Why Kids Lie

We all dream of bringing up our kids to be honest individuals. Well, if not for the world outside, we at least expect them to be totally truthful to us. But more often than not, we find them fibbing their way out of everyday situations!


Why do kids lie?

So why do kids have this tendency to lie? Actually the answer is quite simple! They lie for the same reasons that we adults do!! There could be different reasons-

To get out of trouble – Kids might lie to cover up something, hoping to avoid punishment or consequences. For eg.  Scared that mom might punish him for breaking an expensive vase, a kid might say, “Mom, I did not break the vase.”

For personal gain – Kids might lie to manipulate a situation or to set up something. For eg. A kid might tell dad who does not know the routine, “Mom always let me eat chocolates before dinner” hoping to get that candy bar, he knows mom will never let him eat!

To impress – Kids like to make things up and hence exaggerate stories and try to impress others. For eg. A kid saying to his friend, “I caught a big fish last Sunday when I went fishing with dad, it was as big  as our boat.”

To protect someone – They might lie to protect a loved sibling, or friend.

To be polite –  For eg. Why get into trouble when mom asks how’s the food? Better to lie and make her feel good!

To explore and experiment with parent’s responses – Kids are smart. Kids will keep experimenting how much lies they can get away with and then use their experience to drive future situations. They will stretch their limits to see how their parent’s react and respond. They are exploring all the time!

To gain attention – Young children do this more often, but the older ones do it too when they feel parents don’t give them enough attention.  For eg. You might find kids complaining about a non-existent wound, just to get your attention. “I hurt my toe.”

When did my child start lying?

You might wonder when your innocent little bundle of love started lying to you. You’d be surprised to know that kids start lying by around three years of age! The biggest mistake parents make is telling everyone about the little lies and gushing about the cuteness of the kid. The kid soon picks up on cues, and thinks it is ok to lie. What they find cute when the kid is small grows into something unacceptable as the kids grows. This leaves the kid totally confused.

Kids between the ages of 4-6 lie more and by the time they start going to school they can lie convincingly and effortlessly! As they grow older they learn to lie without getting caught as well! To top it they see adults belting out little lies and they are convinced that if mom or dad can lie, it is ok for me to lie too.

What to do when the kid lies?

Be a role model – The first thing to do is be careful of what you speak when the child is around. Their little ears are all around you and they are forever trying to make sense of what you say or do. As a rule, never lie when the kid is around and never lie to the kid. Promising kids something and not keeping your promise, lying to someone about your kids achievement when the kids know it is not true, asking them to lie on your behalf (”tell aunty, I’m not at home”) etc. are some common mistakes we make.

Emphasize the importance of honesty as a family value – You must tell the kid that you would appreciate him telling the truth and it disappoints you when he lies. Read out moral stories like the “Boy who cried wolf”, “Pinocchio” or other local fables which teaches the child how lying can work against him. When they lie, don’t call them a liar, instead ask, “Are you sure that’s what happened?” “Looks like you are not telling the truth.” Be gentle but firm. Make it clear that you did not accept his explanation but do not dig further or confront the child.

Encourage honesty – I tell my kids I will not punish them if they tell me the truth. And I stick to it. Even if that piece of truth makes you want to give them an earful, I just take a deep breath and contain my anger. This has to happen an awful lot of times before they can trust you and know that telling the truth will not get them punished. Kids have this habit of testing waters. They will keep testing you and your responses before they can trust what you say. Praise them when they have been honest. Say things like, “I’m glad you told me the truth.”

Get the child out of situations where he might feel the need to lie – For eg. If he has broken something, instead of asking him if he broke it, try to say, “I see that this thing is broken, let’s see how we can fix this up.” Or if he spills something, “Let’s clean this mess up.” That way he doesn’t have to think about lying to cover up to avoid getting into trouble.

Some kids, especially the older kids, lie purposefully, and they have to be handled differently. It needs more sensitivity to deal with habitual lying and will be dealt with in my next article.

My name is Shubhangi Srikanth and I write under the pen name Titli. I started my blog “the little princess” and it helped me channel my thoughts in the proper direction.
After having worked for more than 12 years in the Pharmaceutical and Banking sector, I now freelance as a content writer for medical and health websites. I have two adorable boys, who have taught me more about life than I could teach them. Being a mother is one of the most fulfilling roles of my life, one that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!