Protecting our Children from Lying

The doorbell rang in the house of the grandfather, and four-year-old Fahd ran to open the door. Soon, he returned running and jumping, announcing the visitor to his grandfather, “Grandpa! Shaykh Al ‘Uthaymeen is waiting for you in the salon.”


The grandfather smiled and asked inquiringly, “Who is it Fahd? Talk seriously.”


Fahd said insistently, “By Allaah, grandpa, Shaykh Al ‘Uthaymeen is sitting in the salon.”


The grandfather went to receive his guest and returned soon to hold back the mother of Fahd from punishing him saying, “Leave him daughter, Fahd did not lie. The day before yesterday, he heard me talking to you about Shaykh Al ‘Uthaymeen, May Allaah have mercy upon him, whom I described as a slim round-faced man, with large eyes and a thick white beard. When Fahd saw my friend Hajj Husayn, who has come to visit us, with the same appearance, he imagined that it was Shaykh Al ‘Uthaymeen!”

Dear parent,


Lying is one of the most disturbing challenges for the one assuming the child’s upbringing, when the liar is his child. Just as truthfulness is the summit of good morals, lying is among the most hateful bad morals and attributes and one should do his best not to allow it be one of the characteristics of his children, as it is a blameworthy attribute and a prohibited behavior rejected by noble souls.


In spite of the great importance of truthfulness in building the child’s personality, the attribute of lying is a prevalent behavior among many children.


The parent is more confused when he sees his child lying repeatedly in different contexts and situations. The parent here faces a real problem: Why does his child lie? How should he prevent him from lying?


What is considered lying in children?


In order to treat the child’s lying, we should study each situation in which he lies individually, and get acquainted with the real motive for his lying, and whether it goes back to his desire to have a good appearance and conceal his feeling of inferiority, or whether it is due to the child’s extensive imagination and his failure to remember events well. We also should wonder: Is lying instinctive or an acquired characteristic? Are there different kinds of lying among children? What causes a child to lie? Is there a way to prevent the child from lying and how should we treat the liar?


Dear parent and mentor,


Here are the answers to all those questions. Let us explore this article, in order to convey our children to the shore of truthfulness, where Allaah The Almighty commanded us to be, as He Says (what means): {O you who have believed, fear Allaah and be with those who are true.} [Quran 9:119]


First of all, we like to know, in some detail, about the concept and manifestations of lying.


In his definition of lying, Dr. Ahmad Az-Zu‘bi, Professor of psychotherapy, says, “Lying is to tell something untrue in word, deed and behavior, with the intention to cheat and deceive another person to get a particular benefit, or get rid of something unpleasant.” He adds, “Lying, in this sense, is an abnormal habit and attitude that is acquired by the child from the environment in which he lives.”


Lying is an acquired and not an instinctive or hereditary behavior:


The child is not born a liar. However, there are many causes which lead him to lie. That finding is confirmed by both psychologists and educationists who see that children are born with a pure disposition, and learn, step by step, truthfulness and honesty from their environment if those surrounding them observe truthfulness in their words and promises. Nevertheless, if the child is brought up in an environment where the people are deceitful, evasive and doubtful, he is more likely to learn the same behavioral attitudes in facing his life and achieving his goals.


When the child lives in an environment which does not help to direct and train him in the attitudes of truthfulness, it becomes easier for him to lie — especially if he has the capability of speaking fluently and has a fertile imagination.


Those two faculties, in addition to his imitating those surrounding him who resort to lying and fabricate lame excuses to get out of different situations, train him to lie from his early childhood until it becomes familiar to him and a habit.


Based on that, lying is an acquired and learnt and is not instinctive or a hereditary behavior and attribute.


On the other hand, children may lie at different levels, some stronger and worse than others. Those include:


Hiding a part of the reality:


If lying is to tell something that is different from the reality or the facts, children may incline to conceal even a simple part of the fact, for some purpose or benefit they like in their view. For example, a child may narrate a certain event completely except a simple part just for the sake of entertainment.


Complete concealment:


In this case, the child inclines to conceal the event entirely. A typical example is the school certificate: many children take the school certificate and return it once again to the class teacher without showing it to their parents.


