by | Oct 4, 2013 | Articles

Building Moral Intelligence

Young kids typically tell two different kinds of lies. The first type of mistruths are exaggerated tales told because it’s what he wishes would happen. We should respond by acknowledging the child’s wish behind the comment. If he says, “I’m such a fast runner I could beat my teacher” you might say, “You wish you could run so fast you could even beat your teacher, don’t you?”

One way to deal with a young child’s exaggerated truths is to explain the difference between a real story (one that is of course really true) and a make believe story (one that you wish were true but really isn’t). Whenever you suspect your child might be fabricating you could say, “Is that real or make believe?” The terms are less threatening than “telling a lie” and usually kids will admit the fabrication.

The second type of lie typical of preschoolers is telling an untruth to gain a good result or avoid a bad one. Because they are so egocentric, they don’t see the lie as wrong – the truth stretched to manipulate the results in their favor. Calmly say: “Do you want to tell me again the way it really happened?”

Certainly we should tell our kids that it is important to tell the truth. We also should let them know how much we appreciate their truthfulness whenever they are. What we should not do at this stage is overreact when they do stretch the truth. “What you meant was” or “Do you want to think about what you said and tell it again the right way?” Young kids don’t fully grasp why it’s wrong to lie. Our role is to gently guide their consciences and use those teachable moments to help them learn right from wrong.

For more information on raising tolerant children, read Building Moral Intelligence and Parents Do Make A Difference by Dr. Michele Borba.

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