How to deal with a lying child

Five tips to remember
By: Sheri Hitchings Granite Bay View Correspondent
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Sheri Hitchings, married for 47 years, has two children and four grandchildren. As an elementary teacher, learning coordinator, principal, GATE director and student teacher supervisor, she has written articles for more than 25 years.


In the relationship with your child, honesty develops trust and ensures healthy communication and responsibility.

Honesty is the basis of good character. We help our child be healthy mentally and physically when we handle dishonesty as soon as we become aware of it. Most important, be a positive role model who does not lie.

Here is insight into what else a parent can do to help a child who lies.

Caring Parents are Key

A child needs to know his parents care about his welfare and appreciate his contributions, however small and infrequent they may be. Show you value truth and praise your child’s truth.

Communication is also vital. Does your child lie to keep you happy or to keep the teacher happy? The child needs to be reassured that you value the truth much more than the misbehavior. Keep in contact with school personnel. Is there a problem with lying at school, as well? Work with the teacher to monitor your child’s homework, test scores and participation.

Determine Lying Patterns

Keep an ongoing dialogue with your spouse regarding your child and do research on lying to determine what you can do to help your child. Analyze each situation by keeping a diary of your child’s lying patterns, in-cluding specific times and situations that trigger lying. This record-keeping is essential in determining solutions that will be most effective in eliminating problems.

Why Does a Child Lie?

Lies are based on needs. Know what your child’s needs are. Is lying becoming a habitual response? Ask him, and when you find him telling the truth, praise the truth. If the truth is not forthcoming, you have some work to do.

A child often tries to divert blame. A younger child may blame it on an imaginary bad child or a younger child. You can play along with the child, but in the end, he needs to know that it is pretend.

A young child doesn’t have the memory capacity of older children; he simply may not remember all the details, so he leaves out or adds details that don’t make sense. Teach the difference between pretending and lying. The child needs to know why honesty is important. Read books together and have the child identify lying.

An older child may lie to cover up guilt and avoid punishment. Guilt, anxiety and fear are typical emotions.

Compulsive Lying

Habitual lying is compulsive and is more serious and needs consistent confrontation. Look for nonverbal signals that show a child is lying. A younger child may have a look of quiet on his face or he may not look you in the eye. He often looks guilty, displaying no eye contact, ap-pears anxious, unhappy, scared, unsettled, distressed, embarrassed, rejected, worried or trapped.

An older child needs consequences for both the misbehavior and the lying. The child needs to learn that lying is never his best option.

What Else Can Parents Do?

Show you care and then let the child know how he positively contributes to the family. Discuss how you feel about what he is doing to himself when he lies.  Tell him you are disappointed in what he said or did. As a parent, remember lecturing and angry irrational decisions are not helpful in having your child make positive progress.

When your child lies, he needs to know your disappointment, and he needs to be part of the solution and or consequences, including apologizing.