Adding something to reality:


Some children, especially those who are young, may like to add some details to the event when relating it, for the sake of embellishment, modification, drawing the attention of others or thinking those details may really happen. For example, when the child says to his mother, “My father told me to go to the grocery store to buy a bottle of mineral water for him” and this is a reality, then he adds, “And told me to keep the change to buy some sweets for myself” and this addition is a lie which did not take place.




This is the worst and the most terrible level of lying, where the child fabricates an illusory story from his own imagination for a certain purpose. Unfortunately, the child may swear that his claim is true.


How can a mother know that her child is lying?


It should be known that lying has many signs that are visible on the child which an intelligent mother could notice, and they reveal it in the same way that is imitated by the following proverb: “The (sinful) suspicious (with his behavior) is about to say (to those who doubt him), ‘Take me (as I am sinful).'”


These are like:


· Faltering in speech, trouble and contradiction between the different details of the fabricated story which the child is relating.


· Some physical symptoms, which appear on him clearly like sweating, redness of the face, increased breathing rate and coldness of limbs.


· The child cannot look his father or mother in the eye, and tries to end the situation quickly and turn away from his parents.


· The child makes many oaths without being asked to do so, and does his best to deny he is a liar without being accused of lying. In confirmation of that, Allaah The Almighty Says on the tongue of the brothers of (Prophet) Yoosuf (Joseph) in an attempt to negate lying from themselves before their father accused them (what means): {“But you would not believe us, even if we were truthful.”} [Quran 12:17]


However, the most important question is to ask: Why does the child lie?


There are several causes and motives for a child’s lying. Knowing the motives for his ill behavior is the first step towards its sound treatment, and provides the parent whose children make the same mistake, with an outline of the features of preventive upbringing against that ill behavior. Then, what are the motives for children’s lying?


First: Ambiguous or imaginary innocent lying:


This kind of lying is prevalent among children of four and five years. It goes back to the child’s extensive imagination and insufficient awareness of the reality. He indeed confuses what is real and what is imaginary. He relates some of his dreams as realities that he has seen with his eye, or tells about things which have not taken place. This kind of lying indicates the child’s extensive and rich imagination. It may go back to the child’s desire for self-assertion.


There is, indeed, nothing to worry about it, since it develops the child’s linguistic fluency and capability of representation and figurative use of language, provided that the parents give the child the impression that this is another world quite different from the reality in which we live.


Second: Pretentious lying:


The child lies in order to compensate for a feeling of inferiority that he suffers from, regardless of whether it is real or imaginary, or to become prominent in front of his peers.


Usually, children resort to this kind of pretentious lying if they feel inferior to others, whether in a position or excellence, thereupon they pretend to have what they do not have, just to support their weak position at least as they feel it.


Third: Preventive lying:


The child resort to it in order to safeguard himself or escape from punishment. That kind of preventive lying is the most widespread among children, for it is directly related to their mistakes, or due to disruptive and destructive behavior in the house, such as  defacing the house or the belongings of others. If either of the parents faces the child with the mistake, chaos or even destruction he has done, he soon starts to deny insistently, which may force him to swear falsely. He does all of this for fear of, and in the hope of avoiding the punishment that he expects to receive.


Fourth: Vindictive lying:


In this kind, the child tries to avert the accusation from himself, and instead attribute it to another person whom he dislikes or is jealous of and could not face directly. It is the most dangerous kind of lying on psychological health, as well as on the community’s entity, ideals and principles, for lying because of hatred and resentment is willful and requires planning and contriving in order to cause harm to the intended person whom he dislikes. This behavior is usually accompanied by psychological tension and pain.


Fifth: Traditional lying:


It is that in which the child imitates the behavior of the adults surrounding him, who lie carelessly.


This bad example may exist in the house or at school. However, if the child is brought up in an environment where people are deceitful, evasive and doubtful, he is more likely to deal with those surrounding him according to the ill behavior. Hence, he lies when dealing with the others in general.


Dear parent,


After this presentation of the causes, motives, forms and signs of lying among children, it is time to answer the important question raised by the parent or the mentor: Could I cure my child from lying? Is it possible for me to prevent my children from lying?


Yes, you could utilize the means of treating this blameworthy disease, after seeking the aid of Allaah The Almighty, by removing its causes and motives.


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