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Kids & Lying

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Worries Big & Little > Kids & Lying


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4-year-old's lies

June 2009

My 4 year old daughter lies to get out of trouble, then she insists her lies are true. Today she splashed water all over the bathroom floor. Not such a big deal, BUT she insisted that she hadn't done anything and there was no water there! When I pressed her (is that water or pee?), she said it was water, but she hadn't done it. Sometimes she also blames things on the cats, or on me - ''you did it''

I don't hit her and punishment is usually a talking to or/and a time-out. In fact, I go lighter on her (no time out) and praise her if she tells the truth, but I do get angry when she lies. Later on, she usually comes clean with the truth --if she's caught.

A note - Her childcare provider stretched truths and lied to get out of situations. On one occasion she even had my daughter lie to me! My daughter is not at that center anymore, but she was there for two years.

I want my daughter to understand how important telling the truth is- and would welcome some advice. anon


Hi, Children often lie because they are afraid of the consequences, of whatever it is they are lying about. So try not getting angry about lying ( even if your reaction seems mild to you) so she doesn't feel like like she has to lie. She probably didn't mean to splash water all over the floor or whatever it is. Kids forget when they are having fun or don't notice things the way grown ups do. Instead of 'getting in trouble' she denies it, because she is afraid of loosing your love and respect.

The most obvious lies are really the worst because it feels like a challenge to our intelligence. Your getting angry about lying sounds like a trigger for you, about something bigger than your 4 year old. I find when something my kids do really gets to me, it is more about me and my past than about exactly what my kid is doing, once I look at that, it is easier for me to put my kids action into perspective, and let my heart grow. One of the many (challenging) ways our kids help us grow into better people. Try saying something like '' I bet you didn't realize all the water was going on the floor, here is a towel'' or ''Hey lets clean that up!'' Two things about lying

1) If a child is in the habit of lying don't give them the opportunity by saying things like ''Who did this?'' or ''did you do this'' when you already know or can guess the answer

2) Ignore the lie and look behind it for the cause. Ask yourself what are they afraid of ? Good luck annie


So your daughter lies. Your initial reaction was doable. Good for telling the truth, no punishment. But it sounds like as the oldest of 3 she is enjoying her one on one mom time(hugging, etc) my guess is she is wanting attention and sees this as a fine source of it so my answer(negative attention is better than NO attention) is really a two step plan-first carve out some mom time with 8 yo-you and her-read together, play cards whatever but just the two of you. Secondly, tell her that lying is wrong- o ands ifs or buts. You don't expect her to lie ABOUT ANYTHING! If she continues to lie she will be punished because at 8 she is old enough to know better-tell her what the punishment will be- and IF she tells a lie enforce it. chances are once or twice of truly NEGATIVE consequences and you will be done. Please balance it with the one/one hugs etc. mom of many
From what I have read, lying at age 4 is pretty normal. Some kids can't distinguish between fantasy and reality; some can't conceptualize lying and others are experimenting. I wouldn't get too hung up on it; just keep reinforcing what you expect. Also a Mom of a 4 yo
I'm quoting Brazelton, from his Touchpoints book: ''All four- year-olds lie. An active imagination is a sign of emotional health at around ages four and five - even if it leads to untruths. And it will.''

It sounds like your daughter's previous daycare experience may have been less than ideal, but I wouldn't worry about it having been the source of her lying. She probably would have come up with this idea anyway!

I would try to accept the lying as more or less natural, and to try instead to make her think as much as possible that you are omniscient and you know the truth anyway. Often kids KNOW that you know the right answer but just can't manage to say it themselves. Their egocentrism and desire to ''save face'' (yes, toddlers and preschoolers have this) gets in the way. In the case of the spilled water, you could just say, Oh, really? in response to her denial, and then hand her a towel and make sure she cleans it up before getting to resume playing. So the consequences are the same either way, because you the all- powerful parent know the truth anyway.

That doesn't mean she shouldn't ever be punished for lying, such as when she deliberately lies to hurt someone. But you may find that it works best to save those kinds of punishments for a few years, like when she is 6+, and you know that she KNOWS she is lying. Right now, at age 4, the lines are fuzzy between awareness of what is truth and what is imaginary (''if I say it, does that make it true?''), so it's quite possible that she is confused about being punished for lying per se. Good luck


I bet there is something punitive when you ask "Did you spill the water?" My guess is you're going to say something like "You're wasting water? Why can't you be more careful? What IS THIS MESS?"

