How-To deal with your Lying kid (Everything you need to know about Lying)

Deal with your lying Kid: You are in the kitchen and you hear a clash. You go to see where the sound came from. And you see your glass vase broken into a million pieces. Both your children looking very guilty and when you ask them who did it, you find them blaming it on the dog when your dog is tied to his dog house.  

You know for sure that someone is lying or even both of them are lying. Why do you think they are lying? and how to make them accept the truth. Do you punish them? How to deal with your lying kid? Or should you let it slide away.

All these dilemmas any parent has when they catch their kid lying and have to deal with your lying kid. But what you do immediately after and how to react will determine how your children will act in the future.

Topics covered in this blog

Introduction

I usually think that lying is a moral issue but in truth it is more a problem-solving issue. it happens mostly because of lack of skill or because children want to avoid consequences.

Why do I say that lying is a problem-solving issue rather than a moral issue?

Think about a time when a child has lied to you. It can be because they are not able to solve the problem that they have in hand. 

Example: Did you brush your teeth you ask and they say yes.  You know they have not.

The intention to lie comes because they either run late in time or they have some struggle finding the brush and using the paste and brushing. It can even be because they have sensitive teeth that need to be addressed and they want to avoid brushing due to the sensitivity (which was the reason my niece kept lying to us) …

So, when you understand the issue and you are able to problem solve it for them or with them. You are giving them the needed skills to take things forward and thereby not lying to you about it in the future.

 Read more about moral value development from our Surprising truth about Moral Values development in kids.

What is a lie?

Lying is when a false statement is made with a clear intention to deceive you. And when I was doing my research to write this article, I came across this new term which I have not heard of before it is ‘magical thinking’. 

Magical thinking happens when your child or anybody convinces themselves to believe that what they are saying is true. 

My little sister will blame her teddy for anything that happens. she would always say it was the teddy who did it and she would find no guilt or remorse about telling it.

We have heard the saying, that, if you tell a lie often and convincingly it magically turns out to become the truth. 

And when you let it slide by because you find the innocence and cuteness in the lie. It reinforces your kid to start telling more and more such lies that they have got away with.

To the extent that it can become nearly chronic and more absurd and you will be left with no choice than to deal with your lying kid. 

There are other ways than lying where your kid can be creative. You can know more from the article 17 helpful ways to DEVELOP CREATIVITY in kids.

What are the possible underlying reasons for lying?

You need to understand the common underlying reasons if you have to deal with your lying kid. So that when it comes to it you will be effective in your solutioning and there by effectively dealing with your lying kid.

Children might lie to for the following reasons:

  1. Lie because they want to cover up something and avoid the consequence of the mistake. licensure I didn’t break the best.
  2. They can lie to seek your attention.  For example, they can come running to you and say that they saw a pink bird flying outside. Just so that they can interrupt the conversation that you are having with someone and get a sneak peek of your attention. Read more on attention seeking from our article HOW TO deal with ATTENTION SEEKING behaviour in kids.
  3. I have seen my older kids and teens lie to me sometimes just to see how I respond to their lies full stop or just to push my buttons and infuriate me. Lies such as bragging that they evaded a cop’s car. To see how you will respond to their lie. to push your buttons. Read about How to control Risk taking behaviour in your teenager to know more.
  4. Sometimes they lie to keep their life a secret from parents. they might have landed up speaking the whole night with a person they have befriended and interested in and lie to you stating they slept well. 
  5. Older kids lie to be accepted by the peer group. Or to protect their friends. Lies such as group studies where they would have spent on playing video games yet telling the friends parents that they have finished homework. Know more about this from the article 5 Effective ways to deal with Peer Pressure.
  6. Kids lie to make a narration more exciting. While it can be entertaining these added up stories to make a narration more exciting is still a lie. Little ones make more outrageous and absurd stories but as they grow, they start to fine tune it and the stories become subtle and hard to spot.
  7. Sometimes these narratives and bragging can also be to establish social standing and get a false sense of identity. Lies where they are the hero of a situation or something they achieved. 
  8. Kids indulge in White Lies so that they do not hurt anybody feelings. Many times, these White Lies are actually unknowingly and unwittingly taught by us to our children. I have seen my daughter use these types of lies where she would say “Wow this is superb food” when in action she would only eat a couple of spoons. 
  9.  Kids tend to lie when they want something from you. Lie such as stating that they are hungry when you are near a Pizza Corner or a food joint. so that they can go and enjoy their favourite meal.
  10. Lying that happens due to magical thinking. because they believe that is the truth and the confusing reality with fantasy.  Children sometimes can narrate a story that they have heard if it has happened to them. My son had once told how he jumped off from the fourth floor to rescue a kid on the ground. He was narrating the superhero comic that he was reading 

The 4-board classification of Lies

As per this article there are four main reasons why kids lie. And a lot of things that we have stated above can be bucketed into these reasons and you need to know it to give you and outline so you can deal with your lying kid.

