My Kid Is Lying

lyingLet’s talk about something that worries parents like few other behaviors. Let’s talk about lying, why kids lie, what to do about it and how to prevent it.

Humans of all ages lie. We lie to protect others and ourselves. We lie to bypass or get out of trouble. We lie to save face, appear more interesting, improve social standing or improve relationships.

Since kids often have poor impulse control and are unable to connect current behavior to future consequences, lying often becomes a quick way to problem solve. A parent’s job is to show a child that lying doesn’t pay off and that it is damaging to everyone involved—most of all to the one doing the lying.


How do you raise honest kids?

1. Do your best to create an atmosphere where telling the truth is valued no matter what that truth sounds like. Try your best to stay calm when your child brings you negative news.  By showing a child that you’re more focused on problem solving than on shaming and lecturing, you create an environment where the ugly truth has greater value than the prettiest lies. Will you always manage to remain in control? Maybe not but by striving to create an overall atmosphere of emotional safety, you can prevent behaviors such as these from becoming bad habits.

2. Look at your own behavior. What do you do when you feel cornered? Share experiences with your child as you go through them. Talk about a situation during the day where you were tempted to lie but didn’t. Talk about what you said or what you wish you would have said in a specific situation. Sharing words of wisdom is great. Sharing the struggles that lead to the wisdom is even greater.


Your child lied to you. Now what?

Try not to freak out. Kids test boundaries and lying often becomes a part of seeing what works.

1, You don’t want to ignore this behavior. If you catch a child in a lie, stop what you’re doing and focus on what was said. Leave the interrogation techniques to Perry Mason and don’t shame or moralize. Remain factual and calm. You want your child to stop in her tracks, back up and try again. This will give her a chance to do things over instead of adding yet more lies to cover up the first one.

2. If your child is unwilling to confess, and you know for certain that she is lying, discuss what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a lie. How would your child like it if you promised her a trip to Disneyland, and as you are all happily moving down the road towards a fun filled day of wonder, you instead head to the dentist? Ask her to remember a time when someone lied to her. How did that make her feel? Being lied to doesn’t feel good, makes you sad and makes you lose trust and can lead to a loss of friends, a loss of privileges and lowered self -esteem.


What do you do if you at first believe your child, only to find out later that she lied?

1. Sit down, opposite your child, and tell her you need to discuss something important. Make sure to tell her up front that it’s really important that she tells you the truth, and that there might be consequences if she chooses not to do so. Pause to let your words sink in before you go on to tell her what you know.

2. If you’re sure that your child lied to you, don’t start out by asking her if she lied. (You already know the answer, so that part is not up for discussion). Instead, ask her why she chose to do so. Her answers will give you insight into her thinking and even better…it will give her insight to why she chose to lie.

3. Discuss how she might have done things differently. Practice the mantra “options come before actions”. By asking a child to stop and consider her options before choosing to lie, this will hopefully become her go-to solution when feeling trapped.

4. If she is forthcoming, acknowledge that it’s hard to do the right thing and tell her she made a good decision when she decided to be truthful. Don’t organize a celebratory parade in her honor. After all, this is more about her developing character from within than her performing satisfactory according to your standards.

5. Ask her how she plans to remedy the situation. Let her come up with solutions. Does she need to apologize, write a letter, draw a picture or pay for a broken or stolen item? By doing this, she will be held accountable for her actions and she will also alleviate some of the shame. Rectifying mistakes is a brave thing to do and it builds self-esteem.

When it comes to lying, I try not to over react when it comes to isolated incidents. A pattern of lying, on the other hand, sometimes need to be dealt with differently. So if your child repeatedly lies to see what she can get away with, you might have to resort to grounding her as a way to reboot her system. Being grounded from all electronics and all activities outside of school leads to boredom which often leads to a child having to stop and evaluate her behavior. Is there a pattern to when your child decides to lie? Is she reacting out of fear to disappoint you?  Has she become overly dependent on your praise and have you become the gauge she uses to measure her own worth? Does she lie to friends in order to gain social standing? Having her come up with a list of her positive traits and finding a way to build and expand these traits will often help an insecure child grow more confident which often leads to a decrease in lying.