How to Stop Children from Lying

Telling lies is associated with knowing right from wrong. That's why it's fundamental that children readily know the consequences of their actions.
How to Stop Children from Lying

Last update: 27 September, 2019

Usually, children lie in the interest of self-preservation. They want to avoid punishment for doing something that wasn’t allowed in the first place. Nonetheless, many parents become concerned and they wonder how they can stop children from lying.

Lying is a resource used by everyone as a defensive mechanism. People use lies to advance their self-interest or as a response to something out of their control. In the case of children, however, lying generally arises in a more innocent way.

How do I get my children to stop lying?

Lying is an innate trait of being human. This means that it’s part of our nature. In addition, people are prone to lying due to a series of factors like shame, fear, avoidance, and the need for acceptance.

It’s important to understand children’s intentions in telling lies. Parents need to try to curb their impulse to lie to their family and friends. When it becomes a recurring habit for your child to lie and evade responsibility, it’s good to try to put a stop to that behavior.

How to Stop Children from Lying

At what age do children start to lie?

This depends on their level of maturity, of their recognition of the difference between good and bad, and the need to take responsibility in their daily lives.

Children start to lie in a more elaborate and conscious way beginning at age 6 or 7.

However, it’s important that parents adopt the right attitude if and when they catch their child in a lie. Parents should be largely understanding of the child so you can try to understand their motives for lying. The child may be lying out of fear, innocence, the use of his or her imagination, or even because of self-esteem problems.

How should I handle the situation when children lie?

To stop children from lying, you should start with a very serene and understanding attitude once you discover the deception. It’s important that, at the beginning, you don’t judge the child or criticize them too harshly.

It’s not wise to ridicule or shame them in front of others for their actions. This may make them lose trust in you and damage their sense of self-worth.

How to stop children from lying: Talk to them about the consequences

What you should do is sit down with your children and talk to them about their behavior and their reasons for lying. What compelled them to try to deceive you or another person? This is important whether it was their teachers, friends, siblings, or relatives.

You should have an open and honest conversation about morals and values so your child quickly learns that lying has serious consequences. The main point to make is that one’s credibility will be affected by this.

Children need to realize they can cause harm to others by lying. They may inadvertently create even larger problems with authority figures, like their teachers, for example.

The use of literature as an illustration and lesson

One of the most useful tools for teaching little ones about the consequences of lying is through children’s literature. Stories are a great way to get children to think about the consequences of their actions and teach them moral lessons.

Children are highly sensitive to stories and accounts because of their ability to immerse themselves in an imaginary world. Through stories, children can affectively and cognitively experience the lives of others.

How to Stop Children from Lying

It’s for this reason that authors like Carlo Collodi developed the Adventures of Pinocchio. The immaturity and his enthusiasm for telling lies put the main character of this classic tale in all kinds of trouble.

It was only after a long struggle that Pinocchio achieves the happy ending that he so wanted for himself and his father Geppetto.

There is also the classic fable about Peter and the Wolf that teaches the negative consequences of lying. A young sheepherder is devoured by a wolf because he had previously given many false warnings to the townspeople and his family.

As a final recommendation, you want to try to encourage your child to see the good in being honest. Show your child the advantages that come from being sincere and kind.

Adopting the right attitude when you catch your children lying will also help you build a more solid bond. If you’re understanding and use the lie as a teaching moment, you will make your children realize they really can count on you no matter what.  Make your children feel that you’ll always be accepting and loving despite their mistakes and faults.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bach, K. & Harnish, R. M. (1979). Linguistic: Communication and speech acts. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Casas Rivera, R., & Zamarro Arranz, M. L. (1990). La mitomanía en la clínica actual. A propósito de un caso clínico. Revista de La Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría.
  • Dithrich, C. W. (1993). Pseudologia fantastica, dissociation, and potential space in child treatment. Master Clinicians on Treating the Regressed Patient, Vol. 2.
  • King, B. H., & Ford, C. V. (1988). Pseudologia fantastica. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica.
  • Leekam, S. R. (1992). Believing and deceiving: Steps to becoming a good lier. En S. J. Ceci, M. Desimone & M. Putnik (Eds.), Social and cognitive factors in early deception (pp. 4762). Hillsdale, NJ: L.E.A.
  • Sotillo, M., & Rivière, Á. (2001). Cuando los niños usan las palabras para engañar: la mentira como instrumento al servicio del desarrollo de las habilidades de inferencia mentalista. Infancia y aprendizaje, 24(3), 291-305.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.