There are many reasons why kids would lie to other kids, to their parents, or to strangers, but most of their reasons are included in five categories:
Because they want it to be true.
“One day, dad went to work and I stayed at home with mom, baking cookies. And the cookies were magic, they started flying. And then I pulled out a gun and started shooting at them with candy. And then I started flying with them…”
This isn’t necessarily called lying, although it is the furthest from telling the truth, from all the five reasons. When a child invents objects, people, or events, it is usually because he feels he needs, or wished for something that isn’t there. It is natural for a child to be fascinated about what imagination can do and exercising his imagination by inventing stories with princes and dragons, with talking animals or with robots from the future. It is the key for developing his intelligence. Don’t worry about him losing contact with reality, children are usually more aware of the “fairy tale” character of a story. If you go too deep in their story, you’ll probably hear them say, at one point: “You know it’s just a story, right?” When it’s not storytelling, and they invent toys they have at home, it’s because they really wished they’d be more appreciated in their group of friends. When they invent themselves an imaginary BFF, they follow the same scenario as with a fairy-tale. The child knows his friend is not real, but he likes to pretend, just like he pretends he is having conversations with his dolls or robots, at a tea party, or in a playroom war.
Because they want to hide something they did wrong.
If he broke the blue Chinese porcelain vase, which was a gift from your great great grandma, don’t expect him to confess. He knows it was wrong and it may not be fear what is holding his confession back, but embarrassment – he could have known better than to play football in the living room. If you have a feeling he already blames himself for the damage he had caused, don’t try to make him say it out loud, leave him deal with himself the way he knows it. Obviously he is mature enough to appreciate his deed. Be careful, though, he may have a tendency of punishing himself more severely than you would have done.
Because they are afraid
Most kids lie because they are afraid – of a bully’s threats, of the consequences of a bad thing he did, of the parent’s punishment, of losing the loved ones’ love. Part of the healthy moral development process is admitting the truth because it is the right thing to do, even if there are consequences.
Because they want to feel important
“My daddy works for the army”. “Well, my daddy cooks a huge pie for the President every day”. Childhood is a difficult time for a person, socially speaking. At that age, kids haven’t discovered who they are, what their strengths are and how to take a defeat. Their only weapon is imagination and the principle: “Mine is better!” It is crucial for a child to feel that he is important to his family, no matter his skills or lack of skills, as this builds his self-esteem.
Because they want to be perceived as better than they are
This happens because they have learned that if they did something stupid, then it means they are stupid, or if they did something embarrassing, then they are an embarrassment. The child has to understand that what he did (his actions) and what he is (his person) are completely different things.