Column: Why children lie and how today’s parents deal with it

'Raising Prescott'

With their mom in Phoenix, the kids were able to enjoy some father time Sunday — that was until a small lie interrupted our fun.

I don’t know about your kids, but my 5- and 3-year-old like to wrestle. They like to poke at each other randomly, knock the unassuming one off their chair and both can instigate with the best of them.

They’re kids, right? That’s how we were as siblings, that’s how my kids are and their kids will be. A never ending annoy-fest.

Sunday’s grappling match was entirely innocent between my two little ones, at least initially. My first mistake was likely allowing them to sit on the couch together.

Never a good idea, by the way.

My daughter, Emma, had her head buried in the kindle, while my son A.J. was focused on some after-dinner, it’s time to relax before bedtime, television.

Before I knew it, Emma was crying big crocodile tears (a good sign she’s actually in pain and not faking for attention), while A.J. gave me the “I didn’t do it” look, all while laying on top of her.

I hugged Emma and asked A.J. what happened. Answering with a small voice, he said, “I tried to get up and accidently pushed on Emma’s chest.”

OK, somewhat believable.

I continued to hug Emma, saying, “It sounds like it was an accident sweetie, you’ll be OK.”

My spidey sense told me there was more to the story, of course, and since A.J.’s ability to pass off a lie for the truth is just as bad as my poker face, I dug deeper.

So I asked Emma and she answered, “He pushed the kindle into my FACE!,” as she managed to take a swipe at him while screaming.

“A.J.? Did you do that on purpose,” I asked him.

Immediately, he burst into tears and screamed at his sister for breaking the No. 1 brother-sister pact: Never confess to mom and dad when both of us can get in trouble.

A.J. then flipped on her quicker than a detective gets his suspect to talk.

“She pushed me first!,” he said while pointing a finger in her face.

Now both were crying, knowing full well omitting the truth and then lying about it is not a great way to keep daddy in a good mood.

The truth finally came out, after two timeouts to the bedroom no less and a few “I’m disappointed” looks along the way.

From what I gathered, A.J. tried to lay with her and watch the kindle, she pushed him in the shoulder, and then he in return, shoved the kindle in her face. That only took an hour to get out of them, with full-blown cry hiccups along the way.

I can’t say I was really super mad about this situation, it’s a small lie, but a lie none the less and I dealt with it the best way I could.

Children lie for various reasons. I’ve discovered they lie for attention, for status, to be vengeful or are unintentionally taught to lie by us, the parents, among others.

But the No. 1 reason kids lie? Avoiding punishment. At least that’s what Dr. Paul Schwartz, a professor of psychology and education at Mount Saint Mary College, says in his article “Child Behavior: Why preschoolers lie” on hvparent.com.

Schwartz pens that a child who is punished too often either physically or emotionally by a very intimidating parent becomes encouraged to lie.

“It isn’t surprising that parents who ‘scare’ their children when they do something wrong by hitting, shouting or verbally abusing them, encounter more compulsive lying from their [children] than those that don’t.”

Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. Either way, it’s important our children know the difference between right and wrong, and lying is definitely up there on the wrong scale.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier, the Prescott Valley Tribune and the Chino Valley Review. Follow him on Twitter at @SportsWriter52 or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email bbergner@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.