Why Do Children Lie

By | 11/06/2017

It may come as a surprise to many parents to learn that their children tell lies.  They lie about their siblings, their parents, their teachers, their friends and their own misdeeds.  The question is why do children lie?

The most obvious reason is to avoid punishment when they have done something wrong.  None of us want to face the wrath of someone three times our size. It seems the best option to avoid trouble is to never admit to anything.  That type of lying is understandable but what about the other lies?

What Other Lies?

These are the things kids make up and you may be surprised how inventive the little darlings can be.   They will tell you their teacher swears at them and even hits them all the time.  They will blame their siblings for everything from stealing to burning the neighbor’s house down.

The lies kids tell vary with their age.  Lying to get out of being punished is understandable.  Have we all done it haven’t we?  Remember when the policeman pulled you up and you swore you were only doing the speed limit or you definitely indicated when you exited the roundabout.  You did it to avoid getting into trouble and let’s face it kids are just a shorter version of us.

Why Kids Lie

Kids lie to keep out of trouble but they also lie because they don’t want you to think badly of them.  To your kids, you are a hero and they want you to love them.  They are afraid if you know they did throw that stone through the neighbor’s window you will not love them anymore.  Often when they lie is because they are ashamed of what they have done.

Often when a child is confronted about their behavior they will tell you what they think you want to hear.  The problem we parents have is knowing when our kids are telling a lie and when they are telling the truth.

You have to set an example of honesty for your children, you don’t hit them or scream at them so you can’t see why they are lying to you.  It is hurtful and it keeps you awake at night worrying why your child lies to you and what can you do to stop them lying.

Is it Always a Lie?

Up to age three, the world is a confusing place for a child.  Some of the things they say are not always strictly true but neither are they deliberate lies.  The child simply may have misread a situation or a conversation or action of another child or adult.  They may have seen or heard something that was beyond their understanding so they make up a story or offer their own translation of what they saw or heard.

At this age, there is not malice in a child.  They are innocent and quite often too honest.  They often repeat something they heard you say that you really wish they hadn’t heard.  Things like “mummy said you put on lots of weight”.  It is embarrassing but the child is blissfully unaware of that and is simply sharing the news.  The best way to avoid that is not to say anything you would not want to be repeated.  This is a child and the filter that tells them what they can and can’t say is not developed yet.

Why do Children Lie


The Lies We Tell Our Kids

Between three and five we are still lying to our kids.  We tell them the tooth fairy will pay them for their tooth, the Easter bunny will bring them chocolates and Santa will sneak into their room and leave them presents.  We tell them all this will happen while they are asleep.  Is it any wonder they want a night light?

This is the age of fantasy and they jump on board and.invent tales of their own.  Not really lies, just products of their own imagination.

This is a wonderful time for a child and I would never suggest you stop those lies.  These will form wonderful memories for you.  It will also make beautiful photos to talk about in the years to come so please do NOT stop telling these lies to your child.

By age ten they should have a good grasp on what is true and what is not.  After age ten they will lie to avoid the consequences of their actions and are well aware of what they are doing.

One of my grandsons got into trouble at school once and when the teacher told him sternly she would have to ring his father my grandson burst into tears.  He told the teacher, “you can’t tell dad or he will kick me in the guts”.  His father who is a gentle person has never smacked his son and would never kick him but how was the teacher to know that?  My grandson was lucky his lie did not lead to children services removing him from his parents and placing him in care.

The best outcome from that incident was that my grandson learned that lying can have very serious consequences.

Practice Honesty At Home

If you have practiced honesty at home and your child sees your friends and family never tell lies they will come to realize lying is unacceptable.  That does not mean they will never lie again.

By the time your child is ten he should be starting to understand that freedom comes with responsibilities.  It is a time to use negotiation to get the behavior you want from your child.   When you are talking to your child really listen to what he is saying and answer him.  Don’t just give him a distracted “really” or “Is that right”.  That just tells him you are not listening’.When he lies and you are sure it is a lie then tell him how it makes you feel.  “When you don’t tell me the truth it upsets me and makes me sad and angry.”

Try to remove the child’s need to lie.  Your child needs to know that he can come to you with anything and you will listen and be open to discussing it with him.  As your child matures he will come to the realization that every action has a reaction and he will learn to think before he acts.

Be That Person

There are many important lessons a child must learn before they become an adult and it is you, the parent he will look to as his role model, mentor and guide through the choppy waters of childhood.  You need to show him by being the person you want him to become.

Why do children Lie

Teach him honesty by being honest,  kindness by being kind, generosity of spirit by being generous. Teach him to respect others and to accept that he can disagree without becoming rude or belligerent.  Your child needs to learn how to communicate openly and frankly without being made to feel his thoughts and opinions don’t matter.

You are your child’s role model.

Final Words

Growing up can be confusing and difficult for your child and he needs to know you are always there for him to turn to when he needs you.

Have you ever lost your child in the supermarket?  You turned around and he was gone.  Remember the fear you felt?  You probably found your child sobbing in terror.  Do you remember the relief on his little face when he saw you?  Remember the relief you felt?   These feelings will stay with you both for your entire life if you nurture the bond between you.

Establishing and maintaining good communication is important to you and to your child.  Your relationship with your child will be his guide throughout his life and you will see it at work in your child’s relationship with his children, your beautiful grandchildren.

If you would like to ask a question or leave a comment or share your experience with you child lying to you I would love to hear from you.  Just drop a note in the box below.



4 thoughts on “Why Do Children Lie

  1. shrey

    This is a really well-researched information on kids and the possibilities of why they could possibly lie. It is true when you say that kids might be feeling the same kind of fear which we have when they lose them in a supermarket.
    I think as a parent we tend to forget that kids too have fear and they can be sometimes more scared than us since they are not aware of their surroundings.

    1. Margaret Kennedy Post author

      Hi Shrey

      Thank you for your comment and you are right.  Often children feel fear and we don’t realize it but as a parent, it is our job to help them through their fears.  Just as it is our job to teach them honesty and integrity.


  2. jeffrey16201

    Many adults are not the best role models for children, many adults lie as well. Sometimes we lie to keep from hurting someone’s feelings, prevent from doing something we don’t want to go.

    Is it right to lie to Kids about the imaginary holiday characters is a good question, some parents will not enforce those lies to their children but most of us do not even think of them as being lies.

    what have you lied about recently?

    1. Margaret Kennedy Post author

      Hi Jeffrey,

      I do think the lies we tell our children about Santa etc are fine.  These are the things that make their childhood special and memorable.  It brings joy and excitement to a child’s life and I have never know a single person who was ever upset when they realized their parents told them these lies.

      We all tell white lies to avoid hurting people’s feelings.  It is a part of life.  It is the lies that make trouble for others that we need to teach out child about.

      You are right of course, many adults are not good role models for a child and unfortunately we cannot change that.
      I really am not sure when the last time I told a lie was but I do know it was not a lie I told with malice.



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