We want to be able to believe our kids, give them the benefit of the doubt, and trust them. We want to think that we are doing a good job raising decent people. But when our kids lie (and let’s be real, kids do lie) we feel helpless and confused, it feels like a personal affront, and we feel like failures.
I’ve tried pretty much every parenting tactic there is to get my kids not to lie and nothing has worked 100% of the time. In fact, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about this and other parenting problems, it’s that there are no One Size Fits All solutions. But there is some great real-life advice from people who have been there. I say, we try it all and see what sticks.
“I try really hard to always be calm and level headed with them when they tell me the truth and am sure the emphasize that I appreciate that they were truthful instead of lying.” -Melissa
“Make it clear that if they tell you the truth, you won’t yell. I told my kids if they first said ‘I’ve done something wrong,’ I’d be prepared for something bad and would be able to respond appropriately.” -Trish
Understand child development.
“In younger children, brain development plays a huge role in lying. Generally there are a lot more reasons other than just wanting to be ‘naughty.’” -Martha
“With the kinds of lies that are just stories (which a lot of kids LOVE to tell between the ages of 7 and 12), just let them know that you know it wasn’t true but that it was a good story. No judgment, but no pretending to believe it either. They might be embarrassed to be caught in a lie, but if you don’t point it out or make a big deal about it their embarrassment will be minimal. Over time they will learn to either stop the stories, or to let you know that they are just exercising their imagination.” -Joy
Use guilt trips.
“I just use old fashioned guilt here. À la ‘If we can’t trust you, then you won’t be able to have privileges.’” -Kelli
You could even try manipulating them.
“Tell them you have secret cameras placed around the house. And you know what they’ve been up too. They straighten up real quick.” -Jennifer
“We sat our older son down because we knew he had lied about something specific and we said ‘we know what you did…. but you are going to tell us.’ So he started and we had a couple of revelations about less bad things before he got to the whopper. We just kept saying ‘and what else’ till he had confessed a bunch of stuff. It was one of the most satisfying gotcha parental moments.” -Matthew
Or avoid manipulation altogether.
“I tried not to ‘catch’ them lying if I could help it. I never tried to trap them, like if I knew they were someplace they shouldn’t have been, I wouldn’t ask where they been without making it clear that I already knew the answer.” -Laurie
“My parents always made sure that the consequences were twice as bad if we lied…. so that was always a good motivator for me.” -Susan
“it’s not the mistake that matters, but more so what you do right after the mistake. Yes, there are consequences to poor choices and bad behavior, but if you don’t come clean about your mistake and instead you lie, the trouble becomes double.” -Jodie
“I have been making her clean the baseboards with a toothbrush.” -Katrina
Make a deal.
“If they tell me the truth, they won’t get in trouble. It works really well with my oldest daughter. My other two, still tell me lies, but after I remind them that they won’t get in trouble if they tell me the truth, but they will be in trouble if I catch them lying, then they cave and tell me the truth.” -Shannon
Strengthen the relationship.
“I see lying as a breakdown in communication. I know I may have a part in that, too. I try to make sure my parenting failures (too many to count) aren’t contributing to my kids struggling to disclose the truth.” -Eryn
“I’m a pretty heavy handed parent and I think a lot of the times, they’ll lie because they fear me at some level. This is so bad! So, as I learn how to parent and just how to be a better me, I simply ask for their forgiveness. I try all the time to not overreact and keep levels of communication opened. But I still mess up and lies are still told. I think it’s just a lifelong process. For all of us.” -Erika
“Sometimes parents inadvertently teach children to lie – for instance, making them apologize for hurting someone. If they don’t actually feel sorry, then they are just learning that lying makes culpability go away. Help them to find a way to address the other person’s feelings without lying. For example, ‘I realize that what I did hurt you. How can I make it better?’” -Joy
“Each kid is different, each parent is different. Consequences work well with one kid, but not with another.” -Erika
Don’t take it personally.
“I try so hard not to be offended by the lies, but man it’s hard. Honesty is so huge to me!” -Heather
“Remember that kids do lie. It’s human nature. It’s our job to teach them to tell the truth, but it doesn’t mean we’ve done it wrong if they do lie now and then.” -Laurie
Just like adults, kids make poor choices sometimes. It doesn’t mean they’re bad kids and it doesn’t mean we’re bad parents. It just means we’re all human and we’re all learning. There may be no way to guarantee that our kids never lie, but if we try out this real-life advice to deal with it, I think we’ll all make it through OK.
Hi, I’m Crystal Hill and I’ve been a mom by profession for the past 17 years. My qualifications are: raising 5 kids and having a degree in Marriage, Family and Human Development (yes, that’s a real degree) from BYU. I’m particularly experienced in the areas of carpooling and diaper changing. My hobbies include watching crime dramas and absurd comedies when I have the time, reading when I have the attention span, and running when I’m not too fat. I’m also really good at oversharing and cracking myself up, usually at the same time.You can find me at Simplify Mommyhood, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. See all of Crystal’s posts here.