Should you point out that he’s not telling the truth? Probably not. That’s because many children under five are still learning the difference between fantasy and reality, and their imaginary experiences are real to them.

There are times, however, when young children know they aren’t telling the truth. One reason children do this is to avoid punishment.

For example, a child may tell you that he didn’t spill water on the rug, even when you saw him do it. This would be a good time to point out that he is not telling the truth.

Here are some specific things you can do when your child tells a lie:

• Remain calm. Talking with your child is the best way to help him understand the importance of honesty.

• Try to understand the reason for the lie.

• Talk with your child about why it’s important to tell the truth. If he’s old enough to understand, you may want to tell him the story of “The Boy Who Cried ‘Wolf!’”

• Use reasonable consequences. Fear of severe punishment, including spanking, can encourage lying.

• Reward honesty. Tell your child that when he tells the truth, he will benefit from it. For example, a child who admits he misbehaved and apologizes might receive a lesser punishment.

• Tell your child that even when he makes mistakes, you still love him.

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