19 answers

4 Year Old Lying

My 4 year old daughter has started lying. My husband and I are not sure what to do to get her to stop. The lies that she is telling are not little ones. For example today she told my mother-in-law that my 2 year old son is allergic to honey. My son does have some food allergies but honey is not one of them. My daughter knows that he is not allergic to honey. It resulted in my son having a huge meltdown. The first time she lied was when she told us that my son bit a girl at daycare. We talked to our son about biting and how it was wrong just to find out that he never bit anyone. We have tried talking to her and taking privilages away yet it as not made a difference. Any adivce on how to get her to stop would be greatly appreciated.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hi A., My oldest daughter went through this stage also. I believe it was sibling rivalry, but don't make excuses for her behavior. What I did and it worked, was pretended I didn't believe anything she said the rest of the day after I caught her in a lie. I told her that when people lie, others can't trust them to tell the truth. When she realized that her lying back-fired on her she didn't like it. It took a few weeks of being consistent with this method but it worked. She is now 25 and is one of the most honest people I know. Good luck. S.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Hi A., My oldest daughter went through this stage also. I believe it was sibling rivalry, but don't make excuses for her behavior. What I did and it worked, was pretended I didn't believe anything she said the rest of the day after I caught her in a lie. I told her that when people lie, others can't trust them to tell the truth. When she realized that her lying back-fired on her she didn't like it. It took a few weeks of being consistent with this method but it worked. She is now 25 and is one of the most honest people I know. Good luck. S.

1 mom found this helpful

I don't think 4 year olds lie, They tell stories, I think lying back is not a good idea. Its like hitting a hitter. We had a little problem same age (now 13) We were advised and did: acknowledged the lie, expressed disapproval, asked for apologies, and forgave when he did. Sounds like she's wielding power (which is a natural thing for a 4 year old to try to do). I'd show her it doesn't work by verifying all her claims, acknowledging when she's truthful and give her another way to be powerful and influential. Try to read her The Boy Who Cried Wolf weekly!

I am a child therapist who has studied human development in depth and worked with many children, in addition to having 2 of my own. So please believe me when I say...

4 year olds are not capable of "lying" as we adults think of it.

They are at a stage of cognitive development in which they use play and imagination to try to understand and figure out the world around them (their brain is unable to understand the difference between a truth and a lie). Because they do not understand the difference between make believe and reality (not in the same way adults do), once they make up a story (or what you refer to as a lie) they can come to believe that it is true. No amount of reasoning or punishment will help once this happens, as their little brains actually create a memory of the event! The image of a little boy with chocotale around his mother saying "NO mommy, I didn't eat a cookie" comes to mind. He will adamently deny to the point to crying despite evidence to the contrary, since now that he says it he believes it and remembers it this way.

The most important thing to look at and consider as a parent are the underlying needs that your daughter is exibiting through her stories. You as her mother are the expert here. The story about your son biting could be about sibling rivalry( wanting her brother to get in trouble), or maybe she wanted to know what you would do (after watching bad behavior in other children, maybe she wanted to know how you would react).

I would be very careful to not categoize these as "lies" and punish her, since from her point of view that is not at all what she is trying to do. I would teach her why her story was a problem and then I would begin looking at resources for addressing sibling rivalry (the book "Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish).

But I would try not to give the story too much attention as that will reinforce the behavior. Children will live up to our view of them. If you think of her as a lier she will live up to this view. If you think of her as a child with a creative imagination, she will use this to become more adaptive in life. I am not saying not to try to teach them the difference between real and imagined, just realize that it will probably be about 3 to 4 years before her brain will be able to understand in a more adultlike way. Hope this is helpful.

Most kids go through this between the ages of 4 and 5. Children that young aer exploring reality vs imagination. I don't quite think it's a lie yet because to her it may be something much more simple. Kids that age LIKE to get a reaction from adults and will say just about anything. Taking away her privledges may not be the way to go. I think it's just a lesson that comes to children as they grow and mom and dad to LOTS of explaining of the importance of not making things up.

My 4yr old daughter told Gramma that I ran over a PERSON in the bank parking lot. She's constantly telling me things that aren't true and we have to talk about it and I ask "Did that really happen or are you just thinking it in your mind?" She'll think for a minute and then say "I was just thinking it". I do tell her the importance of telling the truth... telling how things really are and not imagination world. Good Luck.

If I suspect that one of my kiddos is not telling me the truth I ask them if what they are saying is "right". They seem to understand the difference between right and wrong BEFORE they understand the difference between truth and lie.
I also stress the fact that even if mommy doesn't see it. The Angels do...
If its something that YOU know isn't true, just look at them with that dissapproving mom look and say now thats not right. If you know there are issues with honesty or perception, don't jump right on the kid they are "telling on" until you have proof. MAKE THEM SHOW YOU THE BROKEN TOY AND HOW IT GOT BROKE> WHERE PEOPLE WERE ETC... Become a detective. If the stories don't jive and you don't think there was ill intent on the part of the tellie, then just make a broad statement, oh, we gotta be more careful. And drop it. #1 is you don't want to train the older that she can get a reaction by lying on the younger...
If you know that there is a lie happening, then seclude the child. Tell her that you don't think thats "right",Send her to her room, make her sit on the sofa, In the time out chair... etc... Then make her appologize to you and the angels for hurting your ears with a lie. (Saying something not right, Or something you come up with)BUT DON"T SAY NO, YOUR WRONG... YOUR wrong is different than what your SAYING is wrong... Thank them when they tell you the truth and remember, telling the truth trumps the action... So even if they do something they need to be punished for, calmly thank them for telling you the truth and explain to them that they still need to be punished for doing the wrong, but you are happy that they told the right thing so they won't get as much in trouble...

Thats just what we do... If the result of the action is not what they expect it to be, they adjust...

My sitter who is a grandma says that almost all kids start telling tall tales at this age, my own daughter who is 4.5 is starting to tell lies as well.

Does the lying always involve your younger son?

A four year old is too young psychologically to understand what's real and what isn't. You may have more success with some one on one time with no interruptions to play with her to demonstrate with her dolls or whatever what happens when one lies to or about the other and show her what happens. punishment or restrictions are not going to connect for her, even if you explain it. Once you have done the role playing a few times and you feel she better understands what's going on, then time outs for 4 mins - 1 minute per year, can help. They need to be immediate and done with no talk, no emotion. If she gets up time starts again (a little dial timer helps) and when her time is up, the subject is dropped, otherwise it is you that keeps it going. These are things that helped with my son. He is highly emotional and had tantrums and crying jags that would make you want to rip out your eyeballs, but this worked and he was much happier once the structure was in place and he knew he could rely on me to be consistent.

1 / 3
Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.