Parenting: What to Do When Your Child Lies

Don't Tell Lies

My part-time cleaner works as a nanny on weekdays, she takes care of a six-year-old girl (same age as Edison). And today, she shared with me a story about how this girl lied to her parents, her teacher and to herself.

It was a normal school day. The parents sent the girl to her nanny’s house in the morning. Her nanny made breakfast for her, and then walked her to the school bus waiting area. The girl took the school bus to school.

Two hours later, the parents received an emergency call from the school. Apparently, the girl told her teacher that she was very sick, she felt nauseous and she was in pain. Her teacher couldn’t find anything wrong with her as her body temperature was within the normal range. So, the teacher quickly called her parents to fetch her home.

I’m sure every parent’s reaction is to take urgent leave from work and rush to school, if they receive such an urgent call from school. The girl’s parents are no exception. They took urgent leave and rushed to school to find out what happened to their daughter.

After fetching her from school, they went to her nanny’s house. Her nanny sensed that something was amiss because she looked well in the morning, so she questioned her. After a series of questioning, the girl finally blurted out the truth. She admitted to telling lies and pretending sick.

The truth was that her teacher erased her handwriting on her workbook and asked her to re-do it. She was unhappy, and she thinks that her teacher is always picking on her. So, she pretended sick so that she can go home.

When this happened, everyone was disappointed – particularly the parents. So, her nanny warned her not to tell lies anymore. If anything happens to her parents when they were rushing to school, it was all her fault.

I’m glad that she shared this story with me. Even though I’ve not encountered any incident of Edison telling lies, but I think it’s time for me to think of how to handle it if it happens, and learn how to raise a truthful children.

I grew up knowing that lying was bad and the consequences were even worse. My mom was a strict disciplinarian, we will get punished if we ever tell lies and we could never escape it. As a result, we never dare to tell lies.

As a parent, we always encourage our children to tell the truth. We lay the perfect groundwork for them to be truthful children, teens, and finally adults. But when our children start to tell lies, our fears are realized. It is disappointing, and it also brings a feeling of being a failure as a parent.

Most of the time, children tell lies so that they will not be punished. It is a self preservation mode that they eventually fall into. Once they realize that they can successfully misbehave and then tell lies to get away, they begin to fall into that vicious pattern that is often hard to break. This seed of small lies could also grow into deeply rooted dishonesty in the future.

In case I’m faced with this situation in future, these are the things that I will do:

1. Get to the bottom of the lies

Before I take any action, I will first try to understand why he is lying. Sometimes when kids lie, it’s may be because someone has threatened them against telling the truth, particularly in school bully cases.

2. Punish accordingly and with the correct emotions

Punishment is unavoidable, but it has to be done with the correct emotions. If I’m too harsh, it might encourage more lies in future. If I’m too upset, it may also hinders the process of him opening up with the truth.

So, I think the best way is to appear understanding and calm, so that he will feel more comfortable opening up to me.

3. Show him the effects of lying

You can’t just tell a child that honesty is the best policy and expect them to listen. If he has lied about something and the truth has been uncovered, I’ll discuss with him the consequences and damages that have occurred because of the lies. I’ll also discuss with him on what could have happened if the truth has been told in the first place.

Have you caught your children lying? If yes, what did you do? Tell me your story by leaving a comment below.


Evelyn April 28, 2013 at 11:35 PM

Hmmm… Yes this is getting to be a tricky issue for me now that Layla’s growing up–she doesn’t lie (or at least she doesn’t have too many reasons to lie right now), but she is less forthcoming with the truth, and I have to ask a million questions before I can dig up the full story. As annoyed as I am, I also understand it–there are certain things I don’t tell my mom too so as not to upset her, e.g. she doesn’t know I have a tattoo, lol!

Right now I do punish Layla for breaking rules that we’ve agreed upon by taking away one of her toys to donate or regift to someone else. But when it comes to lying, I’m not sure how I would approach it yet. I don’t think I would be blameless if that happens, because I’m often impatient and I react harshly even for small matters… I think I need to fix that first!

Emily May 3, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Hi Evelyn,
Thanks for sharing this. The way I look at it, ‘not forthcoming with the truth’ and ‘telling lies’ are two separate issues. I’m okay if my son keeps some secrets from me, as you’ve mentioned, there are things that we don’t need to know in order not to get upset. Unless it’s something really major like failing in the school exam etc. Let’s hope that we don’t need to deal with this issue with both Edison and Layla.


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