When your child or
teenager lies--

Strong-willed, out-of-control kids are
often caught up in distorting the truth.
Do not let lying become a habit.

Out-of-control kids lie for the following reasons:

  • they feel that they are not liked (for reasons often
    unknown) and will tell lies to make the listener like
    him/her more

  • they have learned that some forms of distorting   
    the truth get them some attention; this sometimes
    compensates for their feelings of inadequacies

  • to avoid being punished or to avoid consequences
    that they believe will happen with a truth

  • to get others into trouble (these kids are often in
    trouble themselves)

  • to avoid tasks (they will say that their homework is
    done  in order to do something more pleasurable)

  • control the situation

Parenting belief that encourages lying:

  • "Lying is not that bad if nobody gets hurt."

  • "I should trust my kid."

  • "I should give my kid one more chance."

Have a strong commitment to the truth.  Exaggeration
suggests that your child has unmet needs for attention;
decide if you need to make changes with the time you
spend with him/her.  We must remember, chronic or
habitual liars rarely feel good about themselves.

Look for patterns in your kid's lying; does the lying only
occur  at specific times or in specific situations? Try and
determine what your child's needs are that makes her
want to lie.


  • Always model telling the truth.

  • Teach your kid through role-playing, the value        
    of telling the truth. This will take time and some

  • Role-play the potential devastating consequences   
    of lying.

  • Do not accept excuses for lying -- lying is not

  • Out-of-control kids should understand the hurtful
    consequences of lying and whenever possible, they
    should apologize for lying.

  • Logical consequences need to be in place for the   
    kid who lies.

  • No matter what, kids need to know that lying is
    never acceptable and will not be tolerated.

  • Kids often lie to keep their parents or teacher
    happy; they need to know that you value the    
    truth much more than a small act of misbehavior.

  • Kids need to be part of the solution and or
    consequences. Ask them what they are prepared   
    to give or do as a result of the lie.

  • Remind your kid that you're concerned with what
    he/she did. Reinforce that it's not him, but what he
    did that concerns you, and let him know that you
    are disappointed. You know the saying - "bring  
    them up before you bring them down". For instance:
    "It is so unlike you to lie about your homework,
    you're so good at getting things done and staying
    on top of things."

  • Praise the truth! Catch them telling the truth at a
    time when you know they would like to sugar-coat   
    a situation.

  • Avoid lectures and quick irrational decisions (e.g.,   
    “If you lie again, you'll be grounded to your room  
    for two weeks!”).

  • Never forget that ALL out-of-control kids need to
    know you care about them and that they can
    contribute in a positive way. It took your kid a long
    time to become a master of distorting the truth,
    exaggerating, and lying chronically. Be consistent,
    patient and understand that change will take time.


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When Kids Break the Rules--

Most parents, as well as teachers and other authority figures, have to deal with young people who break the rules. As kids move from childhood to their teen years, they often push limits, ignore advice, and question authority. You may wonder how to get them to stop, act right, and do as they're told. Forget it—you can't stop nature.

As kids start to grow up, they begin to declare their independence. Don't mistake their strong opinions, personal likes and dislikes, questions, and criticism for rebellion. Take a closer look at their behavior. Consider that they might be trying to develop their own unique grown-up identities. Remember, you want them to become successful adults, thinking and acting for themselves.

But, what about when a child breaks the rules on purpose? "I'll show him who's in charge!" may be your first thought when a child tests or breaks rules. However, this approach will likely make things worse. Yet, giving in or giving up is just as bad.

So, what to do? Start by looking at your style. What worked when a child was younger may begin to fail as she moves toward the teen years. As kids get older, they want to be taken seriously. They want to be heard and to make their own decisions. They don't want to be treated like children.

When it comes to rules, pre-teens and teens more and more want to know the logic behind them. They may not accept rules unless they agree with them. As a result, they are more likely to rebel when parents simply lay down the law and demand that it be followed. Instead, strike a balance:

· Talk about limits and expectations. Rules work best when parents allow their teens to have some say in them.

· Put it in writing. Draw up a contract that lays out rules, expectations, and consequences.

· Don't sweat the small stuff. Some battles aren't worth fighting—save your energy for major issues, like those that affect a child's health or safety.

· Be consistent. On-again, off-again rules quickly lose their meaning.

· Have good reasons. Rules mean more when they're based on facts and on principles such as fairness and kindness.

· Be a good role model. Teens are more likely to go along with a rule that you follow yourself.

· Be prepared to say no. Not every request is reasonable.

· Be ready for a test. Kids sometimes break rules to see how serious you are.

· Don't retreat. Let kids learn by experiencing the consequences of their actions.

· Stay positive. Let kids know that you value them and their successes.

Ask The
Parent Coach—


We caught our son in a lie regarding money that
was taken from a drawer in our bedroom. What is
the best discipline for this?




Hi A.,

You didn’t say how old your son is. Children steal
for different reasons depending on their age.

