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You are here : home > Raising Children > Behavioral Problems > Lying - How it Begins in Children

Lying - How it Begins in Children

Lying can become a habit in children if it is not nipped in the bud by handling it the right way. Read on and find out how children begin to tell lies and how to handle lying in them.

Of all the various behavioural disorders that can affect a child, the worst are the delinquency acts. Acts like lying, stealing truancy and sexual offenses. They are the most difficult to accept or to deal with and require extremely sensitive handling.

But before we term a particular child a liar, we must be sure that the child is actually lying and it is not just his overactive imagination at work. Very often the child could have thought that a particular thing had happened even though this is not actually the case, but this does not necessarily mean that he is lying. He could have even had a realistic dream that he believes to be true like a robber coming into his bedroom or maybe even a dog or a cat. To us these might seem like little lies, but to him, with his limited experiences and different perceptions might be very real indeed.

Don't brand your child a Liar!

Most children normally express what they feel very genuinely. It may seem like an overly exaggerated story or even a lie and then the child gets misunderstood and branded a liar. Be careful here because this would only serve to stunt his entire emotional development. If you can not show him trust then he will ultimately lose confidence in himself and grow into a highly complexed individual.

Once this mistrust sets in, things only get worse when the parents ask his siblings or friends to verify what the child may have said. Or else some parents tend to put their child down in public saying that no one should believe his exaggerated stories. If this sort of attitude continues, then the child begins to doubt his own abilities for understanding events or situations and feels that he can not distinguish between fact and fiction. Then he will gradually withdraw into a shell for fear of his disabilities (as he perceives it) being further exposed or being called a liar once again. Can you imagine what is happening to him on an emotional level?

Lying begins with overly high expectations from parents

Let us get one thing clear at this point. No child is a born liar. Nor does lying come naturally to a child until and unless he or she is forced into it. No parent would knowingly force a child into this kind of behaviour, but when a parent is too rigid or strict, the child feel pressurized to do anything to please him or her. If he feels that he has done something, which might not even be wrong, but he believes would anger his parents, then he would try his best to cover up the facts so as not to upset them. And then the first time he gets away with it, it simply encourages him to try it again and again until it becomes a habit or even second nature. 

Finally after a few months, if he happens to make a slip out of overconfidence, he is found out and branded a liar. But, by this stage it is too late as he is already an expert and is habituated to avoid punishment or even lie for no real reason or any kind of gain. So it is important to nip this habit in the bud and not let it get out of hand, as once the child is accustomed to taking the easy way out, there is no stopping him.

Prevention is definitely better than cure
The way out is not to set down extremely rigid rules or standards that your child may or may not be able to live up to so that he can have a happy, healthy childhood without any high pressures or expectations. In this way he will automatically respect the law and truth and not find it necessary to find a way out by lying. If the parents dominant attitude does not undergo a radical change the child might grow in to a liar who is ostracized and avoided by all. His future too would be ruined as no one would trust him or be able to do business or keep up friendships in good faith.

Parents start with White Lies

Some parents unknowingly encourage their children to indulge in white lies for their own convenience. Let us take the example of Mr. Sampat who was trying to avoid a client by staying at home and calling in sick. He asked his wife to call the office for him. And of course his little daughter was there, quietly observing the whole situation. But it got worse when the telephone rang and Mr. Sampat asked his daughter to pick up the phone and say that her daddy was sleeping. Naturally the child would grow up to think that it is not absolutely necessary to be honest all the time and lies seem perfectly harmless.

Harmless exaggeration can quickly lead to a bad habit

Children even tend to indulge in white lies when they want to show-off in front of their peer group. They might give an exaggerated account of their own travels or of the gifts that they have received from their parents just so that they can seem one up on their friends. This kind of lying seems harmless to start with, but if not corrected it could become a and lead the child to lose trust not only in himself but in everyone else as well. He automatically assumes that the others around him must be doing the same thing so he is suspicious of everything that he is told. This basic lack of trust in every one and everything around him, including himself tends to weaken his character and stunt his personal development. 

