Experts say kids lie because they:
- Don’t want to get into trouble; hence they are “covering up.”
- Want to make their story more exciting.
- Still can’t distinguish between what’s real and fantasy (common in very young children).
- Want to persuade you to give them something they want (“At home, mommy gives me two cookies.”)
- Make themselves look better.
- Want to get attention.
- Don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
- Are curious about how you’ll respond.
Respond appropriately and with facts
After knowing the reason why a child lies, experts say you need to respond appropriately.
For instance, toddlers who lie are not trying to be deceitful. They may just see that you’re upset and want to make things better, so they don’t tell the truth.
When you catch them red-handed, remember to respond with facts.
If you believe their imagination is running wild, help them distinguish between fantasy and reality.
Important: Please avoid labels like “liar” as this may affect how children will view themselves in the future.
Emphasize that they are secure and loved
Deal with an older child that lies in such a way that they know they are secure and loved. One way to do this is to focus on communication and consequences rather than punishment.
Help them understand that the truth is important and lying is not okay. You can use relatable scenarios for this, such as: if daddy lied to mommy, I’d feel hurt, or if you didn’t tell me what’s wrong, I wouldn’t know how to help you.
Instead of punishing, encourage them to think of a more acceptable solution and then give them an appropriate consequence for lying.
Here’s an example:
If your little one lied about cleaning their room because they want to play instead, you could tell them, you can ask for my help; that way, you’ll finish sooner. But don’t forget to emphasize that lying is not okay, so as a consequence, they’ll have to help you wash the dishes.
Review your behavior
And finally, if a child lies, review the behavior of your family at home.
Remember that kids pick on what adults do. If they witnessed you lying about not going to work because there are many things to do that day, it would send a message that it’s okay to lie for convenience.
Ultimately, parents are a child’s greatest role models. So leading by example is one of the best ways to discourage lying and encourage truth-telling as a child grows up.
Learn more about Parenting a Toddler and Preschooler here.