How to Talk to Your Kids about Lying

October 27, 2009 at 3:01 pm 7 comments

This is a follow-up post to: “Why do kids lie?”  Please read for more background on why children lie :

Now that you have a better understanding of the reasons why children lie, how do you talk to your kids about lying (without freaking out)? Here’s an excerpt from my book, Talk about Anything with Your Kids on the topic.

Lying is a hot topic. No parent likes to think that their children do not tell the truth at all times. Yet most parents start to realize that children try to protect themselves and want to present themselves in the best light possible, even if a variation on the truth is required. My awakening occurred the first time I heard a glass-smashing crash and turned to find both my children pointing an accusing finger at the other. (No one ever owned up to it, by way…)

Have a discussion on lying if your children regularly won’t back away from a falsehood or if the frequency of lying concerns you. [Also, a discussion about lying can help children make good decisions about it later if lies become something they are considering. So you could discuss it as a general topic of interest too.]


 Ask your children these questions and listen closely to the answers. Try to let your children do most of the talking so that you can better understand their perspective.

1.  Why do people lie?  Your children will consider the reasons for lying. 

Prompting questions: Why don’t people tell the truth all the time? Why is telling the truth hard sometimes?

2.  How do people feel after they tell a lie? How do people feel after they find out someone has told them a lie?  Your children will consider the impact of lying on those that lie and on others. As your children answer both questions above, they should come to realize that neither party feels good after a lie.

Prompting questions: What does it feel like inside after a person has told a lie? Does it feel good or not so good? How does it feel to find out that someone has lied to you? Does it feel good or bad? Who feels better after a lie – the liar or the person lied to?

3. What could a person do when they are worried about telling the truth but don’t want to lie?    Your children will consider alternatives to lying. Ideas could include taking responsibility for accidents and mistakes, taking a deep breath and saying, “You are not going to like this but…” or admitting that they are afraid of telling the truth instead of lying.

Prompting questions: What could a person do instead of lying? What could a person who is afraid of telling the truth do?

4. What could we do in our family to make it feel safer to tell the truth? [If lying is not currently an issue in your home, ask: What can we do to ensure that we always feel safe telling the truth in our family?]  Discuss what you as a family can do to create or maintain a safe environment for telling the truth, even when the truth may be upsetting.

Prompting questions: How can we help each other tell the truth? What would make it easier to tell the truth at home?

5. What will you do the next time you are tempted to tell a lie? What will you do the next time someone catches you in a lie? [If lying is not currently an issue in your home, ask: What will you do if you ever feel tempted to tell a lie?]  Discuss what changes your children are willing to make to reduce lying.   Discuss how they will behave when caught in a lie and what would make it easier for them to admit to a lie.

Wrap-up   Wrap-up your discussion by striking an agreement based on your answers from 4 and 5 above. Then say, “Thanks! Great job! That’s it! We’re done!”

Finally, acknowledge and praise every small improvement your children make. If improvement is not required, acknowledge this with pride!

I hope this helps you have a great discussion about lying with your kids. 


Learn how to have great discussions with your kids on 44 different topics including lying in the award-winning book Talk about Anything with Your Kids. Info at: 


Entry filed under: Communication, Listening, Parent-child communication. Tags: .

Why do kids lie? TVOParents ‘Your Voice’

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Family Matters  |  October 27, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Catherine, this is pure gold! I love your gentle approach to kids, who are more than likely afraid and confused if they’re lying.

    One word of caution about questions is to try and avoid using “why” questions, especially those directed at the child. Unfortunately, humans get defensive in response to “why” questions.

    Having said that, there are plenty of great alternatives questions above.

    • 2. cwakelin  |  October 27, 2009 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks for the nice comments. I agree with you regarding the ‘why’ questions. Generally, this is good advice. At the same time I think that as long as the questions are not “Why do you…” that they are not perceived by kids as confrontational. That is the reason I often ask kids “Why do people do x?”. It allows for the use of a why question (and we do want to know what our kids think) without creating defensiveness. Kids love to talk about why ‘people’ do things. This works so well because their limited experience means that they are still talking about themselves, even when they seem to be talking about ‘people’. Nonetheless, I do agree that ‘why’ questions should be limited.

  • 3. Kidlutions  |  October 27, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    LOVE IT!

    Wendy 🙂

    • 4. cwakelin  |  October 27, 2009 at 11:25 pm

      Thanks, Wendy!

  • 5. Ben  |  June 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. I feel empowered and much better equipped for some upcoming parenting 🙂

  • 6. how to talk to girls  |  August 8, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Asking questions are really good thing if you are not understanding anything entirely,
    except this article presents fastidious understanding even.

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