10 Ways to Get Your Kids to Stop Lying


stop lying

Have you ever given your kids the fresh breath test? If you have a child who tends to lie, you probably have! It works like this: You ask: “Did you brush your teeth?” Your child answers, “Yes.” “Okay,” you say, “let me smell your breath.” It’s pretty obvious if your child hasn’t brushed his teeth. Once you’ve found out your child isn’t telling the truth, you can start taking the steps to stop the lying.

Honesty is the basis for any relationship because it develops trust and, upon that foundation, simple things like communication and responsibility rest. When a child lies, that trust is broken and relationships suffer. Parents often don’t know how to handle dishonesty and common discipline techniques don’t quite address the problem. A more comprehensive plan is usually necessary since dishonesty often has several components. Here are 10 ways to get your child to stop lying.

1. Talk about reality and truth and how they are different from fantasy, wishes, possibility, pretend, and make believe.

Require that children use cues to identify anything other than reality. Here are some ideas:

“I think it happened this way.” “I think this is the answer.” “I’m not sure…” “Maybe…” (possibility) “I wish this were true.” “I’d like it if…” (wish)

“I’d like to tell you a story…” “I can imagine what it would be like to…” (fantasy)

2. When you sense a child is beginning to stray from the truth, stop them.

“I want you to stop talking for a minute.” Sometimes children just get started and can’t stop. Parents can help teach them. “Think for a minute and then start again. I’d like to hear the things you know separated from the things you think.” “Start again and tell me how it really happened. Just the parts you are sure of.”

3. If a child has ADHD or is impulsive, use a plan for self-discipline.

Sometimes children who are impulsive blurt out things without thinking. Other times they start talking and don’t know how to stop. This impulsivity component can lead to dishonesty because of a lack of self-control. It’s not always malicious lying, but it’s still not good and shouldn’t be excused because the problem often gets worse. Even though children may have poor impulse control, they must learn to tell the truth {Tweet This}. The route, though, may contain more self-discipline training than some of the other suggestions.

4. A courtesy generally given in relationships is called the benefit of the doubt.

When a child has developed a pattern of lying, we don’t automatically give that courtesy. Believing someone requires trust and it’s a privilege which is earned. Privilege and responsibility go together and when a child is irresponsible then privileges are taken away. For a time, the things your child says are suspect. You may even question something that is found to be true later. A child may be hurt by this, but that hurt is the natural consequence of mistrust which in turn comes from lying. Being believed is a privilege earned when children are responsible in telling the truth on a regular basis.  Not believing your child may seem mean, but your child must learn that people who don’t tell the truth can’t be trusted. Tell your child that you would like to believe him or her but you cannot until he or she earns that privilege.

5. Some situations won’t be clear and some children will deliberately lie to avoid punishment.

You find yourself in a predicament because proof seems impossible, yet you have a sense that this child is not telling the truth. When possible, don’t choose that battleground. It’s too sticky and you will usually have other clearer opportunities later. Children who have a problem with lying, demonstrate it often. Choose the clearer battles and use those situations to discipline firmly. Use taking a break and the positive conclusion and maybe other consequences if necessary. Here’s how taking a break and a positive conclusion work.

6. Confrontation should result in repentance.

This may seem unrealistic at first but keep it in mind as your goal. Children who are confronted with the fact that they are telling a lie should immediately agree and apologize. A child who is defensive is relying on arguing and justifying as manipulative techniques in order to avoid taking responsibility. This is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. Use Taking a Break to motivate the child to repentance.

7. You may, for an introductory period of time, in order to motivate repentance when confronted, withhold further discipline if a child responds properly to correction.

“If you can admit it was a lie and that you were wrong when I confront you, I will not further discipline you for that lie.” This is a temporary approach to teach a proper response to correction.

8. Be proactive in teaching about honesty.

Tell stories from your life or read stories like:

  • The Emperor’s New Clothes
  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf
  • Pinocchio
  • Ananias and Sapphira from The Bible

You can also read 6 Ways to Keep Your Kids Honest.

9. Give an outlet for creative writing or storytelling to further emphasize the difference between fantasy and reality and a proper use of fantasy.

