Child Caring

Could this 4-year-old be lying for attention?

Recently my almost 4 years old will do things before I wake up in the morning. She will usually eat a package of Gummies or some dry oatmeal. Knowing she did so, I will calmly ask what she did before waking me up and she will say nothing. Then she will look around whatever room we are in and say the first thing she sees or thinks of. How can I get her to be honest with me upfront?

From: Lisa, Torrington, CT

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First things first: Why are you OK with a 4-y-o wandering the house with what sounds like full access to shelves, closets and who-knows-what? This is dangerous and makes me really uncomfortable. Thank goodness she hasn't been injured, or eaten something poisonous. Can a 4 year old be left alone for some short periods of time while you take a shower or a nap? Of course. With clear rules about do's and don't. Figure out a new morning schedule.

As for the lies, children this age typically lie to: get attention;. avoid punishment; get a reward; keep a promise; see if they can get away with it.

My bet is your daughter is motivated by a need for attention.

Here are some guidelines for dealing with lies:
1. Don't try to trick her. Rather than ask her what she's done and "test" if she's going to lie, you be honest: "I can see the package of Gummies is open. How many did you eat?"
2. Give her the chance to be truthful: "I'm not sure if you're telling the truth or not. Before we talk about this anymore, take a minute to think really hard."
3. Stress the importance of truthfulness: "In our family, we value telling the truth." "I'm not happy you broke a rule, but I'm even less happy to think you didn't tell the truth."

I hope we hear from parents of 4-year-olds on this one. Do you agree that this is still too young to leave a child alone for seemingly chunks of time?