Believe it or not, lying is a natural way for children to develop and learn to understand the boundaries of their world. There are many different reasons why children lie. Understanding the underlying causes or motivations can help parents respond and use these experiences as learning opportunities.
In this article, we look at why children lie and what can parents do to manage it in a healthy way. If you feel that your child’s behaviour with lying is not improving, it is a good idea to seek the advice of a health professional.
Why Children Lie
Children may tell lies for a range of different reasons. In some cases the reasons are harmless and just a part of growing up. In other cases, there are deeper issues at play.
Here are some of the main reasons a child may tell a lie:
- To test a new behaviour: When children learn about the concept of lying, they can become fascinated with the idea and want to try it out for themselves to test boundaries.
- To gain approval: Children with low self-confidence may lie about themselves or their abilities to supplement low self-esteem and obtain approval from others.
- To take the focus off themselves: A child may tell a lie to take the focus off themselves or avoid having to answer more questions.
- They really believed their lie: Children have very imaginative brains, and occasionally their imagination takes over, or they become confused. A child may forget certain things or think they did something (like a chore) when they didn’t. In these cases, it’s best to identify the habit, then help them come up with better ways to stay on track.
- They spoke before they thought: Children can have lots of stories and ideas to share, and sometimes they speak before they really think.
How to Manage Lying in Your Seven-Year-Old
How you want to address lying with your child may depend on the severity of the lie they have told.
For mild lies, it is recommended to ignore the grandiosity of the lie and redirect to a factual aspect of their story. If they insist, you can acknowledge that their story sounds like a “tall tale” and that you’d like to hear them try again with what really happened.
For more severe lies, you might consider warning your child with consequences, then following through if the behaviour continues. If the problem persists, look deeper into what the child is lying about and why they might be choosing to lie to get to the root of the issue.
It may come as a relief for many parents to learn that lying is actually a healthy part of growing up for children. Understanding why children lie is the first step in teaching them about honesty and speaking the truth.
Written by Kaitlan D.
As well as a writer with a passion for education, Kaitlan works in a wellness practice, working with mothers, mothers-to-be and hopeful mothers.
 American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Lying and Children. 2017-07
 Arky B. Why Kids Lie and What Parents Can Do About It. 2020
All articles are provided as general information and are not intended, nor may it be construed, as medical advice or instruction. Information and opinions expressed are believed to be correct and accurate to the best knowledge and judgement of the authors. Readers should consult their appropriately qualified health care professional prior to taking any action or inaction.