Parenting Advice on Lying

By Audrey Marlene

Parenting Advice on Lying

Parenting Advice - Why do Children Lie?

One of the main reasons children lie is due to the parent’s reaction to the truth. They learn from an early age how you react when they speak the truth and develop their own way of delivering events in their life to you. If you can handle the truth, you will most often get the truth from your child. If you yell or punish the child when they are being forthcoming, they will clam up and lie every time they mess up or make a mistake.

Children must understand from a very early age that mistakes are a normal part of growing up. However, this concept will not be understood by the child if through trial and error they are put down. Each day children are exposed to new situations and are unaware of how to approach them. They make choices that may not necessarily be the appropriate ones but the only way a child can learn is by making mistakes. Even though you may have told your child not to do something, or explained the dangers of doing something, your child will at times curiously attempt things that you don't approve of. When your children make mistakes, your reaction will determine whether or not they will want to hold back or speak the truth. If your children know that their parents are understanding and will not freak out, they will feel comfortable to open up to you.

I remember when I did something as a young girl that my parents disapproved of, I most often had an opportunity to tell my side of the story. I discovered that when I told truth I got punished but when I lied and created a story that pleased my parents I seldom got punished. I was programmed by my parents who loved me tremendously and didn't want me to lie that if I lied I wouldn't get punished. I continued to lie and got away with it so many times. When I became a parent it was something I knew I had to change for my child. I made a decision to reward the truth and punish lying. My daughter knows that it is safe to speak the truth no matter how bad she thought it was. But she also knew that lying had severe consequences no matter how small. I'm quite sure she got away with a few lies once in a while – our kids aren't perfect, but I have clearly seen how that system positively worked for our family. Now today at 22 she often reminds me of how effective my system was in helping her to have a close relationship with me over the years.

When your child makes a mistake or does something that is inappropriate or unacceptable, you the parent may feel angry or disappointed in your child and your immediate response it to ask "why did you do that?" or "what were you thinking?" or get angry. This is what your child senses and immediately makes the decision to lie. Instead take the approach that will help your child to grow. If your children are being honest and forthcoming about something they did and you feel yourself getting angry, bite your tongue. Hold in the emotions to allow your child to speak the truth. When they are finished, thank them for speaking the truth no matter how bad it sounds to you. You are the adult and you can exercise some self-control here. Let them know it was a brave of them and that you are proud of them for telling the truth instead of lying. By rewarding the truth you are reinforcing good habits.

Give yourself some time to calm down by walking away from your children. Remember they will be surprised that you are reacting this way but relieved that they told the truth. Keep in mind that children want to tell the truth. They want to be able to open up to you – they love you and want a good relationship with you. When they lie to you they feel guilty and bad inside. This causes them to pull away from you because they are keeping a secret. It can prevent the close relationship you desire to have with your children from happening. Allow your children to feel safe to speak the truth.

Once you feel calm, sit down with your child to teach them the lessons to be learned from their mistakes. Remember as a parent you are mentor and teacher. Go over the incident with them and try to determine what was going through your child's mind when they messed up. Learn how your child rationalizes when they are making decisions. Point out they could have made a better choice and help them see how to make better choices for the future. If you don’t give your child these valuable tools how can you expect great decisions in the future?

If you carry this attitude you can have greater success in getting the truth from your child when these situations arise.

By having this attitude:

  • It can bring you closer to your children. There will no secrets causing them to be aloof.
  • Your children will trust you more and may even want to approach you ahead of time to ask for advice on how to tackle a situation. When they can do this it gives them the ammunition they need to become more confident children.
  • Helps to build your child's self-esteem. When a child lies it can cause them to internalize that they are "bad." You as the adult must help them to open up to you so these negative feelings are not cherished.
  • Your child sees you as a team player and not the enemy.
  • It keeps the lines of communication open between you and your child. This is an important step in staying abreast with all the growing changes your child will face growing up. It's important to be aware of what's happening in their lives.
  • It removes any form of judgmentalism by you and this makes you more approachable for your child. When we as humans feel judged, we have a tendency to assume a detached attitude. So it is with your children. How do you feel when you are put down or chastised for making a mistake? Take the approach you would want someone to take with you.

Help your child tell the truth by being able to handle the truth. If you cannot handle the truth don't expect to hear the truth – you will most often be lied to. It's that simple!

Parenting Advice - Children Lie to Boost Self-Esteem

Some children may exaggerate or make up stories in order to get noticed or get the attention of others. They may lie about having something or going somewhere cool to compensate for feelings of inferiority. The children who suffer from low self-esteem are the ones predisposed to this kind of behavior. They do it to impress others and in the process it makes them feel better about themselves.

When children lie to make themselves look good, this is a huge red flag that a parent must get clued into. If you have created an atmosphere of rewarding the truth and you child still is not forthcoming, you can suspect some feelings of low self-worth. If this is not addressed and the child continues to think badly of themselves they will later run into more serious problems as they get older, trying harder each day to feel important and valuable. They will begin to believe they are no good, perform poorly in school, and start to withdraw from social situations and society. You may begin to see them hanging around other questionable kids because they are in search of acceptance and a feeling of worth.

You the parent must be tuned into your child's behavior. When your child lies even after you have removed the fear of being punished, recognize that there may be some other underlying reasons.

Signs of Low Self-Esteem in your Child.

  • Exaggerated stories or making up stories about him/herself.
  • Refuses to try new things no matter how much you coax them.
  • Gets frustrated easily and gives up.
  • Speaks badly/critical about themselves.
  • See most things in a negative light, very pessimistic
  • Don't excel in school, unwilling to try. They don't carry high standards or expectations of themselves.
  • Tend to be bullies, getting in trouble quite often.
  • Hang around questionable kids

Pay attention to the clues. Determine if your child is expressing any of these signs and find ways to help your children feel better about themselves. This can help to alleviate some of those bad habits kids participate in to compensate for what they lack within.