Preschoolers— Lying is quite common in pre-
schoolers. Children in this age group often don't
yet understand that lying is wrong and dishonest.
Because of this, parents probably should not
punish their preschoolers for lying. Instead, parents
should, when their children lie, use the occasions
as teaching opportunities. When their preschooler
lies, parents should take the opportunity to teach
their child why lying is wrong. Preschoolers
generally tell two kinds of lies:

Lies to get something they want or to avoid
something they don't want -
Preschoolers tell these
types of lies for the same reasons that adults do,
but they often don't see anything wrong with telling
a lie to gain a result they want. When children this
age tell these types of lies, parents should try not to
overreact. Instead, they should point out to their
children that it is wrong to lie, and that it is important
to tell the truth.

Tall tales - Tall tales are when a child makes
up a story that isn't true, or greatly exaggerates
something that is true. Children this age have vivid
imaginations, and are just learning to know the
difference between fantasy and reality. When
children tell tall tales, they're often expressing
things that they wish were true. When children tell
tall tales, parents can do two things. First, they can
simply listen to their children's stories and leave it
at that. Second, parents can try to interject some
reality into their children's stories. For example, if a
child says something like, "I can ride my tricycle 100
miles an hour," a parent could reply, "You wish you
could ride that fast, don't you?"

Even though preschoolers don't generally know
that lying is wrong, this is a good time for parents
to start teaching them the basics of truth telling.
A good place for parents to start is by letting their
children know how happy it makes them when their
children tell the truth, and that not telling the truth
makes it hard for them to develop trust.

Older Children— As children enter the school age
years (6-8 and up), they begin to fully understand
the concept that lying is wrong. When children
reach this stage, parents should begin disciplining
their children when they tell lies. Lying among
children in this age group is not uncommon, and
there are many reasons why children in this age
group lie:

They hear their parents lie - Many children
hear their parents and other important adults lying
(e.g., lying about their plans in order to avoid
something). Children learn from their parents and
other adults in their lives, and thus will be more
inclined to lie if they hear their parents and other
adults telling lies.

To avoid punishment - Many children this age
lie in an attempt to stay out of trouble.

To boost their self-esteem - Children may
stretch the truth in order to get attention or praise
from others.

To get something they want - Children may lie
to get something they would like.

To impress others - In this case, children may
tell tall tales to make themselves look good.

To protect others - Children are very loyal to
friends and family members. They may lie to protect
someone else.

Teenagers— There are many different reasons
why teens lie but they typically lie to their parents
for many of the same reasons. Usually teens lie
because they are afraid of making you mad or of
getting in trouble. They may lie about where they
are going or what they are doing or even who they
are doing it with. Your teen may lie about a bad
grade in school or lie about whether or not they did
homework or chores. In most cases, these lies are
all because your teen does not want to get in
trouble for something they did or something they
didn’t do that they were supposed to. In some other
cases, however, your teen may really be in trouble
and may be lying to you about smoking, drugs or
alcohol. This is obviously a serious situation.

How to Tell When Children are Lying—

Knowing when their children are telling the truth
and when they are not is often a hard task for
parents. There are, however, many clues parents
can look for to help them figure out whether or not
their children are telling the truth.

Clearness of statements - Parents should
listen carefully to what their children tell them. Are
there incon-sistencies in what their children tell
them? Do their statements make sense? Does
what they say sound credible?

Facial expression - When children are telling
the truth, they are generally relaxed, and their facial
expressions show it. Children who are not telling
the truth can be anxious, and their facial
expressions may show their anxiety.

Spontaneity - If children are telling the truth,
their statements usually do not sound rehearsed.
If statements do sound rehearsed, parents can ask
questions and see how their children handle
coming up with answers.

What Parents Can Do About Lying—

·        Be consistent in treatment of lying. Parents
should come up with a set of rules about lying and
then stick to them. Children should be disciplined
accordingly each time they lie.

Discipline for lying. Parents should set
specific rules for lying, and specific punishments
when lying occurs. These rules should be
discussed with children before they are enforced. It
is a good idea for parents to provide separate
punishments for misbehavior and lying. When
children misbehave but are honest about it, they
should get a lesser punishment than when they
misbehave and lie about it. Parents should make
sure that there is a payoff for being honest. For
example, when children are honest about their
misdeeds, parents can praise their children for
their honesty and then provide punishment for their
misdeed. When children are dishonest about their
misdeeds, they should provide a punishment for
the dishonesty, and a punishment for the misdeed.
Parents should be careful, however, not to be too
severe or too frequent in their punishment, or their
children may continue to lie as a means of
protecting themselves.

Don't set children up. Parents who are sure
that their children have done some misdeed should
not try to trap them in a lie by asking them whether
or not they did it. Many children will lie to protect
themselves when they are backed into a corner.
Instead, parents should treat the situation matter-of-
factly. Parents should explain to their children
exactly what they did that was wrong and why, and
then provide discipline. Along the same lines, it is
also not a good idea for parents to demand
confessions from their children or to punish their
children for misdeeds that they are not absolutely
sure their children did.

