Your late talker

Many tod­dlers lie, steal and cheat, but re­lax – it’s com­pletely nor­mal

Your Baby & Toddler - - The Dossier -

WE’RE AL­WAYS WARNED of tod­dler tantrums, but no one ever warns us that most tod­dlers are some­times guilty of ly­ing, cheat­ing and steal­ing. Be­fore you worry, re­lax – th­ese un­de­sir­able traits are nor­mal. At this stage, tod­dlers want in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, are fig­ur­ing out bound­aries, right from wrong, re­al­ity from imag­i­na­tion, and lit­tle from a lot, which is why they com­monly lie, steal and cheat.


Tod­dlers don’t lie out of mal­ice, and there is no pre­med­i­ta­tion to their lies. Ac­cord­ing to ed­u­ca­tional psy­chol­o­gist Kerry Skinner, un­til the age of three, chil­dren do not re­ally un­der­stand what ly­ing is, and so are ly­ing with­out con­scious aware­ness.

Re­mem­ber too that their imag­i­na­tions are very ac­tive and they might em­bel­lish things.

Or else they don’t often re­mem­ber how things hap­pened.


Kerry sug­gests you model ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour and put the ball in your tod­dler’s court.

“Start teach­ing your tod­dler to see things from an­other per­son’s per­spec­tive. Play to his self-cen­tred­ness and ask how he would feel if the sit­u­a­tion were re­versed. For ex­am­ple: ‘How would you like it if Zack said you did it, when in fact you didn’t?’” En­cour­age hon­esty all the time, and praise it when it comes along.


Ac­cord­ing to Kerry, child­hood is a time of skill ac­qui­si­tion, learn­ing new things and striv­ing for self-mas­tery. “All chil­dren in­her­ently want to win be­cause they are busy mov­ing through the phase of self­mas­tery. Par­ents often have the urge to let their young child win at games, but this is not teach­ing him to fol­low the rules.”


Say, “I un­der­stand how badly you want to win,” but ex­plain that all games will be bor­ing if your child al­ways wins. If a child doesn’t fol­low the rules, then you don’t play the game.


Kerry says the most com­mon and ba­sic rea­son kids steal is be­cause they want what ev­ery­one else has, or be­cause they want it, but can’t have it. Tod­dlers gen­er­ally don’t un­der­stand the idea of per­sonal pos­ses­sions, so if they want some­thing, they’ll take it.


Kerry ad­vises you view your child’s steal­ing as a teach­ing mo­ment – an op­por­tu­nity to in­struct right from wrong.

For ex­am­ple, Ben takes a truck from Sipho’s bag. Say to Ben: “I know how much you love trucks, and they are fun to play with.” Then you could say that Sipho loves trucks too, and that the truck be­longs to him. Tell Ben that he needs to give the truck back to Sipho and say sorry to him.

You could then speak to Ben about ways he can get his own truck – for in­stance, by wait­ing for his birth­day or by com­plet­ing re­wards charts. YB

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