Why Children Lie -- and How to Deal with It

In this article, you will find:

7 Steps

Seven Quick Steps to Dealing with a Lie

Discovering your child has lied can be quite distressing. Lies are often an additional layer of misbehavior (the child misbehaves, and then lies about it) and it's this layer that often makes parents go ballistic. (“I'm furious that you stole my silver coin collection and bought candy with it, but the fact that you lied to me about it, too, well, I can't stand it!”) If you've discovered a lie (“layered” or simple), try this:

It's a Good Idea!

Consistent, compulsive lying is rarely an isolated problem; it's usually a symptom of something else wrong in your child's life. Look at what else is happening. Is she trying to escape an ugly reality? Are you expecting too much from her in terms of behavior limits? Is she getting a lot of attention for her lying?

  • Focus on the misbehavior, not the lie your child used to cover it up.
  • Breathe, run around the block, take 10, calm down. Take as long as you need to take in order to deal with the situation, not the lie, or the fact that your child wasn't honest with you.
  • Talk with your child. Let her know that you aware of the truth. (Be as calm and level-voiced as possible.)
  • Talk about values, and let her know that you don't value lying.
  • Give her the benefit of the doubt (she may be caught in a compound lie).
  • Once the situation she lied about is resolved, talk with her about the problems lying can cause. Knowledge (and your obvious disapproval) will help her avoid lying in the future.
  • If you don't want a child who lies, don't label her a liar. Kids tend to internalize the labels we give them.
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