Two year olds don’t really understand the difference between truth, or reality, and a lie, or fantasy. Until your child is three or four, in fact, he or she will be incapable of understanding the difference between fiction and fact.
It’s all down to your child’s imagination, which at this age is so fantastic, and so real to him or her, that your child truly believes it when he or she tells you that the cat was the one that drew on the wall.
While you can’t really reprimand a child this age for lying, you can hold him or her responsible for the behaviour that inspired the lie. Rather than focusing on the lie, focus on the behaviour that you don’t like, and get your child to understand that it’s not what you’d like him or her to do.
Don’t ask questions that you already know the answer to. Instead of asking ‘who drew on the wall?’ when your child is standing in the room alone, with a crayon clutched in his or her hand, say something like ‘You know we don’t draw on walls.’ Then get your child to help you to clean the marks. That way, your child does not have the opportunity to lie, and he or she learns that there are consequences to actions.
Make sure that you’re not caught out in a lie by your child. Rather avoid telling lies in front of, or to your child.
Just as you reprimand your child for bad behaviour that leads to a lie, it’s important to praise your child when he or she does tell the truth. Before you address the bad behaviour itself, tell your child how proud you are that your child has told the truth, and then deal with the other issues.
Lastly, allow your child some fantasy. There are harmless untruths that your child will tell, sometimes in an effort to emulate you, your partner, or an older sibling or friend. If it’s not malicious, and it’s not hurting anyone, then it’s okay to let your child dream out loud a little.