Why do children lie and how can we encourage them to tell the truth?

One of the big things for me as a parent is for my children to trust me.

I want them to know that I’ll be true to my word, that they can trust that I’ll be there for them and that, as much as possible, I’ll be honest with them.

Of course there are little white lies, and there are things like Santa that are all part of the magic of childhood.  Sometimes I think we do need to bend the truth a bit to protect our children and let them keep their innocence a little.

For the most part though we’re taking the honest road.

And I’m hoping it will lead to my children being honest too.

I know there will be lies along the way of course, because with all the will in the world we do all lie now and then, for various reasons.  So why do children lie?  And what can we do to encourage them to tell the truth?

Why children lie

Why do children lie?

There are a few different reasons why children might lie, and children of different ages might also do it for different reasons.

Most of the time though it boils down to either wanting to avoid getting into trouble or having to do something they don’t want to do, or to make themselves look better and to impress other people.

Even young children will lie and say they weren’t the ones to spill the milk, or paint the dog, or eat the chocolate if they think they’ll get in trouble for doing it.

And as children get older you might find that they start exaggerating a bit, or making things up completely, to impress their friends at school.

One thing that’s worth bearing in mind is that lying is a completely natural part of a child’s development.  It shows that they have developed a theory of mind, which means that they’re aware that other people have knowledge and experience that is different to their own.

 

So how can we encourage children to tell the truth?

  • Be honest with them

This is so important.  Get rid of any ‘do as I say not as I do’ thinking.  As parents we really need to model the behaviour we want to see in our children.

So tell them the truth as much as possible.  If you make a mistake, let them see you being honest and owning up to it.  If you give in to cravings one night and eat their chocolate bar, don’t lie about it the next day.  Be honest and apologise, then make it up to them as soon as you can.

 

  • Work out why they’re lying

If you can understand their motivation for lying then you can talk to them about it and find a better way to do things together.

 

  • Praise honesty

When your child does tell you the truth about something, make a point of saying thank you to them for being honest.  Make it clear that you would always rather know the truth so that you can help them and move forwards together.

 

  • Use books and stories to talk about lying

Reading stories like ‘the boy who cried wolf’ with your children can be a good way to start a conversation about lying and how it can end up with people never believing anything you tell them.  I also watch out for any storylines in the tv programmes they watch that involve things like lying, because I find that’s a great way to start chatting to the children about it.

 

  • Don’t call them a liar

Be really careful with giving your child this label of being ‘a liar’, even if you catch them in a blatant lie.  It can so easily become a part of the way they identify with themselves, and they’ll potentially be more likely to keep on lying in the future, if they believe that they are ‘a liar’.

 

  • Don’t get angry

If you sense that they want to tell you something but are nervous then make it clear that you won’t get angry about whatever it is that has happened.  The key here is obviously to stay true to your word, and stay calm and not get angry when they tell you!

Last year we went through a phase with Rhys where he was getting wound up by children in his class, and lashing out.

Each day on the way home I would ask him if he had been angry that day, and if he had hit anyone.  He would generally hesitate to answer, before I reminded him that I wouldn’t be angry with him about it.  And so he would then admit that he had been angry that day.

By getting him to be honest, and staying calm about it myself, we were then able to talk through what had happened to make him so angry and what he could do differently next time instead of lashing out.

 

I hope that by keeping calm, and letting our children know that they can always talk to us will lead to them being honest with us as they get older.  I would always rather know what my children are getting up to, even if it’s not exactly what I would like them to be doing!

Do your children tell many lies?  Do you have any more advice for encouraging honesty as children get older?

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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15 Comments

  1. Pen 20/01/2018 / 10:59 pm

    When do children start lying? Cygnet is 3 years and 4 months. I am not really aware of him lying yet. I don’t know whether that’s because he is not lying or whether I am just not seeing it. Oh well, I’ll let you know . All the best. Pen x #KCACOLS

  2. Becky @ Educating Roversi 21/01/2018 / 9:48 am

    My son is 3.5 and we’ve had the odd fib but nothing major. I totally agree with everything you say and one of my biggest annoyances is people who lie constantly so I’m very keen on ensure my children are honest. #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 28/01/2018 / 4:04 pm

      I think honesty is a pretty important trait, I really hope that my children do grow up to be honest as much as possible. x

  3. Tracey 21/01/2018 / 4:41 pm

    This is definitely something all kids go through, isn’t it? Now Olivia is older, I feel like we’ve gotten past this stage mostly but even when she does try to her face gives her away lol #kcacols

    • This glorious life 28/01/2018 / 4:02 pm

      Yep I think pretty much all children go through a stage of lying, it’s all part of learning isn’t it? x

  4. Kelly | and Jacob makes three 21/01/2018 / 8:10 pm

    We haven’t reached the lying stage yet, but I’m not looking forward to it! Interesting read. Totally agree about not getting angry. #KCACOLS

  5. Bread 21/01/2018 / 10:09 pm

    Good advice. I’m not at the lying stage but my niece has been through it and we never called her a liar because it just seemed cruel. #kcacols

  6. Laura | Dot Makes 4 24/01/2018 / 2:12 pm

    This is really great advice. I’ve shared this post with my friend is having trouble with her son lying a lot. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time 🙂

    • This glorious life 28/01/2018 / 3:58 pm

      Thank you for sharing, I hope it helps your friend! x

  7. Natasha Mairs 28/01/2018 / 1:59 pm

    My youngest is 7 and is always lying to get out of trouble. But me and his dad can always tell when he is lying, but it’s been quite hard learning him that lying is not good and will just get him in even more trouble #KCACOLS

    • This glorious life 28/01/2018 / 3:58 pm

      It’s a really tricky one isn’t it, I think for us it’s about making sure that the children know that we won’t react angrily when they tell us the truth about what they’ve done. I’m hoping that will pan out well for the future! x

  8. Lisa Pomerantz 28/01/2018 / 10:13 pm

    Thanks so much for this great article. Honesty is so important to our family. White lies, sure, they are needed at times. Like to explain a hard news story (prez) or Santa and such. But it is paramount to have honesty at the core. Thank you! #kcacols

  9. Mummy and the Mexicans (Ruth) 02/02/2018 / 5:13 pm

    I totally agree with you that children learn much more by our example than from what we tell them to do or not to do. You made some very useful points. #KCACOLS

  10. Carolynne @ Mummy Endeavours 02/02/2018 / 7:06 pm

    Great post. Kids do tell some funny ones. My friends son told me he needed glasses one time. He didn’t. Haha #kcacols

    • This glorious life 04/02/2018 / 8:32 pm

      Haha, you have to wonder where they get their ideas from sometimes don’t you! x

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