Common Reasons Why Kids Lie & What To Do About It – 17 Things To Consider (Parenting)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

A child lying is a parent’s worst nightmare.

Or is it? Sometimes a child’s honesty can hurt. Think of the potential answer to, “How do I look in this outfit?” 

Jokes aside, most parents can’t comprehend why their child/children would lie to them or what reason they could possibly have. And naturally, they want to get to the bottom of it. And when you do eventually figure out why your kid/s is lying, what do you do about it? How can you handle it correctly?

Children often lie because they fear the consequences of telling the truth. Often, the truth is awkward or embarrassing for a child, or they’re scared that if they are honest about the way they feel, they may “get in trouble.” 

This is because most parents punish their children for both truths and lies, but if a parent doesn’t know the truth and only gets a version of it (the lie), they will be more lenient.  

There are many reasons why a child feels the need to lie, and today we’ll be exploring some of the most common reasons why children lie and what you, as a parent/caregiver, can do about it. 

1. They Are Trying to Cover Their Tracks

Sometimes children lie because they know what they did was wrong or not allowed, so they try to hide the fact that it ever happened. This could be a result of fear or the result of not wanting to lose certain privileges. Unfortunately, it’s a human “thing” to want to cover our tracks – it’s not a feeling or behavior that is reserved for adults. 

2. They’re Afraid of Repercussions

While it’s not very common anymore these days, some parents punish their children for being honest about something by spanking them, either with their hands or with an object. So, naturally, this will lead to the child lying instead of telling the truth because they know they won’t be punished as harshly. 

If a child has parents that get physical with punishments, they may want to do everything possible to avoid it – even lying. 

3. They Lie to Show-Off

Many of us want to talk ourselves up and seem cooler, better, or more important than we really are. Again, these are the feelings that both adults and children share, except as adults, we can handle these feelings better. 

Some children lie about things because they want to look or seem better than they actually are. This is sometimes because they feel a bit left out in their friend group, or because they saw an adult lying about something to back themselves look good. 

4. They’re Lying to Explore the Possibilities

Some children lie not because they are scared or trying to cover something up but rather to find out how far they can take a lie and how their parents will react to certain things. This is often a result of childhood curiosity or could be a sign of something more serious. 

Pushing the boundaries is a common reason why anyone might lie, not only children.

5. They’re Confusing Their Imagination for Reality

Sometimes children may be unable to tell the difference between a dream and something that actually happened. This could result in them unintentionally lying about something because they don’t realize it’s a lie. 

If a child has an overactive imagination, they allow a few of their imaginative ideas and beliefs to slip into their everyday life.

6. They’re Lying for Attention

While it’s not very common, sometimes children lie because they’re not getting enough attention from their parents. When a child feels ignored, they will start making-up things in order to get the attention they crave, whether or not the attention is good or bad.

There’s a saying that goes, “Any attention is good attention”, and that certainly rings true when a child starts lying just to get a bit of attention. 

7. They’re Lying to be Polite 

Sometimes kids lie because they are trying to be polite. This is usually lying by telling you they enjoy bedtime stories, even if they feel they are too old for them. 

Children often enjoy seeing their parents happy and will lie to achieve the same effect. Remember that “How do I look in this outfit?” scenario already mentioned? Maybe your child just doesn’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you how you really look. Just for example, of course.

8. They’re Trying to Protect Someone 

Sometimes as parents, we overreact to something out of fear of what could’ve happened to our children. But sometimes children view this overreaction as a bad thing and can see the worry they caused you, so they decide to lie about dangerous situations in the future to spare your feelings.

Let’s say your child cut the last class in the school day and went to a dangerous part of town with a friend. They learned their lesson and won’t do it again, but also can’t bring themselves to tell you the truth for fear of disappointing you or getting themselves and their friend in trouble. 

9. They Want Control Over the Situation 

Children, in general, are a bit helpless in most situations, having to just go along with whatever the adults in the group would like. This can result in a child lying in order to be the one in control of the situation, helping them feel less powerless. 

10. They Might Not Know Lying is Wrong

There are times when children lie because they witness their parents lying. This leads to a child thinking that lying is a good thing, which results in them lying about things. 

11. Determine Why They are Lying

Before you can address your child’s lies, you need to determine the reason why they have started lying. This will help you adjust your approach and make it more effective. 

12. Do Not Punish Them

If you punish your kid for telling the truth, they will start lying to avoid the consequences of being truthful. So, instead of being upset about the truth, no matter how bad it is, thank them for being honest with you and trusting you. 

13. Help Them Understand Why Lying is Wrong

In some cases, children lie because they don’t realize it’s wrong. If this is the case, try talking to your child about why lying is wrong and what could happen if they keep lying about little things. 

14. Help Them Right Their Wrongs 

If a child has lied because they’ve broken something or taken something by accident, try helping them instead of being upset. For example, if your child has spilled something and it’s left a stain, help them clean the mess instead of being upset about the spill. 

15. Be a Role Model 

Children learn by example, that much is true, and it’s seen in every part of their upbringing. So by lying in front of your child, you are showing them that lying is okay. Rather, show your child it’s better to tell the truth, no matter what the consequence may be. 

16. Teach Them the Value of Honesty 

If your child doesn’t quite understand why lying is bad and being truthful is good, try rewarding them for being honest. The reward doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated. It could be something small, like a sweet or sucker.

17. Teach Them Morals 

Sometimes the best way to teach your child to stop lying is by showing them what happens when they lie, especially if it hurts someone. Your child will end up learning the moral value of truth in society. 

Last Word

There are many different reasons why children may feel the need to lie, and each reason needs to be approached differently. Sometimes we may need to adjust our parenting approach, whereas other times, you may need to seek counseling for your child to help them overcome the lying.

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.