Parental change in attitude is all that is required

Lying is one of the few behavioural disorders that can be completely avoided by the correct parental attitudes and the right upbringing of the child. So make sure that you bring up your little one without unnecessary pressures and with lots of love, understanding and compassion.

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Recent comments (46 comments)
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Name: Mishra
Country: India

the origins of lying lie in pressure to conform to expectations. Parents need to be understanding, even teachers. I find Orchids very strict about the behaviour of the teachers towards kids.
Name: Payal
Country: India

Parents need to be very careful in every stage of child's life. Blaming on others while telling a lie due to fear and there are other scenarios that go with this trait. How to help the kids understand and make them good is what really matters. Wonderful post!
Name: Mak
Country: U.S.A.

I think not every aspect of a child lying it's completely the parents fault, but, if it continues what other explanation is there. As parents we are role models, judge, jury, friend, and theres a fine line between each. I'm sure some of us know the saying "It takes a village to raise a child." That means the adults in the childs life need to work together at least on some level to bring our kids up to be good people. We need to be able to rely on other adults. It drives me insane when parents insist their child is perfect they did no wrong can do no wrong. They are children, children make mistakes it's what they do, it's how they learn! It's up to us to set them straight and when the adults aren't on the same page and consistent it makes it harder to teach them. Could you imagine if a child was told by one parent "the sky is green" and the other saying "it's people" then other adults telling them other colors. The confusion. It all relates. Consistency is key.
Name: Mak
Country: U.S.A.

I think not every aspect of a child lying it's completely the parents fault, but, if it continues what other explanation is there. As parents we are role models, judge, jury, friend, and theres a fine line between each. I'm sure some of us know the saying "It takes a village to raise a child." That means the adults in the childs life need to work together at least on some level to bring our kids up to be good people. We need to be able to rely on other adults. It drives me insane when parents insist their child is perfect they did no wrong can do no wrong. They are children, children make mistakes it's what they do, it's how they learn! It's up to us to set them straight and when the adults aren't on the same page and consistent it makes it harder to teach them. Could you imagine if a child was told by one parent "the sky is green" and the other saying "it's people" then other adults telling them other colors. The confusion. It all relates. Consistency is key.
Name: Mak
Country: U.S.A.

Some of this stuff sounds right to me, and some of it, well maybe it depends on the situation. I have a 4 year old son that went through a lying phase after spending a summer with an older cousin that constantly lies. When my husband and I caught on that he was lying and we KNEW he was. We would ask him about the situation, inform him that we did know what happened or that we would find out. The lies and the "I don't know" continued for a little while, but, we made it clear that he was in more trouble for lying than anything else. That there was nothing he could do that it was worth lying over. So far it's worked. My niece on the other hand... I try similar tactics with her but she has had this mentality for about 6 years. I don't know how her mom could begin to burn this web. Her parents are going through custody battles and she tries manipulate EVERY situation to keep out of trouble or get what she wants.From saying she didn't push Max down thats not why he's crying, even though I watched the entire thing from the other side of the door. Right down to saying shes never seen a movie before, shes been dying to see it please. Then tells you the entire movie! It's not that big of a deal. If she wants to watch a movie all she has to do is ask, why lie about it???? I'm not her mom so I approach her lies different than my sons. I inform her that I saw the events unfold so she needs to think about what she it's about to tell me. I talk to her mom about it and she seems concerned but maybe she isn't doing anything about it because shes afraid her baby girl will tell courts she wants to stay with dad. She knows she only see s us for a short time before going back to her dad. Both parents buy her love. Especially around court dates. I don't know if theres any end to what she does. The parents hate each other at this point and aren't nearly as concerned about working together for the sake of her as they are to hurt the other parent. It's sad and this is a situation I blame on the parents.
Name: kc
Country: USA

my child lies to evoke sympathy, in turn she tries to "get items that she wants". she tells one lie to a person and another to the other. when caught, she finally admits that she did wrong.
Name: wolf
Country: USA

