Sometimes, you might think that children do not lie. However, in reality, children do it at one point or another. When addressing this problem, children’s age, circumstances and reasons for the lie, and frequency need to be taken into consideration. For instance, children younger than six years of age may lie to express their imagination since they struggle to clearly distinguish between fantasy and reality.

Very often, you think that children lie to get what they want, avoid a consequence, or something they do not want to do. However, children may be motivated to lie for various other reasons including:

  • Test out new behaviour

Very often, children are intrigued by novel ideas. Therefore, once they discover that they can lie, they might enjoy trying it out.

  • Establish an identity, enhance self-esteem and gain approval

Sometimes, children lie to establish an identity, even if that identity is false. By telling grandiose lies, children who lack confidence might inflate their self-esteem by believing that others are perceiving them as more impressive, special or talented.

  • Shift the focus from themselves to others

Children with anxiety or depression might lie about their symptoms to get the focus off themselves or minimize their issues to avoid worrying others.

  • Speaking before they think

Impulsivity, which is especially common in children with ADHD, may result in lying.

  • Get attention

Very young children might lie to get attention, especially if they know that no consequences will follow.

  • Avoid hurting other’s feelings

Sometimes, parents teach their children to bend the truth to avoid hurting someone who went out of his/her way for us.

Whenever children lie, you need to:

  • Identify the root cause

By identifying the underlying cause, parents will be in a better position to understand their children.

  • Make children comfortable going to them

When offering safety, security and support, children are more likely to talk to you without having to worry that you will be angry.

  • Give children consequences

Consequences, as opposed to punishment, focus on correcting the misbehavior. Thus, you are encouraged to discuss with their children the importance of facing up their actions and work with them to come up with an appropriate task to make up for their mistake.

  • Refrain from calling children liars and assess your own behaviour

Labels hurt and they impact the way children view themselves. When called liars, children may believe that they actually are and act accordingly. Moreover, you need to ask yourself whether they too resort to lying when they want to avoid a situation or get what they want.

  • Be clear about expectations

Children need to know that lying is not accepted within your household and that they are expected not to lie as they are expected to respect you.

  • Talk about the effects of lying

Children also need to know that lying can also break trust.

Telling lies is a natural part of child development and, in most cases, children grow out of this behaviour. However, do not hesitate to talk with a professional if your child is lying repeatedly and frequently despite your consequences and reassurances.

Johanna Cutajar is a Master in Counselling graduate from the University of Malta. She works with children and adolescents as a counsellor within the education sector on a variety of issues including relationship issues, trauma, bereavement, transitions, and general mental health.


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