22 answers

5 Year Old Lies All the Time!

In the last few weeks my five year old daughter has started lying. It is driving my husband and I bonkers! We did not have this problem with our son who is now nine. To make it worse she makes what we call a "bad choice" first and then lies about it. For example, I asked her to use the potty this morning. She goes in the bathroom and flushes the potty without going. She comes out and says she's done. I know she didn't go because she has on a pair of pants she cannot snap and they are still snapped shut. When I ask her about it she lies. She even blamed something on her brother the other day rather than admit she did it.

We've been taking things away... t.v., her favorite toys, and giving time out. Nothing seems to be changing the behavior. We've even talked about how lying is hurtful and not a good choice. Usually taking is not as effective for the young ones! I guess I'm just wondering if this is normal and if anyone has had success changing the behavior. Thanks!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Wow! Thanks for all the great answers. It is good to know that others have gone through the same thing. This has helped me see that she has probably reached a new developmental stage. She know more clearly knows what she is doing isn't right and lies to cover-up and please us. I think it has gotten a little better. I asked her if she had brushed her teeth like I asked. She hesitated, but said "no" and then added "you're welcome for me not lying"!

We will definately try using some more of these great ideas. My husband and I loved the answer from the five year old!! I think the overall theme was to consistently call her on it and let there be a consequence. We did talk some about it being hurtful... how would she feel if I lied to her. Also, we talked to her about not trusting her answers.

Thanks again... this was my first question. I'll definatly try again.

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T. I think all kids go thru that stage.I finally got my kid s to stop lying when they saw (Pinochino)I hope that is the right spelling of it(lol).I told them that their nose will start to grow everytime they told a lie and all the kids at school will laugh at them when they see thier nose is so long.Try that and see if it will work.B. F.

Have you read her the story of The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf? Tell her if she lies all the time, no one will believe her when she tells the truth. Then try it out on her. Wait until she tells you something and pretend you don't believe her. Or show her what it is like...maybe she doesn't quite understand what lying is. Whatever you do, ALWAYS call her on it. Do not allow her to think she is getting away with it.

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Hi T.:

From one neighbor to another (I also live in the Del Valle area) this is how I handled the situation with my son who did this quite a bit around that age. I finally sat him down and told him that God watches and listens to everything we do and say and writes it in his book. That book is your book and is filled with your good and bad things. When it is time to meet God he is going to open that book and praise you for all the good things you have done in your life, but he is also going to ask you about the bad things. How are you going to respond to those questions? Everytime he told a story I knew wasnt true or refused to accept responsibility for his actions I would simply say "remember God is listening and watching". I think handling it this way had a positive reaction from him because his storytelling and blaming others for his actions ceased to almost nothing in about 2 weeks. My son is 11 now and occassionaly I have to remind him of this because he isnt perfect but it has worked perfectly. I am also not a person who goes to church constantly so my solution is not about church -- it is simply instilling in your children that there is someone even higer up than Moms and Dads to answer to.

Good luck and I hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful

In child phych class I learned that at about age 4 children learn that they can change words to get what they want. So this is where your daughter is. Perhaps she is just smart and really working hard at figuring this out.

The thing that seemed to work for us with our kids was a combination of things. First, they have to know that Mom and Dad hate lies worse than anything else. Your tone and demeanor have to communicate this. If your response to a lie is the same as your response to not putting away toys...you won't communicate what you need to communicate. The punishment for telling a lie has to be greater than anything else. Because, this is a character issue that cannot go unfixed--even if it takes a while.

To avoid getting a lie in the first place, we learned to ask our questions in such a way as to get the truth out the first time...to make it as easy as possible to tell the truth. When we know something has happened (let's say she colored on the wall), we say, "Mom and Dad are going to ask you a couple of questions and you are going to tell the truth. We already know that you colored on the wall. Now you are going to tell us that you did it. You need to try really hard to tell us that you did it, the first time we ask. You need to say, 'Mom and Dad, I colored on the wall.' Remember that Mom and Dad hate lying more than anything else. Remember that the consequences for telling a lie are always always worse than if you just tell the truth. If you tell the truth you may get in this much trouble (show with two fingers about an inch apart). If you tell a lie, you will get in this much trouble (show hands far apart) and Mom and Dad will be very sad. Now we are about to ask you if you colored on the wall. Remember we already know you did it. You are going to be punished for coloring on the wall. The best thing is for you to tell the truth, say you did it, and get your little punishment. Then you will be punished and it will be over. Are you ready to tell the truth? I am about to ask you and you need to say these words, 'Yes, Mom and Dad, I colored on the wall.' Are you ready?"

