Does your kid lie to you? Here’s how you can stop it

why kids lies

Most children tell lies at some point, but when you catch your child in a lie, it’s natural to feel deceived, hurt, and angry. We want our children to be honest, especially with us. However, it’s indispensable not to take it personally if your child lies. Don’t make it a moral issue. Obviously lying is wrong, but it’s normal. In fact, we all do it to some degree.

It’s entirely normal for kids to experiment with lies, starting at an early age. Children usually start to lie around age 3 because that’s when the ability to state non factual things develops. This is the age when your child starts to realize that you aren’t a mind reader, so he can say things that aren’t true without you always knowing. Kids aren’t born with a moral code. Often what looks like ‘lies’ are either honest mistakes or efforts to protect themselves or to mollify the grown-ups. Some studies suggest that children with better cognitive abilities tend to lie more, since the ability to lie successfully requires first keeping the truth in mind and then manipulating that information.

With kids, lying is a faulty problem–solving skill. It’s our job as parents to teach our children how to solve those problems in more constructive ways. Usually, kids don’t lie arbitrarily; they have a reason for doing so, no matter how faulty that reason might be. Here are the main reasons why kids lie

Reasons Behind Lying of Children

Fear of Punishment: Fear is the biggest and most common cause that makes a child lie. When the kid is sure that he is going to get a scolding or may be slapped for the action he has done, he gets so worried about the consequences. Kids don’t want to be in trouble with the adults they depend on; the angry tone in the adult’s question scares them.

To avoid a trouble: One of the main reasons why kids lie is because they don’t have another way of dealing with a problem or conflict. If they don’t have another way out, rather than suffer the consequences, they lie to avoid getting into trouble. It’s almost like a faulty survival skill for kids. Sometimes children do not like to do some work and they lie so that they can avoid doing them.

Habit or by Mistake: Children tell lies by habit also. Some children automatically lie and this is a real hard task for the parents to help them get rid of this habit. Sometimes kids lie without thinking and they become so adept at it, they lie whether they need to or not. It’s a reflex, not a considered manipulation.

Humiliation and Embarrassment: Children after doing certain acts feel humiliated or embarrassed and so try to lie and avoid the situation in a better way.

To get attention: Many children make different stories in order to get attention from their parents, friends and other people as well. They want to look good in front of other people. When your child is little and the lies are inconsequential, this behavior may just be his way of getting a little attention.

To avoid hurting other’s feelings: At some point, most people learn how to minimize things in order not to hurt other people’s feelings. But kids don’t have the same sophistication that adults do, so it’s often easier for them to lie. Lying is a first step toward learning how to say something more carefully. In some ways, it’s we the adults teach them how to bend the truth.

Pain: Some incidents cause a great deal of pain and so to avoid this entirely children usually lie. And sometimes, rarely, lying is an indication of an emerging mental illness like conduct disorder or pathological lying.

So what’s the best way for parents to deal with lying?

Well, it is true that you cannot keep your children away from lying. But, that doesn’t mean lies should go unacknowledged. Acknowledge the lie, but give the consequence for the behavior, not for the lie. At least you can make it a less rewarding activity. The biggest truth of all is that raising honest kids starts with you. Realize that lying is a learned, but changeable behavior. Here are some pointers parents should keep in mind dealing with kids in a lie.

Do not blame the child for the lie he spoke:  The first step in figuring out how to address a lie is to consider why your child is telling it. Most kids don’t lie to hurt their parents; they lie because there’s something else going on. The important part for you as a parent is to address the behavior behind the lie. The mistake most parents make is when they start to blame the kid for lying. Rather, focus the conversation on what the incident was and find out what your child is trying to tell you.

Avoid cross examination: When you catch your child lying, remember that lecturing is not going to be helpful. When you’re talking with your child, be specific about what you saw and what the problems are. Make it clear to the kid there will be a consequence for that behavior. You broke the law; you broke the rules, so these are your consequences.

Talk calmly about the issue: When your child has done something, do not trap him in a situation where he feels lying is the best way out. Talk to him calmly about what happened and analyze the situation in a positive environment. Honesty is important, but if you communicate that too strongly to your children, they will use that to have power over you.

Appreciate the confession: It is very hard to confess. So, if your child confesses to you, listen to him and support his truthfulness instead of blaming him for what he did. Encourage honesty. Instead of coming down hard on him when he lies, thank your kid when he’s being direct and tells the truth.

Do not react immediately: If you catch your child in a problematic lie, do not react in the moment. Talk about it after things have cooled down, not in the heat of the moment. Again, when you do talk, do it without arguing. Hear him out first and see what he has to say.  Keep it very simple and hear what your child has to say, but be really firm in what you believe.

While it’s important to address the behavior behind the lying, it’s really the parent’s job to differentiate the type of lie their child has told, and making sure that it isn’t connected to unsafe, illegal or risky behavior. If your child lies chronically or lies about unsafe, risky or unhealthy behavior, it makes sense to address the actual lying by having an intervention by a professional.

It might seem like no matter what you do, your child keeps lying. The fact is, most lies can be stopped. Even a habitual liar can be saved through love, understanding, and proper handling. Parents should use punishment as the last option and not their first reaction. The ultimate purpose and intention of every parent should be boosting confidence of the child while encouraging honesty in him. If you keep praising your child for telling the truth and also use consequences for lying, your child is less likely to lie as he gets older. Make your child love the truth and hate lies from the heart.


Kakoli Mahanta

A post graduate in Economics, Kakoli Partha Mahanta worked for corporate finance sector for about 7 years. Mother of a cute 2 year baby girl, Kakoli is currently located in Bangalore, India, flourishing her writing skill.

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