  1. Lies due to magical thinking or fantasy (Tall Tales)
  2. Kids lie in order to appear cool (bragging)
  3. For avoiding negative consequences
  4. Sometimes medical conditions can lead to lying (ADHD, NPD, BPD, APD etc and condition that result in forgetfulness)

Broad guidelines on how to deal with these classifications of lies

Below we have given an outline of how you can deal with lies that fall into these 4 classifications so you can be more effective when you deal with your lying kid.

Lies due to magical thinking or fantasy (Tall Tales)

This is especially cute when it is done by children less than 4 years of age. These children have active imagination and it is also our responsibility to ensure that they develop these imaginative skills.

But this does not mean that I am recommending you to encourage them to lie. 

You can…

  1. Hear their tall tales and tell them that it is a nice story that they have narrated. 
  2. Do tell them that they are very creative and they have come up with a nice story and a very interesting one. 
  3. Make sure that you do pass the message that you are not believing that it is true. But you do like their creativity
  4. Gently correct them to next time state it (the tale) as a story rather than something that has happened to them. 
  5. You will soon find your little one coming to you and saying “Mummy how is this story and they go about telling their tall tale. And you can be assured that you have managed to deal with your lying kid effectively.

Kids lie in order to appear cool (bragging)

Your kids can lie in order to appear cool. To get the attention that they need from their parents or peers. For social validation or acceptance.

They resort to bragging about making believe achievements. Things they have not done or achieved. Or tell stories about events that make them look macho or powerful or a hero.

When you feel your kid is telling lies that fall into this category, below are the things that you can do to deal with your lying kid.

  1. Find the reason for their bragging…
  2. Is it because they lack self-esteem? And they lie to boost their self-esteem and image.
  3. Is bragging because of competition with their peers and that forms a toxic relationship. They are pressurized to do something to fit in and hence the kid resorts to lying.
  4. Or is it due to your kids coping mechanism to positively self-talk themselves into believing that they are capable and able to live up to the expectation that they have their own heads.
  5. When you understand the reason. Work with your child to boost their self-esteem. Or help them get rid of toxic friendship. Highlight their uniqueness and capabilities so that they gain more self-confidence to actually be able to achieve things that they were earlier lying about.
  6. Do make your kid understand that lying is a temporary quick fix and it has no future full stop and this lie will not be able to help them become who they want to be. 

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For avoiding negative consequences

One of the common reason’s kids lie is because they want to avoid negative consequences. This can happen because of these following reasons.

Reason 1: Your kid is struggling with the problem and is lacking problem solving skills. 

Solution: Find the reason and help your kid problem solve it. It usually will be due to time management issues or prioritisation issues. Find the root cause and tackle it. 

Reason 2: Your kid does not believe the instruction that you give and has their own point of view on what needs to be done.

Solution: To them to understand their point of you and if you find that to be logical do not hold the ego to stick on to your stand rather accept and acknowledge and change your instruction. but if you find their logic to be flawed explain it to them in ways that they can understand more clearly so they will be more motivated to follow your instruction and not lie to you 

Reason 3: Not want to take up the responsibility that comes with what is expected of them to do.

Solution: Your kid feels that the responsibility that you have given to them to do is uncomfortable or boring and they are not motivated to do it. Hence, they resort to lying to avoid dealing with this responsibility. Find the reason for the aversion and try to work around it by either assigning it to someone else who likes to do it. Or explaining to your kid why it is important that they do it. Seek their buy in so that they take ownership of the responsibility and not shy away from it.

Reason 4:  You are a very strict and unforgiving parent that is making kids resort to lying to wriggle out of a situation.

Solution: Need to take a look at your attitude, the way you react to a mistake. If you are progressive or regressive in your thought process. Are you being too much of a perfectionist and having high standards of expectation? Or your disciplinary strategies are very strict. It can also be because you come out reacting very heavily with high emotions that are overwhelming to your kid. 

To deal effectively with this reason you need to do a lot of introspection and understand and correct your ways or outlook to make it an environment that is more forgiving and positively oriented and aiding growth.

You can know more about discipline and manners from our article How-To effectively discipline your teenager and How-To Teach Good Manners to Your Kids?

Some underlying medical conditions can lead to lying.

(ADHD, NPD, BPD, APD etc and condition that result in forgetfulness)

If lying is caused because of these issues such as attention deficit, narcissistic personality, borderline personality disorder or other conditions that result in forgetfulness. You will have to seek out professional help and go by their recommendation to combat the larger issues and the problem of lying along with it.

Progressing of lie (age-wise) and how to handle

In general, it is said that around the age of 3 years children start experimenting with lying. However, these lies can be very rudimentary or easy to spot. These lies can also not have the vocabulary skills or facial expressions that accompany lying convincingly.

