Why Children Tell Lies – And How to Stop Them

Find out what causes your Foster child’s lying problem and how to stop it.

Children under age 6 often tell tales and have difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy. Telling tall tales is entirely different from lying. This usually is just an expression of your child’s imagination at work, and does no harm to anyone.

Tall tales become more harmful when your child reaches age 6 and you–or your child–can no longer distinguish truth from fantasy. At this point, your child might have a problem. Find out what may be causing your child’s lying and how to end it.  Understanding why a child lies and what you can do about it.

Behavior Description:  This child is often caught up in ‘distorting the truth’. Do not let lying become a habit.

Why?  The child who exaggerates, tells lies or distorts the truth does so for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they feel that they are not liked (for reasons often unknown) and will tell lies to make the listener like him/her more. They have learned that some forms of distorting the truth get them some attention; this sometimes compensates for their feelings of inadequacies. Sometimes the child will lie to avoid being reprimanded or to avoid consequences that they believe will happen with a truth. Some children lie to get others into trouble, these children are often in trouble themselves. Children often lie to avoid tasks, a child will say that their homework is done in order to do something more pleasurable. Children don’t like to get caught when misbehaving and will often lie or stretch the truth.

The Causes:  A child’s lying may be the result of numerous factors. These can include:

  • Fear of disappointing a parent
  • Avoiding punishment
  • Seeking attention
  • Crying out for help
  • They have been taught to lie by the abnormal situations they had grown up in
  • Avoiding stressful situations
  • Imitating the behavior of the adults around him

We must remember though, chronic or habitual liars rarely feel good about themselves. Look for patterns in the child’s lying, does the lying only occur at specific times or in specific situations? Try and determine what the child’s needs are that makes him/her want to lie.


  • Always model ‘telling the truth’, avoid ‘little white lies.
  • Teach your child through role playing, the value of telling the truth. This will take time and some patience.
  • Role play the potential devastating consequences of lying.
  • Do not accept excuses for lying, lying is not acceptable.
  • Children should understand the hurtful consequences of lying and whenever possible, they should apologize for lying.
  • Logical consequences need to be in place for the child who lies.
  • No matter what, children need to know that lying is never acceptable and will not be tolerated.
  • Children often lie to keep their parents or teacher happy, they need to know that you value the truth much more than a small act of misbehavior.
  • Children need to be part of the solution and or consequences. Ask them what they are prepared to give or do as a result of the lie.
  • Remind the child that you’re upset with what he/she did. Reinforce that it’s not the child but what he/she did that upset you and let him/her know that you are disappointed. You know the saying – bring them up before you bring them down. For instance: “It is so unlike you to lie about your homework, you’re so good at getting things done and staying on top of things.”
  • Praise the truth! Catch them telling the truth at a time when you know they would like to sugar coat a situation.
  • Avoid lectures and quick irrational decisions. E.g., if you lie again, you’ll be grounded for a year!”Never forget that ALL children need to know you care about them and that they can contribute in a positive way. It took the child a long time to become a master of distorting the truth, exaggerating, lying chronically, be consistent, patient and understand that change will take time.

About Helouise Steenkamp

I'm a 45 plus, Devoted Wife and Mother. Adonai has blessed us with two Amazingly Wonderful Sons. We have had the privilege of being Place of Safety parents for 1 1/2 years and there after foster parents to a Darling Princess for 5 years. She was reconciled with her biological parents in Dec'14. Our hearts are still aching from the loss, but we know that as we trust Adonai with our salvation, so we can trust Him with her future. We welcomed our new 4 year old foster child on 05JUN'15.
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One Response to Why Children Tell Lies – And How to Stop Them

  1. Emily says:

    Thank you for this article. I am a Creative Arts Therapist who has been working with children in foster care for 5 years, and this is a common pattern. Yours is the most reasonable and well thought out article I found today. Thanks!

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