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Children and lying

Lying is often seen as bad behaviour in children. Fairytales and folk stories, from Aesop’s Peter who cried wolf to Washington’s cherry tree tell children to be honest and never lie. But what can we do to encourage children to tell the truth?

Children learn to lie from about the age of two. The first lies children learn to tell are denials of wrongdoing. From the age of three they also learn to tell “white” lies. These are lies that are told to benefit other people or to be polite. For example, a child learns that when you’ve made a surprise birthday present for Mummy, you don’t tell her about it and when your aunt gives you a present you should thank her, even if it’s horrible. Telling these lies well is an important social skill.