Don't shame children for lying. Parents should
try not to make their children feel guilty for lying.
Parents can let their children know that they are
disappointed with their actions, but they should try
hard to avoid sending the message that they are
bad people for lying. Instead, parents should make
sure their children know that they are being
disciplined for their actions, not for who they are.

Figure out why children are lying, then look for
Parents should pay close attention to the
lies their children tell. They should try to figure out if
there is any specific pattern to their children's lies.
If parents figure out specific reasons why their
children tell lies, they should then look for specific
solutions. For example, when children lie to boost
their self esteem, parents should develop a
strategy to increase their children's self-esteem,
so that they do not have to lie to feel good about

Make sure lying is not rewarding for children.
Parents should be careful not to reward lying
behavior in their children. If, for example, a child lies
to get something he wants, parents should make
sure he or she does not get it.

Praise truthfulness. Parents should make
every effort to praise their children when they are
being honest. Behavior that is praised is much
more likely to be repeated.

Compulsive Lying—

Lying that becomes a habit is even more serious
and should be confronted consistently. You do
need those eyes in the back of your head if your
child lies frequently. Most parents learn to recognize
the non-verbal signals that their child is lying, but a
child who lies compulsively gets pretty good at it. To
break the cycle, you need to keep the upper hand
and continually give consequences for lying. A long-
term consistent effort may be needed, but it should
pay off when the child learns that lying is never his
best option.

For a detailed strategy to deal with lying, see
“When You Want Something From Your Kid” (in
this case, you want him to tell the truth), which is in
Session #3 on the Online Version of the eBook.

Some white lies are acceptable-- The tooth fairy, how babies are born,
and the night vision properties of carrots are the UK's most popular white
lies. And parents are encouraged not to feel guilty for telling their children
white lies -- apparently they are good for their development by protecting
their innocence and stimulating their imagination! In this video, leading
research psychologist Dr Aric Sigman tells all about white lies, and their
impact on children.
How to Detect Lies: Become a Lie Detector—

The following techniques to telling whether or not a child
is lying are often used by police, probation officers, and
security experts.

Warning: Sometimes ignorance is bliss. After gaining this
knowledge, you may be hurt when it is obvious that your child
is lying to you.

Signs of Deception—

Body Language of Lies:

·   A person who is lying to you will avoid making eye
·   Hands touching their face, throat & mouth. Touching
or scratching the nose or behind their ear. Not likely to
touch his chest/heart with an open hand.
·   Physical expression will be limited and stiff with
few arm and hand movements. Hand, arm and leg
movement are toward their own body – the liar takes
up less space.  

Emotional Gestures & Contradiction:

·   Timing and duration of emotional gestures and
emotions are off a normal pace. The display of emotion
is delayed, stays longer than it would naturally, then
stops suddenly.
·   Timing is off between emotions gestures/expressions
and words. For example: Someone says "I love it!"
when receiving a gift, and then smile after making that
statement, rather then at the same time the statement
is made.
·   Gestures/expressions don’t match the verbal
statement, such as frowning when saying “I love you.”
·   Expressions are limited to mouth movements when
someone is faking emotions (e.g., happy, surprised,
sad, awe) instead of the whole face. For example, when
someone smiles naturally their whole face is involved
(e.g., jaw/cheek movement, eyes and forehead push
down, etc.).
Interactions and Reactions:

·   A guilty person gets defensive. An innocent person will often go on the offensive.
·   A liar is uncomfortable facing his questioner/accuser and may turn his head or body away.
·   A liar might unconsciously place objects (book, cup, toy, etc.) between themselves and you

Verbal Context and Content:

·   A liar may leave out pronouns and speak in a monotonous tone. When a truthful statement is
made the pronoun is emphasized as much or more than the rest of the words in a statement.
·   A liar will use your words to answer your question. When asked, “Did you eat the last cookie?”
The liar answers, “No, I did not eat the last cookie.”
·   A statement with a contraction is more likely to be truthful: “ I didn't do it” instead of “I did not
do it.”
·   Liars sometimes avoid "lying" by not making direct statements. They imply answers instead of
denying something directly.
·   The guilty person may speak more than “natural” by adding unnecessary details to convince you...
they are not comfortable with silence or pauses in the conversation.
·   Words may be garbled and spoken softly, and syntax and grammar may be off. In other words,
his sentences will likely be muddled rather than emphasized.

Other signs of a lie:

·   If you believe your child is lying, then change the subject of a conversation quickly, a liar follows
along willingly and becomes more relaxed. The guilty wants the subject changed. An innocent person
may be confused by the sudden change in topics and will want to back to the previous subject.
·   Using humor or sarcasm to avoid a subject.

Obviously, just because someone exhibits one or more of these signs does not make them a liar. The
above behaviors should be compared to your child’s “base behavior” (i.e., normal behavior) whenever