Comments on
Why Do Kids Lie?

By John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

We seem to be in an ongoing analysis of why people lie… First, clients to therapists. And now we bring you a well-written, in-depth article in yesterday’s New York Magazine about why kids lie. The findings from one of the studies are not surprising …

21 Comments to
Why Do Kids Lie?

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines. The comments below begin with the oldest comments first. Click on the last comments page to jump to the most recent comments.

  1. I have a child who never lies. She’s 26 now. You’d think I’d be thankful, but it’s actually horrible. For example, when we were talking about her boyfriend, she let me know that he doesn’t like me–he blames me for her being bipolar. Great. Even though she says that he has since changed his mind, I find myself incapable of caring about him. Social lies are useful. When she’d do something wrong as a kid, because she couldn’t lie about it, she wouldn’t say anything, thereby admitting her guilt without explicitly stating what she’d done. She’s too open about everything. I grew up with a punitive mother, so I learned to lie early and often. I sometimes view her lack of lying as a sign of my better ability to mother–she didn’t have to worry about telling me the truth–but I’m happier dealing with my two lying sons than with my never-told-a-lie daughter.

  2. Let me be the first to say–I am in your debt for helping me prove that my lying ways are not my fault–blame it on my parents! If only that were the case. I can proudly admit that those days are long gone, the days where lying was a force of adaptation, and not habit. Would I go as far as to say that I was only mimicking my parents, as opposed to saving my own skin?

    I find it difficult to completely lay the burden of responsibility on parenting, rather socializing in general, as was the case in the “Bobo doll” modeling experiment by Bandura. Children do view their parents as models, and as your example shows, parents even encourage their children to lie about things. This poses the consequence of habitually lying children when they do not know the difference between a “social lie” and the other, as your post mentions.

    You also mention that lying gets easier with practice, as is the case with every behavior one learns; still, are parents completely responsible? I think every child, after a certain age, makes the conscious decision to lie in order to avoid negative consequences. In that case, is it still the case that parents are responsible for that? Your research makes it sound like lying is a conditioned behavior, where children, through no fault of their own, are taught to lie. Is that the case for every child?

  3. Sometimes kids lie because they’re scared to tell the truth. One example is child abuse. A child may be so scared of retribution by the abuser — and so doubtful of any real help — that she may avoid telling the truth. Mandated reporters such as teachers face this problem when they see possible signs of child abuse. How do they approach a child to see if there is the “reasonable suspicion” of abuse which requires reporting? There’s a site that lets teachers rehearse a conversation with a possible child abuse victim. It’s at http://www.hownottotalk.com/abuse. There’s a free trial version (120+ pages) and a CEU-credit version. It helps teachers detect the difference between lying — and just being too scared to talk.

  4. When i was a kid, i would lie a lot. It wasn’t usually something big… i would tell that i did my homework when i didn’t, or i skipped one day of swim team practice. Eventually, caught a few times, my parents decided to push the guilt button. They felt so betrayed that t i was an outsider from the family and they then cut off any communication between us besides “are you hungry?” and “go to sleep”. Eventually we got along but even now i feel that our relationship will never be the same. And my whole life, i wondered who’s fault it was, or even if there was someone to be blamed . If someone could have some kind of answer, that would be great

  5. I am interested in finding out what could happen to a Teen or her Grandfather.
    The Grandfather got the teenage granddaughter to lie to law enforcement to file charges on adults the Grandfather had a grudge against. The Grandaughter said she was witness to a conversation that never happened.
    This concerns me that it is a form of child abuse by the grandfather convincing the granddaughter to lie. I wonder what would happen to either one of them in a court of law,,,besides being really embarassing for them. If you don’t have answers,,please direct me where I need to go,,
    Lost
    Gypsy

  6. AS I READ THE POST IN SEARCH FOR INFORMATION TAKING ALL THINGS SAID INTO ACCOUNT THAT IS NOT MY CHILDS SITUATION> i HAVE LEARNED from this site THAT i MUST TEACH SOCIAL AND PERSONAL COMMUNICATION BUT i AM STILL LOST AS TO HOW TO DEAL WITH OR STOP IT. i MYSELF AM HONEST AND LIE MOSTLY SOCIALLY IF NEEDED. i MONITOR IT BECAUSE MY MOTHER DOES LIE SO IT DRIVES ME NUTS PLEASE HELP. i AM A PSYCHOLY PROFESSIONAL AND OFTEN GET TWISTED WHEN IT COMES TO MY PERSONAL LIFE

  7. This has been an interesting website to read from. My wife and I have been dealing with a situation with our daughter where she has lied to us numerous times about things that weren’t of great value for the most part. There was one time where she stole from us and lied about it. We have been at a loss as to why she has been doing this. I guess every parents wonders if they are raising their kids right. Punishement is something that we don’t deal well with. It is hard for either of us to punish her. But I guess if you love your kids you have to. But I always feel so horrible when I ground her or take privilidges away.

