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

Tip #3: Figure Out What He’s Avoiding

When your child is being dishonest, try to understand what might be the reason for lying. Instead of calling him out about the fib, try, "That sounds like a bit of a tale to me. You seem to be afraid to tell me the truth. You don’t have to be scared to talk to me. Let’s take some time right now to figure this out." You’ll get the honesty you’re looking for, as well as information that may help you foster the truth in the future.

Three great stories on lying for younger kids are:

  • The Emperor’s New Clothes
  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf
  • Pinocchio

Tip #4: Have Appropriate Consequences

When your child owns up to doing something wrong, praise her for being honest.

Children who are confronted with the fact that they are telling a lie need to understand that this is unacceptable and, if age appropriate, apologize. I have a good friend who is a child psychologist and she taught me about natural and logical consequences.

Natural Consequences.

When a child is dishonest about completing a task, allow the naturally following events to run their course. For example, if the dishwasher wasn’t loaded and then emptied when it was supposed to be, serve dinner on a paper towel, at least for the child who didn’t do his chore so he understands the consequence of not having clean dishes.

Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts to set them up to tell the truth, they’ll still lie. In the case of the dishwasher scenario, the child’s lie had the potential to complicate the entire family’s dinner routine. After having this pointed out to him, she could put him in charge of setting the table for the rest of the week so he’ll see that clean dishes are necessary for a proper meal. This is actually a combination of natural and logical consequences.

Logical Consequences.

As mentioned previously, having your child carry out a task that relates to the original offense, like setting the table for the family, can help to connect the dots. Dishonesty is also stressful. We want to trust our children as we enjoy them more and it certainly makes life easier. When our children break our trust, we have the right to say, “Your behavior is upsetting to me and is causing me stress. You need to make this up to me somehow.” I tried this tactic a few times with my eight kids and was pleasantly surprised with the results. For example, my 11-year-old daughter recently lied about being the person to take a pile of wet clothes out of the dryer and leave them strewn all over the laundry room floor so she could throw in a skirt she wanted to dry for school that morning. By the time I got home from work, the wet laundry had been stepped on by the dog and a few other family members resulting in my having to rewash the entire load. My daughter finally owned up to what she had done and for the next couple of weeks she volunteered to empty the dryer, fold the laundry and bring it to everyone’s bedrooms as a result of her dishonesty.

Tip #5:  Acknowledge and Appreciate Honesty.

When your child owns up to doing something wrong, praise her for being honest. Say things like, "I’m really glad you told me the truth. I like it when you’re honest." This sends the message that you won’t get upset if your child owns up to something.

Janet Lehman, MSW sums it up in How to Deal with Lying in Children and Teens: “Realize that most kids are not going to lie forever and ever. There is a very small percentage of kids who lie chronically. That’s more difficult for parents to deal with, and it requires professional help. In all my years in working with adolescents, there were very, very few kids that I met who lied chronically for no reason. Usually, kids don’t lie arbitrarily; they have a reason for doing so, no matter how faulty that reason might be. Your child really does know right from wrong, but sometimes he overrides the truth.”

She goes on to say, “I’m a parent too, and I understand that it’s hard not to take that personally or be disappointed. But just remember, your child is trying to solve a problem in an ineffective way. Our job is to teach them how to face their problems head on, and to coach them through these confusing years. Over time, I believe they will learn to do that without lying.”

How do you handle lying in your home? Share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT


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.