.

She has a very active imagination, constantly playing at being some character, involving us in her stories and convincing other people that she has younger siblings (which she doesn't). All of this is harmless though and we don't want to suppress her imagination.

How do we handle this? For outright lies we told her that when her mouth lies to us, our mouths can't read bedtime stories. She loves her stories and this is real punishment, but even though we followed through on the threat she still tells lies. Behaviour must have a purpose, but I often really cannot tell what the purpose behind the lie is. We want to trust her, and we encourage her when she behaves positively.

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Our expert says:
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You may well have recognized a key ingredient in this when you refer to her lively imagination. and role-playing. Have you ndiscussed with her, not as a crisis but in normal conversation, the problems which arise, not from having a lively imagination andcreating amusing stories which people know are stories, but from lying so that people then don't belieeve anything you say ? Has she recently read the story of the Boy who Cried Wolf, and maybe discuss that ?

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