Children lie because they are afraid of what will happen if they tell the truth.

Rather than saying something like "Did you splash water on the floor?" You should say something like "I see that when you were playing with the water some spilled on the floor. Let's both grab a wash cloth and clean it up." Then do it.

Children shouldn't be forced into admitting something just because an adult wants satisfaction of the admission of guilt. As long as you choose to make your questions rhetorical and consequence driven, you will have a child who is frightened enough to lie.

If the deed was clearly done by your daughter, then help her get the mess cleaned up. While you are cleaning, you can talk about her coming to you if the mess is more than she can handle, if she doesn't quite know what to do. When you make it easy to tell the truth, when the consequence of telling the truth outweigh the consequence of lying, when your daughter can trust that you only want to resolve the issue not punish her, she will begin telling the truth. Works for me in the classroom and at home


With a 4-year old, I would bring in an external object for these tricky conversations, a stuffed animal friend, who is willing to take the blame. ''I think I understand what happened here, your Bear splashed water all over the floor! Oh my, let's have a talk with Bear.'' It can be silly or serious, your child may decide to put Bear in a time out, be punitive or forgiving. You can cover a lot of sticky ground by enlisting an animal friend for help.. You can tell Bear exactly what the rules are and your child is not blamed or shamed. Just play with it and see where it goes. Just because they lie at 4 does not mean it's a lasting behaviour, they are just trying stuff out, and pushing the limits. At 5 years, it will all be different! Enjoy their wonderful fantasies, when you can. suzanne
I think at your daughter's age, the line between real and imaginary is pretty thin and that's good and normal. How about sidestepping asking her if such and such is real and just asking or moving forward in some way assuming that it is, so she doesn't have to answer the question. Being asked may be scary to her. ''Oh, you had a little spill. Let's clean up!'' (cheerfully). Or move onto the next logical question as though you both know she did whatever it is, the next question being non-blaming but asking more which of two next steps she wants to take, now that the thing she did is done... does that make sense? If it's something you want to discourage, same thing. ''That bite really hurt Jenny. Do you want to go to her house to say you're sorry, or draw her a picture?''

I don't think the word ''lying'' really totally applies and I don't think this is a huge deal. Also I'd avoid focusing on blame. Hope this helps. Anon


I'm pretty sure I read in a book somewhere that 4 years olds go through this phase. I don't think that the intent is to necessarily be deceptive as it might appear. But is more linked to their strong imagination. I wouldn't fret too much. Just remember it's another learning opportunity as ALL the other ones you might have worked on. I imagine if you get too worked up about her experimenting with what's real and what's not (or rather, what she might like to conveniently make real in any given moment) it might not be too productive. Just teach her calmly patience is a virtue
I read some of the responses and just had to chime in...

Yes, that age is the time that your child is learning about reality and truth. It's such an important age. However, to let it pass or not address it directly will just reinforce to your daughter that lying is an option when you want to avoid consequences. Please don't sidestep a conversation about honesty.

It really bothered me that a couple responders made it sound like your daughter was lying because she was so afraid of your obviously harsh reactions that she had no choice and even went on to tell you how to handle the mess situation and not the lying situation. You must be one of those parents that over-reacts and needs to learn how to better handle the situation, right? (Ugh)

Maybe I'm tiring of my proximity to Berkeley, but I couldn't believe that someone might actually describe the act of asking your child to take responsibility for her actions as ''being forced into admitting something just because an adult wants satisfaction of the admission of guilt.'' Yikes!

It was a very long article, but I really learned a lot from the NY Mag piece that was linked to in one of the responses and it reinforced my experience as a parent. You need to talk about truth and honesty with your child--including at age four. Also, you need to talk about not only the consequences of lying and dishonesty, but the great benefits of truthfulness and taking responsibility (the George Washington example.)

The responsibility thing is a big deal. I'm a pretty strict parent with straightforward consequences, and I find that instead of lying, my children usually come to me early in a situation like yours and tell me the truth so that they can at least balance any downside of doing something wrong with the upside (mostly praise) for being honest.