Parenting Advice - Other Reasons Children Lie

When Parents Lie

You are your child's role model. If you are in the habit of lying, your child will lie as well. Our children observe our actions each step of the way. They hear the way you reason with people. They listen to your methods of negotiation. They hear when you embellish stories and stretch the truth to get them involved in or out of participating in some activity. They may not confront you about it, but it registers with them that lying is acceptable.

There are times when children ask tough questions and we feel the answer may not be appropriate so we lie to protect them. No matter what the answer is, it can be worded in a way to tell the truth in an age appropriate way. If you stop for a moment and think about it you can most often find an appropriate way to say just about anything.

Children are taught to lie by their parents when dishonesty is practiced in the home. Children are perceptive and pick up very easily on these things. As parents we do it when our kids are very small and not cognizant of our lies. Once this habit is developed it's a hard thing to stop and before you know it your kids are grown and have been observing this pattern of behavior over the years. If you want honest children then you must set an honest example for them. Don't expect honesty when you are dishonest.

To Get Something They Want

Children know how to manipulate or negotiate to get what they want from a very early age. When they are very small it may seem cute and they are allowed to get away with it. This sends the message it's ok to manipulate. As they grow, they learn to do and say persuasive things, even it means lying just to have their way. Some kids pay the greatest of compliments just to get into your good graces and then make their demands. Others may lie that they have finished their assignments or whatever demands you have made in order to get their reward. And if they are rewarded their lie is reinforced and they do not hesitate to try it again. As they grow older, the lies become greater and can potentially destroy lives. In order to end this type of behavior the parent must be able to redirect the child by making them aware of what they are doing and show them a fair way of getting what they want where everyone wins.

To Protect a Loved One

Some kids may feel obligated to defend the ones they love by lying. Quite often in these situations children may even be sworn to secrecy and lying is the only way they see best to protect their loved ones. Some children lie to protect a friend or family member's feelings. In order to help your child handle a situation like this, it is important to keep the lines of communication open so your child. By doing so your children would feel uncomfortable withholding information from you and instead share their feelings with you. It all goes back to you and how approachable your child perceives you to be. Allow your child to grow without guilt, shame or low self-value. You the adult and parent must create an open and honest environment for them to thrive.

Parenting Advice - Help Your Child to Be More Honest

We have focused on children and lying. Always bear in mind that the act of lying for the most part is intentionally done. Therefore, it can be changed if you make the necessary changes in your approach. If left to continue, this behavior can develop to become automatic or even pathologic. You the parent must make a commitment to instigate this change so your children can grow to become honest citizens.

The Parenting Advice below shows how you can help to promote Honesty in your children:

  • Does your child perceive you as someone who lies? Remember you are your child's role model so be more aware of your behavior.
  • Can you handle the truth, no matter how bad it is? Keep in mind, if you want the truth you have to be able to handle it every time. By doing so, it creates a comfortable environment for your child to open up to you. Reward truth and punish dishonesty.
  • Sometimes children lie because they feel they let you down. They feel as if they didn't live up to your expectations. Examine your level of expectations for your child. Is it too rigid? Do you allow room for mistakes?
  • Remember your child is only human and will tend to lie on occasions. When this happens take the softer approach by saying, "I know you made a mistake and that's normal to make mistakes sometimes but let's see how we can prevent this dishonesty in the future." Promote honesty!
  • Encourage open communication and expressiveness. Let your children see you as approachable, not this figure of authority that instills fear.
  • Never tolerate lying. Your child needs to know that lying is unacceptable. That is why you must get in the habit of rewarding the truth.
  • Reward the truth no matter how bad it is. Thank your child for telling the truth and pat them on the back for their courageousness. However, the dishonest behavior must be addressed, especially if it was inappropriate to prevent it from happening again. If it was a first offense then there should be no disciplinary action. If it was addressed before and the behavior was a repeat offense then there should be consequences.
  • When caught lying try to look beyond the lie to determine the underlying cause and address it or seek help to address it. Question your child's self-esteem. Look for any signs of low self-esteem.
  • It's ok to minimize the use of the word "lying" because it does not give an accurate description of what was done. When you use words such as "dishonesty", "untruthful, or insincere", it more appropriately describes the true meaning of what was done and the child have have a better perception of their behavior.

Parenting Advice - Quotes About Children

  • "A child becomes an adult when he realizes that he has a right not only to be right but also to be wrong." - Thomas Szasz

  • "Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you." – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

  • "Level with your child by being honest. Nobody spots a phony quicker than a child." - Mary MacCracken

  • "Son, always tell the truth. Then you'll never have to remember what you said the last time." -Sam Rayburn

  • "To make your children capable of honesty is the beginning of education." - John Ruskin

  • "Honest hearts produce honest actions." - Brigham Young

  • "Children seldom misquote you. They more often repeat word for wordwhat you shouldn't have said." -Mae Maloo

Below is some wonderful parenting advice delivered by Dorothy Law Nolte through her poem:

Children Learn What They Live -

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with recognition, he learns it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world."

As you can see from this article, many of the things our children do are responses to the way we react or behave. Take the parenting advice I have presented for you to examine how you react or respond to your children. As parents we must be willing to examine our approach and behaviors in order to make the changes necessary to produce men and women of great character. Remember, the change we want to see begins with us. If you feel you cannot do it alone, contact a parenting coach who can assist you.

Parenting Advice in summary:

  • Focus on reinforcing honesty and truth
  • Punish dishonesty.


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