  8. Our 12 years old daughter lied to us so many times that my husband and I do not believe anything she said. Sadly, it had changed the relationship between all of us because of her lying. I pity her because most of her teachers, friends, and families know that she is a constant. I cried many nights whenever she lies about something. It’s because there is no trust in the family. I am feeling a little better knowing that I am not alone.

  9. Parents should hold their kids responsible for lying. But the mistake parents make is when they start to blame the kid for lying. Why kids lie? It’s considered immoral to lie. But when you look at your kid like he’s a sneak and an operator who’s undermining your authority, it’s a slippery slope that starts with “You lie” and ends up at “You’re a bad person.” I think that perception of your kid promotes more lying. If your child thinks you think he’s “bad,” he’s going to hide the truth from you even more, because he doesn’t want be bad. Even though they are lying, kids don’t want to disappoint their parents.

    • I completely agree with you and I think all parents need to be aware of this. I myself was made to think I was a bad kid. After that everything I did I hid and it made it easy to get into some bad situations. I now have a 4 year old who lies and stands by it no matter what. I’m at a loss for how to handle this because I don’t want to punish her to the point of making her think she’s bad but I also can’t let her keep on and keep on lying. It’s such a fine line!!

  10. I agree that we all lie, there’s just no getting around it. And for those who claims that they always tell the truth are the biggest liars of us all. Having said that, my 12 year old son, who had recently broken a “do not leave campus” rule during the first week of school, but he told me about it, he didn’t lie. So my question is: Do I reprimand and punish him for having broken the rule? – which will encourage him to lie in the future. or do I praise him for his honesty but at once lecture him for his wrongdoing?

  11. hi, i am a 24 year old women who is married into a different culture than to my own. In my culture, the husbands nieces and nephews are considered like my own and discpline is acceptble in my culture. His nephew is now 7 yrs and costantly lies about me, saying i am not feeding him or i tell him off because he is hurting my daughter she is 9moths now, this has made e move out of his family house. The childlives in the hse with his grandparents, since his birth, his mother desnt consder me as his aunty thus shouts and uses abusive language towards and believes him no matter what. Also she says that her sisters husband is his uncle and can tell jim off but i cannot. What am i to do? I have started to hate this child and his biologialMother

  12. i lie but somtimes its never the easy way out

  13. Umm well I am doing a prodject on Kids and teens lieing to parents,teachers etc…. I have lied many times and I truly regret it but I am not lieing anymore. I thank this website and your comments , they are helping me on my pridject.

  14. i have a kid that his habit id not 2 lie…. sometimes i can be thankful… but most of the time i cant because when we go out and someone asks him personal his habit is to tell the truth…. but i love my son because i can trust him because i know that if something happens he’ll always tell me or anyone the truth….

  15. Many children and young adults are suffering from lying problem. Due to their manipulative behavior no one easily believes on them. The lying behavior of children can be changed. There is a need to provide them fostering and punishment free environment. Then they will to able to accept their faults without telling lying.

  16. Children must feel comfortable revealing things that may be unpleasant to those in command. However,children must be aware that all actions have reactions. My policy is that every lie uncovered results in 2 punishments (one for the lie and one for the act). Alhough the act may be bad, if the truth is told there is a 75 percent chance of getting punished and a 25 percent chance of counceling. Nverthless, if punishment happens it wont be doubled. My children understand the balance of rewarding good deeds and punishing the bad.

  17. I think that my dad is the reason i lie to my mom and me r mad at eachother now my friend lie to her mom becaeus i not the right friend
    <3

  18. ok so i have been messing up latley with the lies. my parents totaly do not trust me anymore. i dont know why i say the things i do i just talk with out thinking. i really try to stop but sometimes it seems easer than telling the truth. i know in the end nothing good comes from it but now i have lost all desier to talk to my parents at all i just try to stay out of there way at home do what im told and at all cost AVOID TALKING TO THEM. i have 3 parents one mom and two dads my step father has been around since i was little so thats not new but me and my mom used to be very close i lied with her my whole live now it seems like i am closer to my dad.the reltionship i have with my mom is worse now and it hurts me to know i have ruiend that by lieing to her but sometimes she is just so hard to talk to im affraid of dissapointing her so i lie to her. i know it is wrong but i guess at the time its more of the i dont want to seem like the dissapointment in the family i dont want to be “that child” the messes everything up. i know it sounds ccrazy but i just dont want it to seem like im trying to hurt everyone. to me its like if i keep my mouth shut it keeps the pain and dissapointment away. i just dont feel comfortable talking to them. please help me to understand this because i dont want it to keep happening. i love my parents and my family but they are so hard to be honest with sometimes. it has gotten to the point that i dread coming home sometimes because im scared of doing something else. i dont want it to be this way were i dont want to be around my family but i dont feel like i am welcome here.they get mad when i do stuff and tell me how i dissapoint them and how much they cant stand to be around me sometimes.the hurtful things they say makes it seem like i enjoy laying to them i dont but at times its all can do i get mad or upset and just want to leave so i say things with out thinking about them i really need help on how to handle it. if anyone can relate please respond to this.
    -lost girl