Good luck with your daughter! Anon


4 yr old - lies and steals

Feb 2007

My husband just got the dreaded phone call from my daughter's (age 4) pre-school asking if we included blueberries in her lunch (we had not). Apparently, our daughter insisted those were hers much to the dismay and tears of another girl. Of late, she has been telling more ''lies'' or stories - like having her hand in the cookie jar and insisting that it's not hers (and our cat gets blamed for many things now) - and I get that this is developmentally normal. It was helpful to read posts on BPN on this subject. I guess her taking something that does not belong to her really bothers me. I know that I will not get responses to this before I pick her up in a few hours, but I did want to get ideas on how to deal with this in the future. My plan is to pick her up and ask about the episode and hope that my daughter can empathize with the other girl's loss/feelings. My hope is to be calm about this and keep reminding my daughter of our unconditional love. She tends to be a girl who does not get in trouble so on the rare incidents when she does something against the ''rules'' and we talk about it, she shows intense sad and angry feelings. It helps just to write this and send it off as a posting but I would love to hear about other's success and struggles dealing with this issue. Thanks worried mama


I could have written this post! My daughter recently went through this same phase, taking things out of the classroom that did not belong to her, bringing things home in her lunch box. We had several conversations with her about it, and each time she got very upset and cried, almost hysterical. I tried to emphasize that taking things from others makes them feel bad, and I asked her how it would make her feel if someone took her precious blanket and didn't tell her. She seemed to respond best to that. And the behavior just stopped after a couple of weeks, which will likely be the case with your daughter as well. Daughter Not Headed for Sing Sing
I felt a little sad for your daughter when I read how you titled your post ''four year old lies and steals''. I do not think that it is in the nature of children so young to steal or be duplicitous in any way. Try to remember that children are pretty focuced on the present only and what they want at that given moment in time. Your daughter saw the blueberries in someone else's lunch and wanted them. The next time something like this happens, say to your daughter ''oh, the teacher called and said there was a misunderstanding about the blueberries and the other little girtl felt really badly. Please don't do that again. And then, make it light. If you want blueberries in your lunch, we can get fresh blueberries, blueberry yogurt, blueberry muffins, in fact, we can have a blueberry festival. But, we must bring our own food from home. That's the rule so no one gets confused. O.K.?. And then, DROP it!!! Do not continue to give your child heavy guilt trips over little things. State the rule, make it light, state the rule again. And then, follow up by actually having her get some blueberries or give you suggestions of what to include in the lunch. Ditto with the cookies. I think it is actually kind of cute that she has the imagination to blame it on the cat. If you don't want her sneaking cookies, put them away. Set up regular cookie and milk time. Stick to the rules. Tell her that Mr. Puss in Boots is reminded that cookie hour is at 4:00 and that the milk will be cold. Try not to be so controlling. Have the conversations with the Cat yourself. Your daughter will get the messages that you want to convey by stating the rules, making it fun, and stating the rules again. ''Oh that was nice cookie time, same time tomorrow, right Mr. Boots? Oh, and Mr. Boots, if I catch you sneaking cookies, we really won't be able to do it again tomorrow because you will already have had your fill and that would be such a shame because I like to have this time with you. a mother of two whose children love it when mr. Cat talks

Lying Three-year-olds

1998

Our three-year-old daughter has started lying recently along the lines of "I didn't spill my milk" and "I didn't push my brother", when she did them right in front of me or my husband. I don't think our response to these acts is harsh or unpredictable. Our response to her lying, which has been to talk to her about telling the truth and how that's more important than spilling milk, has not been particularly effective - at least not visibly. I am wondering if anyone has anything to say about instilling honesty in children of this age. Deborah


