What To Do When…Your Kid Won’t Stop Lying

Nothing seems to provoke anger quicker in a parent than when is kid straight-up lying. Kids will also lie about the weirdest stuff. I once had a little kid try to convince me that he had built a mansion for himself. What? Where did that come from? Also, can I get one? Who was your contractor?

I’ve had to do a lot of research on this topic because it was stumping me as well. I did not want to embarrass the kid by calling him out because there must be a reason he feels the need to lie. However, I don’t want him to think that it’s okay to lie or damage trust in our relationship.  So let me share what all the experts say!

  1. An adult’s reaction to the Lie is critical. In the book NatureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, they suggest to not threaten kids about getting in trouble if they are lying.  “It turns out that increasing the threat of punishment only turns kids into better and more frequent liars,” Bronson says.  So I guess when you yell, “You’re going to get a spanking if you’re lying!” doesn’t make kids want to tell the truth. 
  2. Never ask a question to a child if you already know the answer. For example, if you saw you child hit their sibling and you ask, “Did you just hit your sister?!” and they say, “I didn’t!!” Now the kid is in trouble for hitting and for lying to you about it, plus they got a lot of attention from you. According to Dr. Gary Landreth, play-therapy guru, you’re setting your kid up for failure and escalating the situation because your own anger is heightened and the kids is even more desperate to save himself.
  3. An increase in lying is a important to notice!  “Any sudden spate of lying, or dramatic increase in lying, is a sign that something has changed in that child’s life, in a way that troubles him: “Lying is a symptom — often of a bigger problem behavior,” explained Dr. Victoria Talwar. “It’s a strategy to keep themselves afloat.”( Nutureshock, Bronson & Merryman)
  4. Fall back on good-ole President George Washington. They did a study on The Boy That Cried Wolf vs George Washing and the Cherry Tree. Turns out, The Boy That Cried Wolf led to an INCREASE in lying (because it was punishment based). Meanwhile, hearing George Washington and the Cherry Tree reduced lying a whopping 75% in boys, and 50% in girls. ( Nutureshock, Bronson & Merryman)
  5. Encourage Truth-telling. What really works is to tell the child, “I will not be upset with you if you lied, and if you tell the truth, I will be really happy.” This is an offer of both immunity and a clear route back to good standing. Talwar explained this latest finding: “Young kids are lying to make you happy — trying to please you.” So telling kids that the truth will make a parent happy challenges the kid’s original thought that hearing good news — not the truth — is what will please the parent.” ( Nutureshock, Bronson & Merryman) It’s not so much as “catching the lie” and more about correcting the behavior to telling the truth.
  6. It’s really important that adults aren’t lying! Kids learn from what they hear and see! If there is one thing I know FOR SURE from being a child counselor is that parents underestimate 1) how much their kids know and 2) how much their kids hear. They know when you’re lying. There’s no hiding. They are always watching…always listening….
  7. Spend some quality time, one on one, with your kid. Listen to what’s going on in their life and work on building a stronger relationship. It’s easier to talk to someone you are close with and feel will listen to you.

Good luck out there and give it some time! Kids respond well when they don’t feel cornered. I’m not lying! …sorry, I had to 🙂

Until next time, xoxo Kristen

Here’s where I got a lot of the info, as well as consulting with other counselors. 

Play Therapy, The Art of the Relationship by Gary Landreth 

NutureShock by Po Bronson and Ashlee Merryman 


*** I cannot figure out how to underline text using WordPress. I know the books should be underlined….so if someone could help a new clueless blogger out, that would be lovely. xoxo

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