our children may lie because we don't want to hear the truth.they say "ihate my baby sister." we say, "no you don't.tell her you love her."
Name: adelia
Country: Canada

i would like to know more regarding what 'underlying problem' may be at work with chronic liars--this article just seems to easy in its answers and assessmetns
Name: Catherine Whittall
Country: England

i think this article should mention that repetetive lying could be a sign of an underlying condition and professional help is needed.
Name: suresh kumar.P
Country: India

expecting more experiments results
Name: uma girish
Country: India

i also believe that every time you encourage your child to tell the truth and reinforce that she will not be reprimanded (it takes a lot of courage to tell the truth ) it works wonders. the trust she begins to develop is great. it works with my daughter. try it.
Name: Tagni
Country: Canada

i to am dealing with a nine year old that lies alot, and the lies are actually more like attention getting stories, which brings the wrong attention.great immagination, but wrong attention. we have raised our son in a very open, structured ( not strict, stuctured) home, and he still insists on telling woppers of stories, which are lies. now i don't believe it is the parenting as this article states, as we allow him room to grow naturally. from the responses here, i am beginning to believe it is a natural part of learning. i am looking to find a way though to make him understand that the stories he tells are sometimes to real sounding and he may end up paying a really high price, along with us. we do, and always have given him wonderful praise for telling the truth, and simply stating he is about to tell a whopper. its when he forgets to state that he is about to tell a story, which sounds so real, that we are falling into problems.
Name: cp
Country: USA

i am going thru a really tough time with my step son, i understand where the lying comes from and why he has come acustom to lying but how to correct the problem is my question.? i have done the friend thing, not so hard so he would be ok with telling me things and not feel intemadated, the different consquences for true or lie, tell him he is not a lier and he is a great kid and i understand why he thinks its ok because of his life before i came along , tell him before he answers cover his mouth and say i am going to tell the truth over and over in his mind and then i praise for him telling truth and i keep showing him how easy it is to tell the truth and how good it feels when you know you have told the truth and even that if disappoints god and i know some people will disagree but that is our belief and nothing has worked and he has good intentions and he just lies before he even knows it help
Name: mamma mia
Country: Canada

what does this mean? the way out is not to set down extremely rigid rules or standards that your child may or may not be able to live up to so that he can have a happy, healthy childhood without any high pressures or expectations.
Name: Vispi Jokhi
Country: India

we live in difficult times and it is all very easy to preach without practicing. we all lie and therefore to expect no lying is impossible. the key is to remove abnormal fear from the child and become a confidante to your child, a real friend or bosom pal so that the child has no fear of a dmitting his mistakes and does not cover up one lie with many more lies. we must be conscious of our behaviour in front of our children at all times. one small thing i tell my child is that whenever you are not sure of whether to do or not do a thing you ask yourself if you can tell your parents about your action without any fear. later in life you can substitute this parent with the voice of our lord and father or god and most times you will not err.
Name: extremely frustrated
Country: Canada

as others who have commented, i am now searching for a way to help my child stop lying and a way to help me deal with this without frustration. this article doesn't help either of these problems. crtainly there are reasons that a child becomes a habitual liar but, if he doesn't want to share these reasons with you and insists on lying about anything and everything, despite facing consequences and knowing that it's wrong to lie, what do you do to prevent this?
Name: Gene Bedley
Country: USA

lying focus on the number of times the child tells the truth rather than the lies they make. it's important to elevate kids to a responsible level not focus on their shortcomings. if you have a chronic liar you might need to use a more extreme measure. remember lying is a trust breaker which means i can not distinguish when you are lying and when you are telling the truth. what would happen if you lied to the child that was lying for an entire day and made promises of things you were going to do only to give some excuse when they remind you of your agreement.sometimes the only way a child can learn a lesson is to over saturate them with what they are doing to help lean the concept. the real learning comes at the end of the day when you summarize your decisions and begin to teach your child cause and effect. if the incident requires retribution it's important to train your child correct responses. it's important to separate saying your sorry vs asking for forgiveness. saying your sorry is for accidental mistakes and asking for forgiveness is when you do something on purpose. it is equally important to teach your children the steps in showing remorse. 1. walking to the person 2. looking down and saying in a quiet voice. "i'm sorry" if you did something on purpose you are also required to ask forgiveness 3. asking for forgiveness means you are not going to do it again never force your child into saying they are sorry since their response usually falls short of a remorseful attitude. gene bedley with the lying,rather than the problem that caused the lie. before asking "the question" we remind them what will happen to the lyer.
Name: Shannon
Country: Canada