I have a 3 & 1/4 year old and am looking forward to the answers. I looked in a couple of my books last night. Brazelton's Touchpoints and Leach's Birth to 5 years. What I could glean was that a preschoolers very active fantasy life mixes up with reality, plus there is the development of concious and guilt. So the statement of "I didn't do it" may arise out of a very strong wish that she/he hadn't done it...and it becomes reality for a moment. Both books talk about not making an emotional big deal about it just being matter-of-fact that you saw something occur (and it sounds like you are being successfully low-key about it). The significance of truth vs lie become more important at about age 6 or so. Right now it is more of an issue of (truth) reality vs fantasy. Last night was thinking about your question, I spilled a cup of water on the floor. So I remarked to my daughter "look what I just did..oops." There are so many instances when we wish we had done something differently. It must be hard to discern (from a 3 year old point of view) which situations really need to be different (ie hitting someone or being deliberately mean) vs situations that are nice to avoid but not serious (ie spilling on the floor by mistake). Let us know what works for your family. Karen
I have concerns about truth-telling too. My 3 year old daughter sometimes makes up stories along the same lines, although usually to do with kids at school so I haven't witnessed the (alleged) event. Usually, I try to get her to explain the whole story, so I can make sure I'm not accusing her of dishonesty if something really has happened that made her feel bad. If something is clearly not true, I ask her why she has said it happened, and tell her it is not nice say something not true about someone else. She has a vivid imagination, and often acts out scenes from books and videos. She has also been known to state that she has painted/made that flower, sky, picture, necklace, etc., I think "testing" us for our "gullibility factor" because she looks for a reaction, so I make a neutral statement like "it's beautiful," or "how did you do that?" I did once ask the doctor about "instilling honesty," and was told that conscience doesn't usually kick in until about 4-5 years old. At 3, children are usually learning about fantasy, and it takes a while to sort out what's "real" and what's not. The advice was to do what you are already doing: calmly explain the basic value of telling the truth, and it will take hold as circumstances/examples add up. (My husband is in child development and works with 2-5 year olds, so he knows a lot more about this than I do!). I guess the issue for me is how to teach important values while encouraging a developing imagination. Laura
My little boy is 7 now but I have handle the issue of lying in a way that has helped in his early years and is still working. I've consistently stressed to him that if he tells the truth - he doesn't get punished. Of course I will find out or see if he is lying so I will know what is a lie or what is the truth. He might get a stern talking to and lecture, but no punishment. If I find out that he has lied then there is punishment which has taken the form of sending him to his room to "think about his actions", me manifesting a non understanding and exasperated mood and expressing my strong dissatisfaction, no treats, or whatever has seems appropriate at the age. It has never really got to any REAL punishment because it has worked quite well. Positive reinforcement about truth telling in his early years - regardless of the severity of the action - has worked. I have told him that telling the truth is sometimes the hardest thing and that we always will have to talk about it (no real getting off), but that he should not be fearful of the ramifications of truth telling. Even now, when I ask him if things like if he threw his lunch away or ate it, he will tell me exactly why and what he threw away and what he ate. Sometime, it takes a little coercion and a reminder of the "no punishment for truth " rule, but the decision almost always is to avoid the P word. Hope this helps. Andrea
I don't think this is really lying -- I think they are testing the limits of their control. Can the kid change reality by saying it's different than it is? I think they learn whether or not to lie from the actions of those around them. If the adults are truthful (that is saying it will hurt when it does and not saying it won't hurt when it will; not pretending things are ok when they are not, etc) the kids will learn they have nothing to lose by telling the truth. This is based only on personal experience and anecdotal evidence. Margy

8-year-old daughter is lying

June 2009

I'm wondering if anyone has encountered this, and your philosophy on how to handle it. My daughter is 8, but has always been very mature for her age. Rather wise, if you will. From time to time, I have caught, or heard, her tell a lie, and either called her out on it, or not. She has two little siblings, and sometimes I have felt it's a defense mechanism, perhaps a perfectionist complex, in a way. Only at times when it comes down to word against word have I forced her to (i.e.) stay in her room until ready to tell the truth, etc. Otherwise, it kind of just feels like regular ''kid stuff''. Well, last month I caught her in a bold faced lie, the kind that was not even worth telling, it was just to be ''right''. I called her out on it, knowing it was a lie, but she swore it was true. I didn't do anything but give her the dreaded look of matronly disappointment. I let her know I knew it wasn't true, but didn't force it. Well, that sweet little thing came back to me that night, all shaken up and and said she needed to work it out with me, she had lied. I was so touched, I did nothing but hug her for awhile, told her I had known, and that was it. No punishment. A week later, the same thing. But she was maybe less shaken up. I said thank you for telling me, I thought it wasn't true, please try to speak the truth, etc. A little more 'preachy''. Then, again,a few days later. Here's where I started to wonder, rut roh! Is she going to think as long as she tells me, this is ok? And she's beginning to be more passive about it. So, yesterday was the fourth time, and this time we were at a friends house, I saw her do it, told her I saw her do it, she lied, said no, she didn't (and we're talking small stuff, like eating 3 more croutons instead of 2), but she was really passive. (hey, mom, earlier i lied, i really did take 3) So, my question is, who has dealt with this, and do you just punish as you would anyway? My dilemma is that I want her to see it has consequences, but we all know kids lie, and normally don't confess. Or do they? I guess what my worry is that as soon as I say ok, thanks for telling me, here's your consequence, she won't be open with me anymore. On the flip side, it doesn't seem to be that her conscious is weighing her down anymore, either. More as a way to break a rule, lie, then get away with it. So, my question is, what would you do? I want to hold the line without losing the connection. And she's only 8!! alison


