ASK THE EXPERTS

How Can I Get My Child to Stop Lying?

By Dr. Lisa Hunter, Child Psychologist

Question:

How does one get a child to stop telling lies, for example denying she took something from someone else, and just boldly lying about it?

It's so difficult when one doesn't have actual proof but knows from past experience the child is deliberately lying, and one only wishes she didn't find this necessary. I know it's hard for one to admit to the truth, especially after lying about it, but this needs to be straightened out.

Answer:

Lying is a fairly common behavior in first-grade children. Children at this age may lie to get something they want, avoid punishment, protect their friends or get attention.

To help your daughter, it is important to determine what may be motivating her to lie. I would recommend closely observing your daughter's lying to see if it follows any pattern. If you determine that she is lying for a specific reason, you can then address that reason and hopefully, the lying will stop. For example, if she is lying because she wants things that her friends or siblings have, you could develop a plan that allows her to earn what she wants by demonstrating good behavior.

In addition to determining the underlying cause of your daughter's lying, it is important to talk to her about the importance of telling the truth, model being truthful in your home and have consistent consequences when she does lie. Try not to make your daughter feel guilty or ashamed when she does lie. You do not want to make her feel like she is a bad person because she lies. Rather, your goal is to help her figure out how she can get her needs met without lying.

For more information on lying in children check out Lying by the Center for Effective Parenting.

Dr. Lisa Hunter is an assistant professor in the department of child psychiatry at Columbia University and the director of school-based mental health programs at Columbia University's Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and evaluation of school-based mental health and prevention programs. In addition she is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in New York City. She specializes in cognitive behavioral treatment for children and adolescents.

 

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.