Dad's yelling does make a lasting impression

Larry Larsen

Dear Doctor,

I seem to remember you wrote about this a while back. But my grandson, who is five, has his mother — my daughter — worried to death about his lying. He makes up stories and denies what he has been doing. They are trying to teach him to tell the truth, but some help would be welcome. Thank you.

— Nana Dear Nana,

It is not unusual for a child of your grandson’s age to distort the truth. Sometimes this takes the form of denying behavior. “I never touched that!” or creating a fantasy “There was this dragon on our yard!” You might say there is power in tampering with truth and reality.

With changes in brain development things usually improve. However, handling it as a parent is helpful.

The main rule is simple. Do not make the lie work. If it fails to get a reaction or create some theater, it will become useless.

Simply stick to the truth in a consistent way. Do not lecture but be positive. “I know you are a honest person....”

A year or so from now, and especially when he starts school and more social interaction, his tendency to gild the truth will likely diminish.

One of my favorite stories is about a six-year-old boy who lied about the time of day. Some years after I had seen him I was visited by someone in the intelligence community evaluating him for a position. He had signed a release and told them the nature of the old consultation when he was a child. He was a truthful and accomplished man. Telling the truth was his stock and trade.

Grandson will find he truth is always better. Who wants a dragon in the yard anyway?

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