This is a tricky one. My son is 8, and rather ''wise'' also, but does occasionally lie. The things to try, it seems to me, are as follows: 1) Do not, under any circumstances, give a lot of attention to either lying, or confessing. This will prolong the problem. 2) When you know the lie is happening as it happens, make it clear you know the truth and are disappointed, and then either let it be (if it's 3 croutons instead of 2), or administer whatever consequences would normally be associated with the action (if it's more than the crouton thing). DO NOT argue about lies/truth, or even discuss it. (the attention thing). 3) When she confesses a lie, again make your disappointment in the original lie clear. Then, perhaps, ask her what she thinks should happen to her because of the action and the lie. Try to go with some version of what she says. 4) Tell her (at some other time, when you're just talking) that if she lies to you, you may not be able to believe her in the future. Maybe read The Boy Who Cried Wolf, or some similar book. Explain to her how very important truthfulness can be in your relationship with the world. If you have this sort of talk when the two of you are calm, it will stick better. Good luck! Karen
Hi Alison, I found this article a good read on this issue. "Learning to Lie" http://nymag.com/news/features/43893/ Also some further research at http://talwarresearch.com/publications.html Good luck, Fred
Wow, two questions about lying! I will address yours as your daughter is close in age to my oldest (9).

First, I would ask how you are handling the lie right when it happens. It seems from your post that you are witnessing it and asking about it later. She needs to address her dishonesty at the moment it happens and then you can ask, ''Why are you lying? Why is that a solution to this situation?'' It is too diluted if you discuss it later as I think you said.

The second thing I would say, and this goes to the woman with the 4-year-old as well, is that you have to make her see that not lying, read=being honest, is the absolute best way to go. I have hammered this into both of my daughters with two main points:

1-Trust//I tell them that if lying becomes a habit, then they can't be trusted by me or others. That means less freedom, more rules, friends that are wary of them, less interest/regard for what they say. I say this about any dishonesty. If my daughter throws her veggies away at lunch instead of eating them, she must fess up. ''I have to be able to trust you'' is our mantra.

2-Alternative//I have made it very clear that lying is ALWAYS worse than whatever it is they may be trying to cover up. This may not be factually true, but it makes a strong impression when we talk about it. I always tell them any consequences will be worse for lying than for whatever it is they are lying about. (They are girls!! I am trying to make sure we have this down before we hit the teen years!!)

I would not let things slide as ''kid stuff'' (not sure if you said it or the mom of the 4-year-old). Truth and honesty are so important and you need to set an good example and to address these issues as they come up. Good luck! Elizabeth


