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Why children lie!

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Do you feel that sometimes your child does not tell you the truth? Are you worried that you can’t trust them anymore and feel that you would like to improve your relationship?  Children start to learn to lie from a young age because they are trying to make sense of the world and learn about what is right and wrong. When children repeatedly tell lies, such as telling you that they are somewhere they are not, then it can be very concerning, and we need to think of ways to manage this.


“Everyone lies at some point, but not all lies are the same.  People lie and tell the truth to achieve a goal, we lie if honesty won’t work.” Quotes researcher Tim Levine.

Why your children may lie:

Based on communication research conducted by Evelyne Debey and others, people will lie for these reasons.

 To protect their self:

  • Cover up: mistakes or misdeeds.
  • Avoidance: escape or evade other people.

  To promote their self:

  • Economic advantage: to gain money.
  • Personal advantage: over the other person, such as inflating their image.
  • Self-impression: shape a positive image of their self.
  • Humour: make people laugh.

  To impact others:

  • Malicious: to hurt others.
  • Social reasons: to be polite or avoid rudeness.
  • Altruistic: to help others.

  Unclear reasons:

  • Pathological: to ignore or disregard reality.
  • Unknown reasons: motives are unclear even to the person doing it.

Finding solutions:

When anyone lies, the person on the receiving end can feel very hurt, disrespected, rejected, manipulated and so on.  How you handle children telling lies, will depend on the situation and severity of the lie. Just like adults, children may tell little white lies about how they spent their pocket money or escalate to big lies that get out of hand such as having money or relationship problems.

Here are a few tips to handle lies:

  • Be truthful yourself because it’s easy to accidentally teach your child how to lie by doing it yourself.
  • Be calm and try to talk to them about why they have lied to you.
  • Show your child that you know they are lying, depending on the circumstances, you may want to say things like.

 “I don’t think that is true” or “I would prefer if you told me the truth.”

  • Sometimes it is best not to give the unwanted behaviour much attention as you are likely to find that they keep doing it.
  • Encourage your children to feel that they can tell you anything by not reacting in a negative way if they tell you something that you don’t like.
  • Praise your child when they are honest with you and build a relationship of trust.
  • Talk to your child about why you want to know the truth, for example you want to know where they are because you want to be able to contact them if you need to.
  • Notice when your child is not telling the truth and tell them how you feel about it.
  • Use consequences if you feel that your child is repeatedly not telling the truth.

Be mindful:

As a parent raising children with honesty, and integrity will help to set them on the right path in life.  Others will be more likely to enjoy their company and have good relationships with them, if they can truly trust them.  This does not mean that children have to tell everyone everything, all of the time, it means that we are mindful to help them to understand more about this very important subject in life.

 Try these tips with the Parent’s Guide to Children’s behaviour programme and see the amazing difference they make.



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  1. A Rachael Ayeni

    Very helpful

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