Way to handle the lies: To deal with your lying kid is easy at this stage. When your toddler or a pre-schooler lies you need to call out their lies. But instead of resorting to punishing your toddler or pre-schooler, rather try to encourage truthfulness. 

By the time they progress to 4-6 years. They will also progress in their lying skills. They will be able to use words more effectively and match their facial expressions also.

However, they will struggle to follow through with their lie and when you confront them as ask if they were lying, they will guiltily accept it. 

Way to handle the lies: This is a good time to introduce the concept of lie and the ill effects of it. You can stress to them that lying is not OK. You can also tell how it will upset you if they lie to you. Emphasise in calling out their lie and correcting them and making them own it. 

By school age 5 to 8 years of age the lie becomes more sophisticated. Better vocabulary is used with almost convincing expressions and tone. They also can adapt their lies to what will sell with whom. And deliver the lie as per the person they are talking to. You might still be able to call out the lie basis your knowledge of their behaviour patterns. But when you confront them, they may not easily accept it as your pre-schooler did. They can even start following through with the lie they say and they may not be fully able to maintain it. 

Way to handle the lies: Call out the lie. Talk to your child about the lie. Tell them and show examples of honesty. Teach them the skills needed that had caused them to lie. Praise them when they show efforts to be honest. 

By adolescence, children’s lie becomes more complex and harder to deduct. They can match and maintain the lie. So below are the ways you can deal with your lying kid.

Way to handle the lies: 

  • This stage needs more open conversations from your side and emphasis on honesty. 
  • Be as clear as possible so you are sending them mixed signals. You will need to model the right behaviour.
    • If you don’t you will not only be called out but will be made the reason or excuse why they have a passport to lie. 
  • Understand their reasons and patterns of lying and work on it. 
  • Pre-state and Call out the consequences for lying and follow them though based on the degree of the lie.

Read our article How-to stop teen from breaking rules to know about effective ways to plan consequences.

15 Ways to deal with your lying kid when you catch them lying

  • Don’t react immediately or throw a tantrum or threat. It will only make your kid lie more in the future to avoid this consequence.
  • Buy yourself some time to plan your talk with your child. So, you can make a plan on how to deal with your lying kid. E.g. You can say…We will talk about this after I come back from my walk. In the meanwhile, you wash your face and put on home clothes and wait for me. 
  • Be nice and if need be massaging their ego a bit so they can come out and own their lie. It works like a charm for my second son. He will soon spill the beans and then you can talk to him further on his actions. 
  • Introspect the lie and see if you need to address the lying or the underlying problem that is making your kid lie. Plan action strategy as per that. 
  • Probe a bit further in a light way so they give the lie up and tell you the truth. Works well for my niece. She will sheepishly accept it and ask sorry. 
  • When you know it is a lie? Do call it out but don’t go too deep to corner them and make it a scene. I followed this when my kids became tweens. And in time they do come out feeling all guilty. 
  • Give them a way out to come clean and own it up. Like ask them to write to you a note. Or rectify the mistake and come back.
  • Reemphasise the consequences and give them a warning if it is the first couple of times. If it continues, proceed with the consequence you have outlined with your kid. Don’t pull random consequences or be inconsistent in your approach.
  • Change your way of questioning or change your questions itself to understand what your kid is lying about. It can even act like a good cop bad cop strategy. Don’t follow it all the time your kids might crack the pattern and be efficient in concealing.
  • A lie is still a lie small or big. But pick your battles up based on the magnitude. Some need not be confronted then and there. You can bring it up later on when you are having a chat with your kid. E.g. Your kid asked his brother to lie to a caller that he is not there.  You can call it out and explain that it is still a lie.
  • Give your kid a solution to handle situations better. In the same example above, you can talk to your kid about the option of sending an SMS that states “Sorry, am tied up. Will call you back later” than making his brother lie for his sake. 
  • Talk to your child about the pitfalls of lying. How it naturally breaks trust and spoils the relationship. And how difficult it is to rebuild when it is broken. And assure them that you will forgive them with a warning if they come clean.
  • For low level lies instead of completely ignoring, turn the lie around to make it into an experience sharing session. A guilty kid will act all good and keenly listen to you while you can share them stories from your life or other stories of similar moral value.
  • If you feel your kid is lying about serious stuff and you are very suspicious of it. Reassure your child that you are with them and their safety and wellbeing is your concern. You will be there to help them in any way possible.
  • If you feel your child is lying about serious matters and you are not able to get a break through. Then seek professional help to help you with the issue.

11 ways to encourage your child to be honest

Punishment and consequences alone will not help children choose the path of truth in the long run and deal with your lying kid. They will only be more motivated to lie and lie more skilfully to you. 