I have grown children now, but I felt that it was important to teach my children early that lying was not OK because it would be more difficult to deal with when they were teenagers. I started by telling them that lying would always cause a worse punishment than telling the truth would and I tried to follow through. This can get very difficult when your child tells you something they have done that was bad, but I tried to remember to praise them on telling the truth (I was not always successful.) I also tried to point out examples of how lying might hurt them - if I lied or a friend lied to them and I told them how their lying hurt me. Then when/if they lied about something there was a consequence. Since I am not all knowing I frequently asked my children what they thought the consequence should be when they had done something wrong. They frequently had good/interesting and appropriate ideas. mother of grown children
Hi It sounds like you are doing the right thing not making a big deal about her lying even tho you know what she is up to. And responding with love and support when she did come back to you later with the truth. I would keep doing what you are doing. Keep responding with love and understanding and not making a big deal of it the lie or the confession. It is just what she is going thru right now and as long as she can be sure of your love she will go right thru this stage. Her doing this over and over with less and less intensity is a good sign, it is not that she is thinking it is okay, she knows it is not or she wouldn't come back later, she just wants to be sure of your love and that you do know what is real. If she stops coming to you, I would go to her privately and let her know that you do know the truth and that she will feel better if she tells the truth and people will like/love her no matter what the truth is. One of my kids likes to 'enhance' the truth or just plain make up stories about things that have happened. I listen and let him know I don't remember it happening that way or at all, and will remind him that he is great just the way he is and that he doesn't have make anything up. Also when I kid is having a tendency to lie I just don't ask the kind of questions that will give them the opportunity to lie. Good luck annie
Dear Friend- I am a long-time elementary school teacher and Boy Howdy! have I had trouble dealing with exactly your issue. When the children are very young, you can deal with it in a kinder, sweeter way, but once they are in second or third grade it gets tricky. For example, you can never ask ''Did you take the pencil (eraser, lunch money, etc)'' You have to say ''Why did you take the pencil?'' Or in the case of lunch money ''Where is the lunch money?'' Of course they remonstrate with the standard ''I didn't______(fill in the blank) at which time you have to be stern and say ''I didn't ask you IF you took the pencil, I want to know WHY you did.'' This method was taught to me when I first started teaching many years ago by a wonderful mentor and it has never failed me. There's no yelling, etc...you just have control of the situation. Pretty soon kids get sick of being caught in the lie and stop. It's just not worth it to them and you are the grown up without having to resort to anything you would regret. Can you believe it? In my day we were taught to even use demeaning sarcasm as a classroom management technique. UGH! Try this method-it works-it's not unkind, just direct. Good luck! Susan

6-year-old friend's truth-telling drama

May 2008

I swap childcare with a friend 4-5 times/month and our 6-yr-old girls get along well. It's a great set-up for us and we have been doing this for 4 years. Lately I have been struggling with an issue with my friend's daughter. Like my girl, she is going through a phase I'll call ''experimenting with the truth'', where she will tell a patent lie and then deny it. I deal with friend's tall tales the same way I do with my own spin specialist's, by saying, ''I'm sorry, I disagree with you. The truth is __, you can tell me the truth and I won't be upset because I care about you''. At that point, my daughter will usually drop it. I feel like it is about getting attention. The problem is that friend will then become quite hysterical and insist that she is right. My daughter will often jump in and because she loves to be right, say, ''No, you're wrong'' and then my energy is directed at keeping her out of the argument. Usually I'm successful, but friend continues to challenge me and insist she is right. I tell her the argument is over, but she gets a defiant gleam in her eye (here is where she really differs from my kid) and runs off to the bathroom/bedroom, slams the door and starts screaming ''You're wrong!!! Leave me alone!!'' Which I am happy to do. This has begun happening more frequently and has made many of our previously fun activities crash and burn. I have talked to her mom, and she says it's a problem for her too, but she feels like it is part of her sensitive spirit, and doesn't want to punish her for it. When I've seen mom deal with it, at my house or her own, she usually stands outside the door and asks her to come out and talk, which escalates the tantrum and at least at our house has marked up our walls from kicking, which has deeply embarrassed my mom friend . That's her battle, but at my house I want to find a way to stop it. Any suggestions? CJ


Don't get involved unless there is damage to property. You don't have to be right. You know how she will react. Or, tell the Mom that you need a few months break while she gets her emotions under control.

If there is no way around involving yourself in a 'what is the truth discussion' then tell her that you will call her Mom to come pick her up. Ask her to sit on the front sofa until she comes. Make sure that you let Mom know this is coming. Tell her you can't handle the drama in your house. Mom will either figure out how to reign it in...or, she will have her 'days off' cut short.