i feel that once a child starts to lie it becomes hard to correct the behavior of lying and that we as parents should watch what we say. if a child hears you lie then they may think that they can lie. i have tried to tell my children the story of peter and the wolf. if they lie then i just say that if they continue to lie then people are not going to believe them when they need them to. i tell them that i trust them and i would like to be able to trust them all the time. sometimes it does not work but not everything works all the time. my son lies at school alot because they labelled him a liar and i'm having a hard time fixing it.
Name: Karen
Country: Canada

always the parents' fault. my 7 yr old lies to point where he's putting himself in danger. of course he's scared to tell the truth with some things, because he will be disciplined. i am not going to applaud him and let his behaviour slide, just because he told the truth. are we supposed to hold our tongues, or have no expectations, merely because it will put pressure on the child? how will they ever learn to be responsible, without expectations? i want to help my son, and this article is far from helpful.
Name: kim h
Country: USA

i agree with stan in the usa. this is a bunch of unuseful info. i am so frustrated. my 9 year old lies about not having homework all the time. he leaves at school. he said today that mom you must take me up to school to get my spelling book. today is thursday. his spelling book is to be home monday afternoon until friday morning. he turns in all his spelling on friday. why was his book at school? well he doesn't remember. he also went back to shcool to get his math page. didn't come out with that. i lost it he says. i told him he is lying to me again. he really thinks he is not lying. his math page was right on top in his back pack. i said when did you look in your back pack for your math page? he has been on the couch with the other kids for at least 30 minutes. just 1 minute ago he states. really i said you have been sitting there for 30 minutes. i told him i found his math page and another language arts page he was to do for friday. he winned that it would take 30 minutes to do his math homework. that was earlier that day. do you know he finished that math page in 5 minutes. yes in 5 minutes. he got all but 1 answer right. 30 minutes of winning for 5 minutes of work. what a load of c__p. i am so fed up. i think i will ask the doctor to some zoloft for myself. my nerves are gone. i am ready to move out and live by myself. help!!!!!! i don't want to leave but i can't handle all this stress. this goes on every single school day!!!!!!!!! help me
Name: Single Mom
Country: USA

i can't say i thought this article was entirely rubbish as did many readers, i did not agree with much of it. it is important to set expectations for your kids so they know what is expected. i expect my son will tell the truth and i am angry (which i know is a mistake now) when he doesn't. unfortunately, i learned from my father who taught through fear instead of love. i need to learn new techniques but i doubt my son will wait to grow up until i can learn them. i understand more about why he is lying and maybe i needed to be reminded he is not a "bad kid" but he is just afraid to tell me the truth when he makes a mistake or has a failure at school. his school work has clearly been the source for the majority of his lies, and i guess i need to take some pressure off of him so that at least he can feel good about telling me the truth about his school work instead of feeling bad about the school work and the lie. by the way, the peter and the wolf story does not work. neither does washington and the cherry tree or the half dozen others.
Name: all stressed
Country: Canada

i babysit an 8 year old. he constantly lies to me to try and get my daughter in trouble, but i can tell he is lying by the look in his eyes. he does this to his mom too and later on confesses that he is wrong. any advice??????
Name: gloria
Country: USA

what a crock!! why so we always blame the parents. i did raise my son to be respectful, courteous, etc. guess what? it did not work
Name: gloria
Country: USA

how do i get to read the article
Name: thanks
Country: USA

good info, helped a lot! thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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