5 reasons why kids lie – and what you must do about it

By Dr Richard C. Woolfson   — July 25, 2019
  • 1 / 13

    Some preschoolers love to tell lies, either by running to the teacher (if the incident happens in school) or to their parents (if the incident happens at home).

    Shouts of “I’m telling the teacher” regularly ring out when children play together. The difficulty is teaching your child the difference between tattling and sharing necessary information. 

    Here are some reasons why children of this age tell lies. 

    (Also read: Is your kid telling lies? Spot these 5 signs)

    Load more
  • Moral sense
    2 / 13 Moral sense

    Having reached school age, a child usually has a well-developed sense of right and wrong. This doesn’t mean he always follows the rules, but it does mean he is aware of them and that they shouldn’t be broken.

    (Also read: How to help your child make friends)

    Load more
  • Approval
    3 / 13 Approval

    Six-year-olds love adult approval from parents, teachers and carers. And what better way to curry favour with a grown-up, thinks the child, than by pointing out what someone else has done wrong.

    Load more
  • Revenge
    4 / 13 Revenge

    A throwaway remark, or exclusion from a game can upset a child who may feel rejected and left out. To tell lies about the child who upset him is a great mechanism for gaining revenge.

    Load more
  • Stability
    5 / 13 Stability

    Sometimes telling lies to a grown-up is the only solution available to a five-year-old child who wants, say, another child to stop disrupting his play. He is likely to have tried other ways but they have failed.

    Load more
  • Attention
    6 / 13 Attention

    A child who feels unable to get attention from an adult may tell lies in order to achieve his goal. He thinks that the adults might ignore him personally if they are too busy, but that they are unlikely to ignore his tattle.

    (Also read: 10 good habits to teach your preschooler)

    Load more
  • 7 / 13

    The problem you face is knowing how to react to lying. After all, you might want to ignore your child if he constantly comes running to you with tattle, and yet you don’t want to risk discouraging him from sharing necessary information with you.

    Load more
  • 8 / 13

    That’s why it is important to listen when your child tells you: “Mum, you should see what he’s doing…”

    This is the only way you can establish the underlying motivation for his behaviour. Hear what your child has to say, decide on its significance, and try to identify the reason for his need to tell you this particular piece of information.

    Load more
  • 9 / 13

    If you think your child just wants attention, give him a cuddle, tell him you will have time to chat to him later, and say nothing about the lie he just told. Suggest that he returns to his play situation.

    Load more
  • 10 / 13

    If you think he is seeking revenge on another child who has upset him, reassure him that he has nothing to worry, make a neutral comment to indicate you have listened, and then continue with what you were doing before.

    Load more
  • 11 / 13

    If you think he is concerned because a rule has been broken, explain that you are glad he knows right from wrong and that what the other child has done really is naughty. Add that you are pleased he doesn’t behave that way.

    Load more
  • 12 / 13

    If you think he does this because he is bored and wants a bit of excitement in his life, ignore his lies. Look at him when he talks to you, say nothing, and return to your previous activity.

    Load more
  • 13 / 13

    If you think he has shared something important with you, take appropriate action to sort out his concern. Thank him for telling you, but point out that he should try to avoid telling unnecessary tales.

    (Photos: 123RF.com)

    Load more
what to do when child is bored

Why boredom is good for your kid

clothes for toddlers

Easy steps to teach your toddler to dress herself independently

Is it safe to take antibiotics during pregnancy?

Recipes for kids: Edamame pita bread bruschetta

how to get child to stop napping

Primary 1 preparation: How to help your child stop taking naps

Latest stories

video kid-friendly guide admiralty park's playground

Video: Kid-friendly guide to Admiralty Park’s playground

polyclinic vaccination

Truth or myth: Baby vaccinations at polyclinics are free and fresher

Recipe for baby: Quinoa porridge with chicken and broccoli

easy tips get kids clean up

8 easy ways to get your messy kid to clean up without having to nag

child does not want to take afternoon nap

Toddler won’t nap: How to adjust sleep time