I have a friend's daughter who is a nightmare drama queen. I nip in the bud -- she is a tattler. I nicely tell her to deal directly with whoever gave her a dirty look, won't share their toy, etc. She won't (I think that she is looking for attention and/or making things up...she is six. I have a five-year-old so my lie-dar is not fully operational, yet) Her tantrums escalate the more attention/soothing I give her, so now I kindly tell her to deal with the problem herself (I don't witness any of these travesties to humanity and there is no blood...and quite frankly, she is the only kid who complains about my daughters) and walk away to take care of some imaginary project. I am not mean, but I won't engage. The drama lasts but a minute. Her Mom blather's on about how sensitive her child is...that is fine, but then help her learn some coping strategies. Don't pull her aside and say 'stop sweetie or you won't have any friends' or don't tell my child to stop antagonizing her daughter. I talked to the Dad of the child (Mom thinks that any naysayers re: her daughter -- including her teachers -- are just being mean.) and told him that all of the crying and drama makes it difficult for my daughter to enjoy the playdates (my own daughter has compared the girl to the ''Boy who Cried Wolf.''). Dad is actually working on it (he backs my style of dealing with his daughter -- gently, but not falling prey to her manipulations). I've also minimized contact -- Mom can't be around my child (don't need an adult saying something nasty to my child-- and she is nearly every time she comes in contact with her. I feel you can make your point and stay kind). I won't have the daughter over to my house if her Mom will be around. The Dads take the daughters to the playground, swimming, etc. Don't know if this helps. -anon


I have a 7-year-old who sometimes fibs about inconsequential things that are easily disproved. If I challenge him, he becomes very insistent and piles more lies on top of the one already told, and then everything escalates into a big show-down. He does not give in even if the evidence is staring him in the face! It is just irrational, as kids this age so often are. So I have found the best strategy is a very bored and/or skeptical ''uh-huh'' and then immediately change the subject. Example: He says, ''The teacher didn't give us homework tonight''. Mom: ''Uh-huh. So do you want a snack first?'' and then I ignore him (at this point he he is saying ''Really mom! really! she didn't!'') as I get his homework assignment out of the backpack and put it on the table and go fetch a snack. It doesn't work to say ''I thought you said you didn't have any homework!!! What's this?!'' For him, that's just a cue for drama. So I recommend ignoring, diffusing and moving on. This way, the little lies are a lot less fun, and they will start to happen a lot less often. Mom of 3
The best book I have found for raising kids is: ''Love and Logic'', I like the one for toddlers and younger kids.

I think all this drama is the child wanting to have adults around. She wants to know that she can trust adults to set boundaries.

I would talk to her and explain that it is not acceptable for her to act that way in your home. If she wants to continue visiting you, she needs to have better manners and respect for you.

Also, if it's a story that doesn't matter, I wouldn't worry to much about contradicting her. Just ignore her.

I think this sensitive kid stuff is extremely damaging to the child. Kids need adults to help teach them impulse control. If not they will be sensitive adults... And there's not a lot of room in the world for us. Teach them dicipline now, so they can have it for the rest of their lives. Love and Logic fan.


How about, ''Oh honey, I bet you wish that is what happened'' or just ignoring anything you know is a lie (not responding verbally to it)? Is she worried she'll get in trouble, angry at herself because she slipped up, testing you? No need to go into it. Express compassion and change the subject; there's less room for argument. As for the bad behavior, tell her you don't allow door slamming and kicking walls in your home. If she does, she won't be able to come over again for a week. Seems like her mom should be doing this though. Maybe you can run it by her? Good luck!

Second Grader Stealing and Lying

March 2005

Recently, our second grade daughter stole about $2 in quarters from her grandmother's state quarters collection. After admitting she was responsible, my daughter expressed deep remorse, voluntarily gave me ''all the quarters'' to give back to her grandmother, wrote her grandmother a letter telling her how ashamed she was and asking what she needed to do to make it up to her grandmother, and told me that she understood how wrong this was and that she would never do it again. In addition to returning the quarters, her grandmother asked her to do certain chores for the next four times she visited.

Then two days later my husband discovered more quarters on top of our daughter's dresser. It turned out that she had kept part of the money she took, hiding it inside a shirt. When she decided to wear the shirt she put the hidden money on top of her dresser where my husband noticed it. So we talked again, this time stressing even more strongly the consequences of stealing, everything from loss of her family's trust, to not being able to freely play or even be welcomed to other people's houses to going to jail for stealing and how awful it is to live in jail. As we spoke, I started crying. She became very serious working hard to comfort me. We put her on a month of restricted privileges. She has been behaving like an angel, observing her restrictions zealously.

