Child lying: How to wean a child from lying

Child lying; what are the causes and how to teach your child? What is a childish lie, and how to handle it correctly? What makes a child lie? How to recognize a young liar. The best ways to deal with it. Lying in childhood is a shock to every parent. It makes you wonder what caused the lie – your neglect in parenting, certain benefits, or just a “trait” in the child’s character. You look for a way out of the situation because none of us want to lift a liar.

Why is the child lying?

Everyone can lie “from birth.” However, not everyone uses them because they require “activation,” an impulse, a reason. Children’s lies can be based on many reasons – from age-related formation characteristics to crisis relationships with parents or peers. That’s why it’s essential to determine what motivates your little liar to help him get on the path of truth.

The main reasons why children start telling lies are:

  • Fear of punishment … The most common reason why a child is constantly lying. It is challenging for children of all ages to resist the temptations and boundaries set by parents or society. Therefore, if a child “cheats” (intentionally, accidentally, or out of simple curiosity), they inevitably understand and will punish that misbehavior. It can make him lie. The desire to avoid anger by lying often becomes a tactical move (defensive response) of children whose parents react harshly to the slightest infraction.
  • Trying to stand out … One of the reasons for children’s lies, which indicates that the child is unhappy with something or someone, is not sure of himself. It can be the level of security, their external or physical data, how much attention and care parents have, and the situation in the family. Therefore, children come up with stories about their talents and heroes and beautify their parents’ material or physical abilities. Thus, at the origin of childish praise lies the desire to increase their importance in the eyes of people who are important to him – relatives, teachers, and peers.
  • Personal gain … The most inconvenient reason for a child to lie. In this case, he uses lies as a tool to achieve certain selfishness. No one and nothing forces him to choose between truth and lies. He does it consciously and voluntarily. His behavioral event is simple: he lied – he got what he wanted. It can be a sign of mental illness when he cannot distinguish between “good” and “bad,” “okay” and “no,” or the consequences of failures in parenting.
  • Attention Deficit … The reason children who are trying to get their parents’ attention are lying. This method of attracting attention is often chosen by children whose parents do not give them enough time due to their busy schedules. Children often resort to it after the birth of brothers or sisters, when the parents’ attention shifts to the younger one. Also, with the help of lies, the child sometimes tries to solve family problems (quarrels, scandals) in the hope that the parents will switch to him and reconcile.
  • Family traditions … A good reason for a child to adopt a parent’s behavior model where lying is seen as something familiar. Ambiguity in the communication and behavior of adults, empty promises, a child’s involvement in a seemingly innocent scheme of deception (“say that mom is not at home,” “say that you forgot a notebook,” etc.) Gradually, the same situation develops in him.
  • Fear of humiliation … A reason that can be called quite valid. It indicates how important it is for a child to be respected by others, especially parents. It’s that he cheats to “save face,” not to give up his power, for example, in front of my dad, who teaches that men don’t cry. Therefore, the son, trying to be a real man in his father’s eyes, will not tell him about how he cried when he fell from a tree while realizing that he will not be ashamed to collapse and cry.
  • Protection and self-defense … “Lying for good” can appear in the child’s arsenal. For example, when he is in a dangerous situation, he wants to protect himself, his companions, or his loved ones. At the same time, he realizes that he is not telling the truth, but is forced, to solve (avoid) a difficult situation.
  • Protest … One of the ways a child expresses himself is when he tries to resist the world with lies. Children from disadvantaged families and teenagers often choose it to prove their power and ability to solve problems independently.

Your child enjoys making up stories because of a highly developed imagination or excessive sociability. In this case, irrevocable creativity and the desire to give him free rein makes him tell a lie. Most often, it is a story about himself or some event where he was present, decorated with fantastic or found details. It should not be seen as deception in the literal sense of the word.

How to tell if a child is lying

To begin with, a lie is a deliberate, knowingly false, or distorted truth. In children, it can appear in several interpretations – in the form of cheating, exaggeration, lying out of necessity, or for profit. That is why it is crucial for parents to distinguish children’s fantasies and delusions from deliberate lies.

The main signs that a child is lying:

  • “Mouth closed”… The subconscious desire not to let the lie out of the mouth makes the child bring his hands to the mouth and lips during the lie.
  • “Look away”… Children who are not telling the truth often do not look the interviewer in the eye. They can look to the side, at an object, or simply down. Even when asked to make eye contact, they try hard to look away. Some liars do this not to reveal themselves; others – out of shame.
  • “Blink often”… If you manage to catch the eyes of a young liar or he looks you straight in the eyes, the eyes themselves can give him away. The truth makes them blink frequently, and their pupils dilate and contract.
  • “Restless hands”… In a child trying to deceive, you can notice complex movements that are not natural in a typical environment. So, for example, telling a lie, he can unconsciously touch his nose, temple, earlobe, chin, pull on clothes, buttons, scarf, collar, and scratch his neck and hands.
  • Blush of Guilt … The struggle of conscience with reason causes the blood to rage in the body of the deceiver. Therefore, his heartbeat quickens, his heart begins to beat madly, and the blood rushes to his face.
  • “Speech changes”… The need to believe a lie is an essential part of the deceiver’s thought process, as it requires reasoning and detail, especially if you have to think outside the box. Therefore, to gain time a little, he will cough, ask or repeat the questions, make long pauses between sentences, and try to translate the topic. It also makes him speak more slowly than usual, confused and uncertain. An inexperienced liar may even get confused in his arguments himself.