10. Memorizing proverbs dealing with honesty is a way to appeal to a child’s conscience.

These suggestions will go a long way toward helping a child tell the truth. Don’t let this problem go. It only gets worse. Continual, persistent work will pay off in the end.

 

Let’s Talk: How have you stopped your children from lying?

Comments


  • Fred

    Good article! I find a big reason for our kids lying (two girls – one boy) is due to them testing boundaries, and fear of punishment and simply getting caught! I have always tried raising our kids with a strong hand, loving heart, and good communication during those events. When a lie is discovered, both his mother and I sit with our child, give them the opportunity to tell us “their thoughts, reasoning’s, etc.”. This identifies to me a growth in logic with age (or not). They will usually deny anything at first, but then I remind them that they are God’s children, not ours (this catches their attention) – and that He has simply loaned them to us (wifey and me – 🙂 ) – to raise – for Him! We confirm how important that job is, with them, and gain agreement (now we are starting to align our child’ thoughts with ours – in preparing for the coming discussion). We have always tried to instill “Grace” into our discovery of a lie. I like to think that my wife and I really try to give our kids “Permission” to tell us the truth!. When they were younger they got spanked (I know, I know…), so the framework was instilled at a young age that testing boundaries past acceptable range, had consequences with a certain part of their body – namely bottom. When they got older is when the concept of – granting permission to our kids to tell us the truth – and giving “Grace” when they do, started and has worked pretty well. You see, when I was growing up, I never had that “permission” to tell my parents the truth, so I hid from it, sometimes. Don’t get me wrong… there is still punishment for the lie/disrespect – sometimes tough, sometimes not. But we deliver the punishment (no electronics, grounded, chores and combos of ea.). Then comes the comments about the only true currency in life being Character and Integrity – and how they are the only ones that can get rid of that value, of which our family holds so dear! I always ask the question at the end… ” Now tell me why you got punished!” – This really gives my wife and I the ability to see if the “understanding” of the punishment is there for their actions. It gives us a chance to clarify – at that moment – any miscommunications on the punishment fitting the crime (if you will). My wife and I make it a point to say with feeling, that we love you (to our kids) right after that, and try to hug – sometimes the kids want to , sometimes not! That’s OK, too! My wife and I are our kids parents, not necessarily their friend – and as I tell my kids jokingly sometimes (maybe not so jokingly)… You mother and I are Charged with raising you, after the Lord answered our prayers to receive you – which means that sometimes we have to look after your best interest when you are either unable or unwilling to do so, yourself! – Fred

    • Catherine Taylor

      Is there a book you learned this from?

      • Melanie Greene

        Cynthia Tobias book “You can’t Make Me” deals with strong willed children and has some things about lying in there. She has a gentle approach that gives the child a chance to change his behavior before a consequence has to be instilled.

  • Surrounded by Weak Minds

    11. Whip their butts.

    • Mar

      Amen. That kept me and my siblings in line. May not work for all kids, but I think it helps a lot for the majority.

    • Lost

      My husband tried this, and a few days later we were contacted by Social
      Services and forced to take her to the ER that day in order to prove
      that she doesn’t have old injuries or internal injuries! Why? Because
      during her spanking she tried to cover her bottom with her hand, and was
      left with a small bruise on her knuckle. She went to school and
      “bragged” about this bruise, telling her friends at school that her
      father “beat her”. This is a child who has NEVER had a spanking in her
      life, all discipline actions have always been “grounding”, “sit on the
      couch”, “go to your room”, etc. This time he decided enough is enough,
      and she got a spanking – on her bottom. This child is only 11. She has
      told so many lies I don’t know when to believe her and when not to.

      • Surrounded by Weak Minds

        That’s too bad. The simple solution would be to give enough spankings to correct her behavior.

        • caseycolette

          You know what I have found works on my eleven year old daughter? She lies and lies and lies and will continue lying even when caught for an hour when all the proof is there. I have found making her squat on a wall with her arms out works better than grounding taking away electronics. Time out. Early bed. Spankings. Lecturing. Nothing works. But squatting on the wall for an hour or more with her arms out?
          This is the ONLY thing I have found to have any kind if reaction/affect on her. If she whines about it or stands up I make her squat longer. If she cries about that imakr her do fifty frog squats and back to the wall. I guess its mean BC her legs hurt badly the nextday but it is also a reminder the next day that lying to me for an hour insisting over and over she didn’t do something that we KNOW for a fact she did do.. Is prob not the best idea.

