5 Ways to Deal With a Child Who Lies

If you have caught your child lying multiple times and now are never quite sure if he/she is telling the truth, Mighty Mommy shares 5 ways you can help your Pinocchio choose honesty over lies before this very bad habit gets him/her into serious trouble.


Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #451

lying pinocchio

At some point, most (if not all) children will lie to their parents. Many times these lies are harmless, brushed aside as cute, little white lies that will make you chuckle, saying things like “the hamster ate my homework.” But some kids struggle with lying much more than others. It’s not the hamster that’s the problem. The problem is when you hear something like, “The teacher had an accident during chemistry class and had to leave by ambulance so he didn’t have time to assign  homework for the past two weeks.” Catch my drift?

If you have caught your child lying multiple times and are never quite sure if he/she is telling the truth or continually lying to you, it’s time to nip this deceitful behavior in the bud.

Mighty Mommy shares 5 ways you can help your Pinocchio choose honesty over lies before this very bad habit gets him/her into serious trouble.

Why Do Kids Lie?

First, it’s important to understand why kids lie. Even though many have great imaginations and can fabricate a story J.K. Rowling would be proud of, there are developmental reasons and particular age groups that tend to lie the most. In Why Do Children Lie, Cheat, and Steal? it’s noted that lying peaks between the ages of 6 and 10: “A study at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, that observed kids at home found that some four-year-olds lied once every two hours; some six-year-olds lied at a clip of every 90 minutes. Lying typically peaks between the ages of 6 and 10; it decreases as kids grow older and start to understand the consequences of lying and the likelihood of getting busted.”

The child's developmental stage plays a large role in why kids begin to fib. Psych Central’s article, When a Child Lies, breaks down these stages:

  • From birth to 3, kids are in a highly confusing world where they are dependent on adults for their very survival. Often what looks like “lies” are either honest mistakes or efforts to protect themselves or to mollify the grownups.
  • Children from ages 3 to 7 are still figuring out the difference between fantasy and reality. They create imaginary worlds in their play.
  • From ages 5 to 10, kids gradually develop an understanding of what it means to lie. If they’ve been raised in a home and neighborhood and school where there are clear rules about the importance of telling the truth, they will do their best to comply.
  • Over 10? They know perfectly well when they are stretching the truth or outright lying.

If you’re dealing with a liar, here are 5 strategies to turn it around.

5 Tips for Dealing with a Lying Child

  1. Tip #1: Model and Stay Cool
  2. Tip #2: Change Your Questioning
  3. Tip #3: Figure Out What He’s Avoiding
  4. Tip #4: Have Appropriate Consequences
  5. Tip #5: Acknowledge and appreciate honesty

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Tip #1: Model and Stay Cool

Though it’s not always easy, we always have to remember that as parents, our kids are observing and watching our every move. Our job is to be consistently good models of honest living. If we want to raise honest kids, we can’t model the opposite. Remember that young ears and eyes are always tuned in. Whether you’re failing to correct the cashier at the burger joint who gives you too much change or making up a story about why you can’t volunteer at the school fundraiser, remember your actions set the example for acceptable behavior.

Next, stay calm. Getting angry with your kid because he lied or did something wrong will take the focus off the issue and instead put the focus on how you are reacting to what he did. Are you pretty sure your kid lied to you? Before dealing with it, go to your happy place, count to 10 and stay calm. Once you’re able to talk to him in a calm manner, now you can approach the situation. If your kids are worried about being punished or yelled at when they mess up, they won’t feel safe telling you the truth.

Tip #2: Change Your Questioning

Don’t give your child the opportunity to lie by asking questions to which you already know the answer. For example, instead of asking, "Did you walk the dog when you got home from school?", try, "Do you plan on walking Buster right before you do your homework or right after dinner?” If your child hasn’t walked the dog yet, he can save face by focusing on a plan of action rather than inventing a story.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.