Of course, among children, as among adults, some professional liars are very difficult to see through at first glance. Therefore, parents need to see the child’s attempts to deceive in time and prevent it from developing further.

What to do if the child is lying

Faced with children’s lies, most parents think, if a child is lying, what to do in such a situation, what to right? All psychologists, in this case, agree on one thing – do not be passive. Ignoring the problem will not only solve it but, on the contrary, will translate small-time lies into long-term ones, which are much more challenging to deal with. That is why it is essential to find the cause in time that makes the child cheat and correct it correctly. Here are some ways to help you deal with child fraud.

A personal example

It is difficult for a child to grow up honestly and trust in a family where lies, hypocrisy, and promises are not in order. So be a role model for your son or daughter’s behavior – be honest and responsible not only in front of him but also in front of himself.

Be sure to keep your word or don’t promise if you can’t control the promise. Remember that children have no idea about small or big contracts – to them, any commitment from their parents means a lot. Explain that telling the truth is sometimes very difficult, even for an adult. Still, it is a prerequisite for building normal human relationships—trustworthy, honest, and open.

Around the age of 7-8, it is possible to explain to children some deviations from this rule in the form of “lying for good.” A lie can protect another person’s feelings, health, or even life. Make it clear, however, that you only need to use such exceptions as the last resort.

Child lying
Child lying

The principle of cause and effect

Take the time to explain why lying is wrong and the truth is good. Do not delve into the depth of psychology and philosophy so as not to completely confuse the child. The best way to convey the necessary information is to tell him the consequences of lying by example. To do this, you can use a fairy tale, a story, a fictional story, or an incident from your own experience.

At the same time, try simulating the situation while reading or telling a story with a child – talk about how the deceiver and the person being deceived feel, what lies lead to, whether they could avoid lying, and how to fix the situation. This parenting method helps you explain the importance of honesty without guilt and unnecessary emotions to your child.

Calmness and harmony

It is essential to react in time to the first attempts of the child to lie to you. And not just to respond, as it often happens (with shouts, accusations, punishments), but to do it calmly and deliberately. Our violent adverse reactions frighten the liar, and he goes even further away from the desire, especially if it happens in front of others. Therefore, make it a point to find out the reason for this behavior and explain its consequences calmly and without witnesses.

Find out all the nuances of what happened, and be consistent and honest with the deception you come across. The best way to find the truth is in a relationship of trust. So promise him you won’t get mad if he tells you why he lied. And keep your word, no matter what he tells you. Then discuss the consequences of deception and suggest options for getting out of the situation without using lies. And make sure that the next time the child can count on your help and support.

Carrot and stick

Be sure to differentiate the “degree” of your child’s lies to develop an acceptable response to them. So, if your child loves to imagine and beautify events, his lies are harmless. You should not make a disaster out of this and return him rudely to reality. He will grow out of this, learn to separate the real from the imaginary and return there himself. Until that moment, it would be better to play with him.

Suppose your child cannot be called a liar, but occasional deceptions appear. In that case, you can limit yourself to a conversation about “what is good and bad.” But manage the question of honesty.

It’s another matter when a child is “in the system” – often and with far from harmless consequences. In this case, conversations and explanations alone are no longer enough. Most psychologists agree that our unpunished suggestions will not have the desired effect. It is that there must be a consequence behind the offense. It does not mean that it is necessary to use corporal punishment against a lying child. Limitation works better here – entertainment, games, shopping, etc. In this case, consider the rule of the ratio of the magnitude of “crime” and “punishment.” For example, leaving the liar for a night without sweets would be wrong if it were a blatant lie. Or punish a child with a week of house arrest for small talk.

Praise the child for their honesty, especially if they admit their fault. Of course, this will not save him from correcting the consequences (apology, cleaning, etc.). Still, he will know he can trust you in any situation and not receive aggression and accusations in return.

No provocations

Another effective way to wean a child off lying is to stop challenging them to deception. Do not torment him with leading questions, but the answer is evident to you. For example, suppose the reason why a candy disappeared from the table is apparent to you (residues of chocolate around the mouth or on the fingers, the absence of other people in the room when it disappeared, etc.). In that case, questions like “Who ate the candy?” and “Where did they go?” will not be entirely fair.

Letting your child know that you are “in the know” will be much better. It will save him from the need to lie and avoid. And suggest another option. For example, when you ask for these very sweets, you will give, but not all.

Let go of the urge to force the truth out of the child at all costs if he desperately resists it. Recognition under pressure is generally very difficult for people, including young people. Therefore, it is better to explain to the deceiver that you still love him and want to understand the current situation. Please step back and give him time to remember and think about everything again, then continue the conversation. It will be much more effective than shouting, threats, and extremism.

The art of honesty

Each child to be honest in all situations. The best age for this is kindergarten. At this age, he can already understand the rules of behavior and some of the subtleties of communication and realize the consequences of his actions. Tell him that you can be honest “without hurting” other people’s feelings, for example, with a smile, a kind tone, and humor. Play various life situations with him so that when he is faced with them in reality, he knows how to behave correctly.

Remember, lies are mistakes. It means you can always ask her for forgiveness. Encourage your child to apologize in this case; it is possible and necessary. But repentance is sincerely worth it to receive forgiveness and regain confidence in oneself.


As you can see, childish lies are a way of communicating their discomfort to adults. It requires a lot of attention as it can seriously complicate the life of the child and their loved ones. Trust your child, love him, and try to understand – then he will have no reason to deceive.

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