    • This was like it had been written by my own child. I have not allways handeled my sons lying in the best manner. Like you, I do not know what to do or how to handel it. I thank you for your honest post and I encourage you to talk to your parents. Let them know how you are feeling and if they have a comment that hurts you, remember that it is going to take time. If you keep working at this, you will have a closer relationship with your family because you will have this comon bond.

  19. I hope “Lost Girl 95″ will see this message….
    Thank you for writing that. I am a young mom who sees myself in your description of your parents, with expressing to my son how he “disappoints me” with bad behavior. He has begun hiding his failures and lying to me and I couldn’t understand his behavior….until I read your post. I hang my head as I pause to write this. If it means anything to you…my son doesn’t disappoint me, I just have so many hopes for him to have a better quality of life than I did. Maybe your parents feel that way too and it comes out wrong, like me. I thought I was helping him by pushing him to be more perfect. The last thing in the world I want is to make him feel he can’t talk to me or is a disappointment to me. I know your parents have to feel that way too. I hope this helps you somehow…you’ve helped me.
    Bless you and my wishes go to a new gentleness and trust and unconditional love for you & your family.

  20. i am a 16 year old boy, i lie about my diabetes all day to my parents. They have found out around 10 times and sent me all over the place. I always say that i am going to stop and i do for about a month, then it is just one lie after another. I really need help because this is breaking up the relationship between my mom and dad. It sucks but i honestly cant stop my self from lying it just rolls off my toungue. I also lie about going to parties and drinking and all that stuff but they never find out because i am smart with my lies. if anyone has some sort of help for me can you either post here again or email me at : liam.stenson16@gmail.com thank you guys.

  21. the fact of it’s the parent’s fault is far from the truth! i have done nothing but teach and show my children that telling the truth is a must! i don’t lie even if it’s to get me out of trouble. but i can tell you one thing is a fact that my biological mother taught my daughter to lie saying i was abusing her and her sister so that she could get the…well guess what texas cps put my daughter in a group home for the next 3 years and my youngest daughter and now two newborns are with me…funny after my oldest was removed the calls to cps stopped and the grandmother has a restraining order against her from both myself and the state for all my children…so don’t think that just because you are a dox you have all the facts cuz it’s a fact that children learn it but it’s not a fact it’s from the parents it’s from the ones that have the most influence in their lives and in my oldest daughter’s case it was the grandmother…

  22. My 5 year old use to tell the truth at all times because I never stopped drumming it into his ears that all liars will burn inside hell fire. But recently I hired a maid to take care of him and his 3 year old sister and the maid just happened to be a pathological liar (although I didn’t realize this on time until I started asking my son to confirm from him). For example, there was a day I came back from work and my daughter told me she injured herself outside the house so I called my maid and asked why she took the children outside of the house against my instructions and she denied it that my daughter injured herself inside the house. When I asked my son he confirmed that the maid took them out of the house and that was where my daughter sustained the injury. That continued for a while before I discovered that my son has turned to a liar too. When I asked him some questions he told me the maid said she will not buy ice cream and balloons for him whenever he tells on her. I have sent the maid away but my son is now a constant liar.
    Children may not necessarily picked lying habit from parents, it could be from the numerous others around them, like in my case-a maid.

Join the Conversation!

Before posting, please read our blog moderation guidelines.

Post a Comment:


(Required, will be published)

(Required, but will not be published)

(Optional)

Recent Comments
  • RepressedMem: Diane, I am so with you, even though the genders are reversed but the actions are identical except that...
  • joe blow: whats do you do when not even god steps in to help
  • joe blow: I’ve been depressed since I was 5. No one wanted me, no one cared (except my mother), and I was the...
  • Edith: My comment is from personal experience. I believe that not everyone knows how to love. My own 80y/o mother has...
  • ADHD Dad: i bristle a little when I think of the ‘Disorder’ element of ADHD. I have 2 (of 3) children...
Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code



Users Online: 6539
Join Us Now!