What to Do When Kids Lying Becomes a Problem

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Kids seem to be able to lie about even the most inconsequential things. They’ll lie that they’ve brushed their teeth when they haven’t. They’ll lie that they’ve only had one cookie when you saw them take five. They’ll look you in the eye and say “it wasn’t me” as they stand next to the broken glass they just dropped. They lie even when getting caught is almost inevitable.

Learning to deceive is a skill learned early in life. Toddlers learn quite early to use fake cries to get our attention. Although studies on why children lie have found that lying is a common and widespread behavior in children between the ages of four and 18, persistent lying seems to have an impact on social outcomes.

In one study, the lying and disruptive behavior of 1,128 boys and girls was recorded for three years at ages six, seven, and eight, and then again at ages 10 and 11. The study found that although disruptive behavior did not increase with age, kids who lie persistently are more likely to display disruptive behavior.

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Although the results are still inconclusive, some studies suggest that early and persistent lying may predict delinquency and other forms of maladjustment later in adulthood. According to this study, deceptive behavior increases with age and increases the chances of risky behavior, especially during the adolescence stage.

When lying becomes a problem

Lying is a normal human trait. Although we need to teach kids that lying is unacceptable behavior, it is often harmless. The most common reasons that kids lie are fear of consequences (for example punishment) and the belief that lying will get them what they want. There are a few occasions, however, when we need to pay attention to our kids’ lies:

  • When kids constantly lie.
  • When kids show no remorse when they’re caught in a lie.
  • When kids also display other behavioral and psychological problems (e.g., low self-esteem, violence, and depression).
  • When kids don’t get along with others (e.g., siblings and classmates).

What to do when kids lie…

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