This was her third stealing/lying/hiding incident In the past year. However, it was the first time that we know for sure that she has stolen outside our home. In the first two incidents, she first lied unequivocally saying she had not taken anything and became furious at us for finding out what she had done, telling her it was stealing, and requiring her to return or pay for what she had taken. Each of the first two times, she continued to deny having taken anything even when we knew for sure, making up improbable explanations of why she had the items in her possession, then exploding with anger when we didn't accept her stories. After she calmed down and admitted what she had done, she still expressed anger that we had not believed her. She didn't have the anger explosion this time.

We believe that there's a worsening pattern of behavior that needs to be stopped. What have other parents done? How do we handle visits--especially solo visits--to the homes of relatives and friends? How do we tell if she's really trying to change her behavior? How and when do we take steps to rebuild trust? What if she steals or lies to us again? Worried Mom


I have a confession....I was a 2nd grade thief and liar too. Looking back on the situation, there were several family issues going on during that time and my self-psycho-analysis tells me that I wanted some attention. I was the oldest of 2, my parents adopted an OLDER sibling and suddenly I was the middle child. My grandmother (who preferred my brother over myself simply because he was male) lived with us and my dad travelled alot for work at the time. It probably wasn't the best way to get attention, but I was starving for ANY attention, good, bad, or otherwise. Is there anything going on with your daughter that would make her feel like she needs some extra attention? What worked for me? My parents are smart smart people. It took some time, but they figured it out. We started ''buddy day''. Every Saturday, the 3 of us kids rotated Buddy Day with Mom or Dad. When it was our turn, we could do anything we wanted with either mom or dad (I think they rotated days too...) I always chose McDonalds with my dad for some reason. I clearly remember scraping the onions off my cheeseburgers....it's a stupid ''activity'' but I simply adored Buddy Day. Undivided attention. I kinda miss it, just thinking about it again makes me want to call mom and dad and schedule another buddy day. Again, I don't know what specific issues or non-issues you, your daughter or your family have...maybe none or maybe something you thought wasn't a big deal but to her it is. Mine were clearly huge and your post just reminded me of that little learning period in my life. (By the way....I turned out okay!) ;-)

Lying 6-year-olds

1999

My almost 6 year old son has been in the habit lately of "tricking" us, as he likes to refer to it, although it is basically blantant lying. My husband and I have explained to him to story behind "crying wolf" but to no avail, its not working. He will often look straight at us and lye about things we've asked him, often serious questions -- when we're not playing around. He'll tell us things such as "no, I didn't do that" or "I didn't say that", etc. when it's perfectly clear to everyone around him that he did do XYZ. I'm not sure what to do, or how to handle this. I especially don't want him to get trapped into a behavior which will make people believe that he is always "tricking" or never telling the truth. Maybe time will take care of it once it finally catches up to him, although I would prefer to nip it now. Thanks.


What we did when our children told us lies. Each time they were caught, the had to write out the sentence: "I will not lie to my parents." And each time they were caught, the number of time that they had to write it out doubled. This was clearly explained to them. We started with 25 times and went up from there. Our oldest had to write it 200 times for the last lie before she quit, but that was the end of it. The second one learned from the first and never had to do it. The third one has had to do the first 25 so far.

Failure to complete the sentences resluts in total loss of privledges - TV, radio, stereo, computer, books, games, lessons, homework, sports, nothing is an acceptable excuse. Basically, "Do it now and no fooling around." I choose my issues very carefully and this is a VERY BIG issue.

Obviously this is not workable with a child that can't yet write. For the younger set, I would explain to the child that the behavior is called a lie, and that it is unacceptable and follow it with a long time out.


I don't have much in the way of advice regarding your son's behavior, but I went through this as a child at around this age, too. Maybe it has something to do with the power of words and the desire to change what actually is real. (If I say I didn't do it, then maybe I didn't actually do it...) In any case, after years of getting *found out* in my lies, I came to the conclusion that lying wasn't worth it. As an adult I find it almost impossible to lie - I get flushed, and smile a lot, basically totally giving it away. I have no idea if this reassures you or not, but I'm betting he grows out of it as well. Good luck.
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