Find out the Psychology Reasons why children are Lying

The reasons why children are lying and how to deal with it

By Rebecca jones
Find out the Psychology Reasons why children are Lying

Isn’t it astonishing how a mug cup can mysteriously break in the kitchen without anyone being responsible? Kids are fond of not owning up to things they’ve done, especially when they know it’s going to get them in a lot of trouble. Your little one might be all cute and adorable, but trust me, sometimes behind that angelic face is a disguise to hide and distract mommy from discovering the truth. When kids tell lies, sometimes they don’t understand the magnitude of words they use and the amount of distrust they command their way by not being honest. It’s all dependent on their age and maturity.

Kids play pretend games, and sometimes they assume and misinterpret things differently. As a parent, I can imagine how your child’s constant lies can get you exasperated, but as an adult, we need to understand where the lies are from the perspective of younger kids. When they tell lies, they’re simply misinforming or not telling the story as it is. I am not encouraging that lies by kids should be excused, but it shouldn’t be taken too personally. Even though lying is nasty, it is a normal phase of growth for most kids.  

Sometimes kids tend to lie when they need to keep up with expectations from people or brag at school to friends. Some kids are scared of letting their parents down or performing below expectations, all these are good reasons why kids can sometimes find themselves in a hard spot and end up lying.

Kids are also fast learners and pick things and words easily from pair groups. Listening to their classmates brag about a new toy and all the wonderful time they had in the zoo with their parents can prompt another child to put up a lie in order to impress their friends. It’s all about seeking attention from telling facts that are even true. Lastly, sometimes the reasons they lie is simply because they couldn't remember the details. For eg, your child may have drank from that cup a few days back and brought it to the kitchen sink. He drank the same mug again but forgot to bring it back, yet thinking he actually did it from the memory of a few days back. 

The psychology reasons behind children lying

With modern storybooks depicting heroic moments of characters, Superman, Spiderman movies, and now Harry Potter and the wizardry, all this fictions and animation plays a significant role into a child’s imagination, confusing them from what’s real and what isn’t. Since all these movie characters are able to live their dreams and imaginations, achieving all kind of impossibilities, a child sees no reason why he can’t live his, and by that teaching them to lie and providing untrue information. 

Most people lie to get out of an unpleasant situation, or to save someone from embarrassment, and to the bigger more concerning stuff. Even though we all do that most times, we still teach our children that lying isn't good, so when you start catching them in lies, should you be worried? Well, the answer is No. Children especially at around the ages of 3 believe that whatever they come up with or are thinking of automatically becomes the same thing that the other individuals are thinking as well. Some actually see this phase as a developmental phase, your child clicking another milestone. As they grow older, they begin to differentiate between white lies to get cookies and hurtful lies that can affect people negatively.

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It is important for parents, teachers and caregivers to think about how they react when they discover that a child is lying as swift punishment can often have the opposite of its intended effect. If you become very hard on somebody for doing the wrong things that include lying, children who experience that strict kind of discipline can actually become great liars. Use appropriate reprimands and appropriate dialogue to talk about what's happening, why it's not okay and where we should go from here as opposed to very swift and harsh punishments.

It is also important to be aware of the reasons why the kid is lying. It is usually harmless but it can be a sign of something more concerning that required urgent attention. Kids normally lie to get what they want or to get out of an uncomfortable situation. They say things to manipulate your thoughts and trick you into submitting to their will. They are old enough to understand that people have opinions and are going to judge, therefore will say things falsely to get their way.

How to deal: Consequences and punishments of telling lies

Generally, children should not be given severe punishments for telling lies, as contradicting as it is, because that will only make them even more stubborn and better liars. However, consequences should be implemented for each untruth words that come out of your child’s mouth. Some white lies might look cute at first until it starts escalating to bigger unhealthy lies, and that’s when your kid becomes a mini-villain. And most times, kids learn from adults that lying is okay in order to get out of certain situations. It might provide a temporary solution, but smaller lies can keep growing and manifest into bigger ones with time. When parents make promises to their kids, it’s important they keep it otherwise they shouldn’t make the promise. Not keeping your promise to a child is the same as not staying true to your words. Slowly but surely, that kind of attitude and carelessness can teach a child is okay to lie. 

When your kid lie, lies like “daddy said I can have a scoop of ice cream” when inf act he didn’t, don’t be quick in punishing or reprimanding that child for such act. Instead, call their attention and have a heart to heart conversation as to why they felt the need to lie in order to get an ice cream despite the ground rules established that there shouldn't be ice cream after lunch.

Some parents often ground or take away a child’s favorite toy or gadget as a form of punishment to make them aware of the extent of their offense, that might work for few kids, but it isn’t an ideal way of teaching kids to be honest individuals. Taking away their belonging or enjoyment will only teach them to perfect their techniques and become better liars.

Speak to them about the behavioral conduct you expect from them, rather than calling them out when they lie. And all the negative effects lying can have on them and all the people surrounding them.

Finally, keep in mind that if a child lies repeatedly and frequently, even after consequences and reassurances from you, it may be time to talk with your pediatrician or another professional child behavioral expert to assess the behavior and get more recommendations.


Sometimes the most effective way to stop your child from telling lies is by putting yourself in their shoes. Be observant on how your child behaves not just verbally, but even when he isn’t communicating. Apart from being their parent, you can also be their friend. Don’t be quick to over judge or be haste in taking action against your child when you find them guilty, listen to them and patiently analyze the situation before deciding on a consequence.  

Put down all the rules and let your child be aware of the consequences when such rules are disobeyed. Do not be a nagging kind of parent who loves to scream and shout while having a conversation with your child. Doing so will only teach them to be scared of you and not be comfortable to confide in you.

Lastly, as parents, it’s encouraging to live a responsible and respectable lifestyle in order to set good examples to your kids. Do you often resort to lying when you want to avoid a situation or to get something you want? Do you exaggerate things in front of your kids? All this can be a contributing factor to why kids learn to lie. So if you see yourself doing that, work on it and set a good example for your kids. That way, your children will be able to gain positive traits naturally.

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