          • Natasha Feagins

            Wow! I would consider that abuse!!

      • Michele Mayes-Gerra

        So, what happened after you took her to the ER? Did Social Services speak with her? Did either you or Social Services tell her what the consequences could have been… IF Social Services had believed her?

  • puzzled.daily

    Good tips. I think with mine it is unfortunately his first instinct–even about trivial matters. Whether he thinks it will save him from imaginary discipline or whether it’ll make him somehow look better in some way. It’s very frustrating. I’m kind of at my wit’s end because I’ve done all the tricks, for a couple years now, and it comes back like an infection. There may be little white lies I don’t notice for a while but then I catch him in a lie and it usually turns out that lie was covering up a small infestation of lies.

    Together we’ve even read parts of Sam Harris’s Lying, which I think should be required for all human beings, not just liars.

  • B.W.

    We are having major issues with my 6 year olds lying and pride. When confronted she will deny the lie at any cost. Even when all the proof is there and we are simply informing her that she has been caught in a lie, she will deny it. We have spanked, cancelled play dates and birthday parties, taken away sweets, and electronics. She acts like none of it bothers her and stands her ground. We have read bible stories about lying and pride and still she continues to lie. Her teacher at school is even concerned. Not so much because of the lie she told, but because of how deep her pride ran. What can we do? I want to put a stop this and we feel like we have tried everything. We are at wits end. She is and has always been a strong willed child and we have read different books to help parents deal with his temperament and it’s been helpful to this point. But now… it’s at a different level. Help!!!!

    • Helena

      I’m in the same boat. A child I babysit all the time, a 4yr old girl, lies abt EVERYTHING. Her mom and I are worried bc it’s getting her in trouble at school. Now her 3yr old brother is starting.
      We try talking to her, taking things, time out. Nothings worked. She gets in more trouble for her lies but for some reason it’s not sinking in.

    • Emilly Tan

      I have the same problem with my 11th year old daughter. I just dont know that to do to her.

  • Dominique

    my son is only 5 turning on 6 and he lies like its normal for him even if all the evidence is there he would cry and insist that it is not him, we have tried everything even counselling but so far nothing is working nothing at all, i even tried the bible and all the books and stories, am at a loss, please someone help me….

  • Joylynn Kerr

    This article is awesome! Thank you for sharing! Currently I am dealing with a seven year old with a tough background that has learned the trait of lying through his upbringing with his biological mother. His gather and I have tired so many different things to understand him and figure out what it is that makes him lie. We have gone as far as taking his toys away and not having him do anything he would normally do. Now this has not been making a difference in his actions. At school he is doing things and lying about them to myself, and sometimes his dad. It has been happening for too long and we can not seem to get it to stop no matter what approach we have taken. The first few years of his life were spent with his mother and her abusive husband. While there, he was exposed to abuse of his mother and himself, as well as marijuna, so much that it was in system. He was taken to a foster home until his father was able to get full custody, which was only for a month or less. He is in our constant care,a nd visits his mother every summer per court order as she has taken parenting classes etc and has been granted visitation. The situation is not ideal and I want so badly to make him into a fine young man and help his attitude and teach him to stop lying. If anyone has any suggetions I would greatly appreciate it! Thank you so much for your time!

    • Layla

      Sounds like he learned to lie as a matter of survival almost. If you’ve only had him for a month (if I read the correctly), he may not feel safe yet. And he might feel like that’s how he controls situations that are otherwise out of his control. When he is caught in a lie at home, show him why he didn’t have to cover up the deed. Sometimes apologies are enough, or just doing your best to make something right, etc. And by all means model truthfulness… he’ll never learn it if he sees you telling ‘little white lies.’ Be sure to pray for him, with him. Let him hear you pray for all those wonderful attributes. So powerful!

      • Joylynn Kerr

        Thank you for that! He has been under our constant care for for just under four years. I completely agree that he uses his lying as a way to hide something. We’ve been trying really hard to get it through it through to him that lying is not okay, and he is safe here to tell the truth no matter what.