Why Children Lie and What Parents can do about it


Why do children lie? As parents, it can be disheartening to discover that our children have lied to us. Lying is a common behaviour observed in children, and while it may be frustrating, it is important to understand that lying is a normal part of their cognitive and social development. By comprehending the underlying reasons behind children’s lies, parents can adopt effective strategies to address this behaviour and foster honesty in their children’s lives.


Why Do Children Lie?

Here are 5 common reasons to explain why children do lie:

Avoidance of Punishment: One of the primary motives for children to lie is to escape punishment. Fear of parental disapproval or consequences can drive children to fabricate stories or conceal their actions.

Protection of Self-Esteem: Children may lie to protect their self-esteem or avoid feelings of guilt or shame. Consequently, they may exaggerate achievements or create fictional stories to gain approval or avoid disappointing their parents.

Experimentation and Autonomy: As children grow, they explore their independence and test boundaries. In that case, lying may serve as an experimental behaviour to understand the impact of their words on others or exert control over a situation.

Desire for Attention: Children may resort to lying  to gain attention from their parents, especially if they feel neglected or overlooked. As such, they might create fictional tales to capture their parents’ interest and involvement.

Peer Influence: In some instances, children may lie under peer pressure or to fit in with their friends. They may therefore distort facts or create false narratives to align with their social group or avoid potential conflicts.

Six Strategies for Parents to Address why Lying

Cultivate Open Communication: Establish an environment where open and honest communication is encouraged. Create a safe space for your child to express their feelings and thoughts without fear of judgment or harsh consequences.

Be a Role Model: Children learn from observing their parents’ behaviour. Practice honesty and integrity in your own actions and conversations. Set an example by admitting your own mistakes and demonstrating the importance of truthfulness.

Encourage Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Teach your child to understand the consequences of their lies on others. Develop their emotional intelligence by discussing the impact of honesty and trust on relationships.

Provide Positive Reinforcement: Praise and acknowledge your child’s honesty when they confess or tell the truth. Reinforce the idea that honesty is valued and appreciated.

Avoid Harsh Punishments: Instead of resorting to strict punishments, focus on guiding your child towards understanding the consequences of lying. Encourage them to take responsibility for their actions and make amends.

Teach Problem-Solving Skills: Help your child find alternative ways to handle challenging situations or conflicts without resorting to lying. Teach them problem-solving strategies and effective communication skills.


Why do children lie? Children’s lies are a common part of their development, stemming from various motives such as fear, protection, experimentation, attention-seeking, and peer influence. As parents, it is essential to address lying with empathy, understanding, and effective strategies. By fostering open communication, being positive role models, and teaching empathy, parents can guide their children towards a foundation of honesty and integrity that will serve them well in their future relationships and endeavours. You can learn more here.


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Serbin, L. A., Stack, D. M., Kingdon, D., & Ruttle, P. L. (2011). The importance of gender in understanding children’s adjustment: The roles of mothers, fathers, and peers. Child Development Perspectives, 5(3), 218-224.

Heyman, G. D., Luu, D., & Lee, K. (2014). Parenting practices and children’s honesty in a multicultural context. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 124, 98-113.

Jampol, N., & Friedman, S. L. (2015). Lies parents tell: A developmental perspective. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 40(10), 1042-1052.