Help Me Grow | United Way of Utah County

What To Do When Your Child Lies

When 2-year-old Liam* started crying, his mother Sadie went to investigate. Her two children were playing in their room together and Liam was crying and obviously in distress. After questioning her older daughter, Abigail, who insisted she didn’t know what happened, Sadie decided to check the video feed from the baby monitor. Much to her surprise, Abigail had kicked Liam as they were both on the ladder of the bunk bed. When Sadie showed her daughter the video, Abigail still said she didn’t kick her brother, despite the clear evidence on the video. Lying is common in children. In fact, this study by Kang Lee states that children between the ages of 4 and 17 often lie and that their ability to lie continues to develop into middle childhood. Does that mean that our children will turn into pathological liars? Rest easy, parents. Lee’s research shows that lying is actually a developmental milestone. While knowing that your child is on track developmentally, that doesn’t mean that lying is less frustrating for you as a parent. The first thing we can do as parents is try to understand why our child is lying. Is it to avoid getting in trouble? Did she forget the truth? Is he trying to get your approval? Next, you may be wondering what you can do as a parent when your child lies.

·Consider your child’s age. What you do for your toddler will be different from what you do for your elementary aged child or your teenager. Learn more here.

·Make being honest a family rule. Taking time to teach your child about honesty can help her understand the importance of telling the truth.

·If your child has ADHD, he may be more prone to lying. Children with ADHD tend to be forgetful and impulsive and often this forgetfulness can be misunderstood as lying. Working with your child with ADHD to help her improve her skills may help with this.

· Extra consequences may be in order. Giving your child a warning that there may be an extra consequence for not telling the truth can help motivate your child to be honest. Taking away a privilege or doing extra chores are examples of extra consequences.

· Avoid calling your child a liar. Calling your child a liar can have a negative and life-long impact.

· Make sure your child feels comfortable coming to you. You want your child to feel like they can come to you with anything. Stay calm as you listen to your child and praise him when he tells the truth. Make it clear that there will still be consequences for what he did wrong, but he did the right thing by telling the truth.

These are just a few ideas for how to handle lying in your child. It’s also important to give your child the opportunity to rebuild trust with opportunities to regain privileges as they tell the truth. If lying becomes a serious problem, professional help may become necessary.

*Names have been changed

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