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

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

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.
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

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

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-
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

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!

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