What to do when your child is lying all the time: Tips for parents

We tell you why your kid is lying all the time and how to deal with the situation.

children lying

Find out why your child is lying so often, and learn how to deal with it.

As parents, we most probably will feel sad that some children, even as early as 2 or 3 years old, feel the need to lie. We’d probably feel even sadder if our own children did so.

If your child is lying all the time, you’d probably get what we’re talking about. The first step you’d have to take then, is to understand why your child is lying, and how to change this negative behaviour.

Why children lie

There are actually several reasons why children lie, so let’s start with the easiest one to correct, which is also the most innocent: the inability to shut off their imagination. This is often the case in young children.

They simply let their imaginations run wild and don’t quite know how to separate truths from non-truths. Sometimes this is unintentional, but there are times when it is done on purpose.

Some children also lie to avoid doing something they don’t want to do. “Yes, I brushed my teeth,” rolls easily off the tongue when a child is too engrossed in playing to go do something so mundane and ‘unnecessary.’

At times, children lie about doing their homework or their household chores. They usually do this for similar reasons, e.g. to avoid punishment.

Sometimes kids lie to avoid being punished or scolded.

Sometimes kids lie to avoid being punished or scolded.

Children will sometimes lie to protect someone else. My daughter once had a new friend over to play who, quite honestly, wasn’t very nice.

I had to ask her twice within the first 30 minutes of her arrival to not say unkind things to Boo’s (our daughter) little sister. When my youngest came into the room crying and saying the little girl had pushed her out of the room, Boo denied it, knowing I would not allow that in our home.

After asking her two more times, Boo admitted what her new friend had done. I politely announced that the play date was over and took her friend home.

How to curb lying

Lying is a habit that should be discouraged in children (and in adults too!).

Lying is a habit that should be discouraged in children (and in adults too!).

If your child is lying all the time, let him know that he needs to stop doing so. Explain to him that lying is not tolerated in your family, because where there is lying, there is a lack of trust.

Just as there are a number of reasons why children lie, there are also a number of ways to handle your child who is lying often.

Children who lie because they are unable to turn off their imaginations and fantasy should not necessarily be punished or disciplined. Instead, you will see better and quicker results by teaching them how to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

To do this, there needs to be a dialogue between the two of you. Talk about what they watch, read and play; what is and isn’t real.

If your child has trouble grasping this concept, limit the amount of fantasy they are exposed to until they can understand the difference. Lies told as a result of the reality/fantasy issues should be handled calmly, without making your child feel ashamed or fearful.

Honest and non-accusatory conversations about the right time and place for fantasy and imagination are usually all that is needed to help your child stop lying.

kids misbehaving

What do you do if your child is lying because he doesn’t want to do something? Give them parameters, encourage them and praise them for their efforts.

When your child lies to get out of doing something he doesn’t want to do, the most effective way to curb the problem is to require him to do the ‘undesirable’ task several times consecutively.

For instance, if your child lies about cleaning his room, give him a reasonable amount of time to do the job, empty his toy box and have him do it again… and again, if needed.

If they lie about brushing their teeth, send them to brush their teeth every hour for an evening or two.

If they call their sibling names, require them to spend time saying kind things to their sibling.

Some children lie out of fear, so you should know how to handle it when they do.

Some children lie out of fear, so you should know how to handle it when they do.

When a child lies out of fear, it is important to first figure out the reason for their fear.

If they fear getting in trouble for what they’ve done and lie to ‘protect’ themselves, it is of the utmost importance that you stress to them that no matter what they’ve done or said, telling the truth will always be looked upon with favour and respect.

Lying, on the other hand, will result in punishment for the lie, and for whatever was done and lied about in the first place.

Another fear that may drive a child to lie is that of being bullied. In this case, you will need to reassure your child that no real harm can come to them as long as they put their trust in you.

 

Even if your child is lying to 'protect' others, you still need to deal with it.

Even if your child is lying to ‘protect’ others, you still need to deal with it.

On the other hand, lies told in order to protect someone may or may not be well-intentioned. When you catch your child in a lie of this sort, you need to determine who they are protecting and why they are doing so.

If the lie is told to help a friend stay out of trouble, similar disciplinary actions for lies told out of fear need to be taken.

If your child has been threatened in any way to lie for another person, you need to treat the situation compassionately. Remember that the fear of being harmed or bullied is real, so your child may be feeling a tremendous amount of fear and guilt.

In all cases, be your child’s advocate and encourager, letting him know you will always be there to protect him and to remind him that his trust in you and your trust in him is what really matters.

Remember, too, that lies told in haste (speaking before thinking) are usually simple, silly things that really aren’t worth lying about.

When this happens, don’t dwell on it — let it go and simply reinforce the positive aspects of telling the truth, reminding your child that yours is a home where only the truth is acceptable.

Encouraging truth

Encourage your child to tell the truth at all times.

Encourage your child to tell the truth at all times.

While there is no way to prevent your child from telling a lie, there are several things you can do to encourage truth-telling and discourage your child from lying.

  • Always be truthful yourself.
  • Never punish your child for telling the truth.
  • Don’t be accusatory. Give your child the opportunity to ‘fess up’ in a non-threatening environment.
  • Keep the conversation on the matter at hand, rather than placing blame and humiliating your child.
  • Don’t put your child on trial. Grilling her with questions only puts her on the defensive — when that happens, your child will tell you whatever they think you want to hear to get the conversation over with.
  • Honor your child for telling the truth and let her know you respect her truthfulness and appreciate how hard it is to always be truthful.

What would you do if your child is lying all the time? Let us know by leaving a comment!