Instead when you turn the whole thing around and concentrate on encouraging their children to tell the truth while you call out their lies but have a positive progressive outlook to the mistake. It helps in building positive character and honesty in your child.

I have listed below a few of the ways in which you can emphasize honesty and build nature in your child.

Remember as parents anything that you support will grow. Same was with the value of honesty. Give them the help you need when they are telling the truth and it would work as a positive reinforcement cycle for your child.

  1. Reiterate. Keep on stressing the importance of being honest.
  2. Make your stand clear. Make it clear to them that this honesty or lying is not ok with anyone in the family.
  3. Appreciate and feel proud. When you see your children owning up to their mistakes, work with them to correct the mistake but appreciate them for their honesty.
  4. Reduce or remove the temptation. Understand the patterns of your child and try to avoid or make connections to these patterns so that your child is not exposed to situations that make them or tempt them to lie. Example kid opening the refrigerator where deserts and chocolates are kept.
  5. Have open and candid conversations about dishonesty, lying and honesty with your children. You can go into details based on their age and comprehending ability. Build emotional connections to be able to get more benefits. Read out article How-To Easily build Emotional Connection with your Teenager.
  6. Pre-empt the need for your child to lie. If your child tries to get your attention and lies to get it. Or your kid lies about an achievement and brags about the achievement so that he can compete with his sibling for your approval. To understand these hidden needs of your children is free and it by giving them the attention that they need for boosting their self-esteem and confidence so they really achieve something to be proud of.
  7. Don’t brand your child. When you catch your child lying, not once, not twice but many times still it does not require you to call them a liar. When you resort to name calling or branding your child as a ‘liar’. Then all motivation that is needed to be an honest kid goes out of the window. And your child will only try to be more skilful in lying so they don’t get caught. 
  8. Attach privileges to honesty. It is the angle twin of taking away privileges for dishonesty. Give them a treat if they acted honestly. Talk proudly of their achievement of honesty if they displayed it to others. You can give them an honesty badge for a day and the kid gets extra privilege when they have the badge.
  9. Always have a trusted relationship. Yes, every lie that your child speaks to you has shattered your trust in them. If you build a relationship based on this mis-trust it is definitely going nowhere.  You start operating out of fear and you keep checking with your child if they are telling the truth or not. And if your child is telling the truth and you are checking on if it is the truth or not can really hurt your child’s progress. So, take every interaction for its own face value and don’t be tainted with the experiences of the past and build trust into the relationship. 
  10. Your family value system plays a lot of role in your child’s behaviour and honesty level.  you do ensure that you are not only setting a good role model but your spouse and all the others in the family are following the same. Know more on important things kids learn from observing you from the article 20 Important Things Children Learn by Observing You
  11. Always have a Progressive approach. When your child accepts a mistake while you would appreciate their honesty. The mistake is still a mistake and bases the degree and magnitude of the mistake consequences will still have to be borne. But when your child is truly sorry for what they have done. Acknowledge it, rectify it and do not speak ever about it again.

Conclusion

Most of the kids lie. There is dishonesty here and there. A white lie and all other types of life. But it becomes a pain when your kid is repeating the offence and doing it in spite of all your best efforts to stop them from doing it. When it becomes chronic and pathological it is time that you need to seek external help to overcome it.

But these are only in the rare cases you will need external help. In time kids outgrow this stage of lying. If you put your effort in teaching your children the value of telling the truth. 

Talking to them openly about their behaviour and being progressive in your correction. And not branding them but helping them overcome the challenges that they have facing or the situation that has let them to lie.  

Slowly but steadily you will teach them the values that are needed for them to live life that has emphasis on honesty in their core.

You need to nurture honesty. Don’t give up on it. Being lied to is never nice. It might feel like a disappointment and sometimes a let-down to you. And you might struggle to establish trust back with your child. 

But try to not take these things personally and work your way into your child’s behaviour where honesty, love and responsibility are the core of their being. And soon you would have a fine young person who would make you proud in all ways.

God Bless!!…

Thabitha David

Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Friend. She is a MBA Graduate specialized in Human Resources. She is a very proud mother of 3 Kids. (2 Teens & 1 Tween). She is a keen Observer of Life and is a blogger. She writes these articles based on her experience (Success and Failures). She does this with hope to help and ease the pain of at-least one parent as they face the challenges of parenting. Read more from the About Us Page

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2 Responses

  1. film says:

    Say, you got a nice blog. Really looking forward to read more. Awesome. Nancey Judah Lynda

  2. Thank you for writing a thorough and comprehensive article. I was thinking about your example of asking your child did they brush their teeth when in fact you know they didn’t. These types of questions focus on truth-telling instead of the behavior you’re desiring your kid brushing their teeth. Wouldn’t it be better to ask, “When are you going to brush your teeth?”

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