We also played a little game that I learned from Dr. Dobson I think. Kids need practice thinking and labeling the truth and lies. When they first start out telling lies, it is an intellectual decision to use words to their advantage (plus it's part of our human nature to sin). The game is called "Truth or Lie." You tell the kid something and they say whether it is the truth or a lie. Here are some examples. Then they can give the examples and you can be the one to answer. They like the game as long as they aren't already in trouble.

The sky is blue - truth
The grass is green - truth
The clouds are green - lie
The dog sleeps on the roof - lie
Mom drives a little blue car - true
Dad drives a helicopter to work - false

...just make sure your examples are completely easy to answer and that they are not opinions

You have to also not tolerate your kids beating around the bush about things. We still tell our kids "not to make us ask the right questions." The first time I remember going though this was my son pushed my daughter on the steps. He answered "no" to about 5 different questions about pushing her before he said "I only shoved her." So they have to know that you want the truth, the whole truth, and nothiing but the truth and you want it the first time. We use those words "don't make me ask the right questions."

ok--hope it helps. This is common and it must be addressed. It is a pain to do, but you have to stick to it.

1 mom found this helpful

We mom's are the best CSI team in the world! lol!

Listen, first you have to figure out why she is telling that particular lie (ie, to try to get out of trouble, to test you to see if you are a complete fool, to test the rule, to see how you are going to react, its just her imagination, etc) then let your reaction match the situation. Lies have a reason though - some are innocent developmental reasons, some are not.

For example - the bathroom scenario - she might just be testing you to see if you're paying attention. I'd react with questions and facts: "I heard the toliet flush, but you're pants are still buttoned. Did you really go, or are you playing a trick on me?" (PS, this gives her an easy out, but lets her know you didn't fall for it either) This is not a critical situation and does not call for a critical reaction. It sounds like your everyday testing.

Big lies to get out of trouble - make sure the lie gets her in more trouble than the actual act itself (oh, and make sure you don't stress about the small stuff because that makes her feel like she HAS to lie in the first place)

Creative imagination lies - respond with "Oh, yeah - then what?" and let the story continue. Get her some paper and get these ideas out in a grossly exaggerated tale of debauchery! lol! Smile and wink and let her know you know better, but this lie is a little fun anyway!

Blaming it on other people - 2 steps:
1. Ask her what she thinks is an appropriate punishment for brother because of his awful crime.
2.Okay Judge Judy -call the next witness. Get brother, the dog, dad - whomever might know anything about it in there. Use the great questioning techniques that mom's are famous for and catch her in the lie, then make her apologize to brother (the dog, who ever) for bringing them into it. Don't forget to get back to the original crime and the punishment she suggested!

1 mom found this helpful

If I remember correctly from my child psychology text books (since I have minimal personal experience with this issue right now :-) ), 5 year olds have a hard time telling the difference between fantasy and reality. So when your daughter says she went potty when she didn't or blames something on her brother, she's probably just engaging in wishful thinking. Unfortunately, she can't communicate that to you, so she comes across as "lying" when really what she means is "I sure wish my brother had done that/I had gone to the potty/etc".

The parent's job then is not to punish, but to interpret the situation for the child in a neutral (teaching) way. For example you might say "I see that you had a difficult time going potty since your snaps are still done. Can I help?" or "I see the lamp is broken, what should we do about it?" This keeps you from labeling your child and allows them to try to come up with a solution (always a good thing to learn how to do). Remember, punishment is never as effective as reinforcement and support.

I hope this helps. I haven't had this particular experience yet, but the techniques I've suggested are similar to ones I've used with my 2 year old.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I used to experience with this with a little girl that I taught in Sunday school, so I read up on it. What I read says, a lot of the "lies" are them playing out their pretend makeup games in real life. My daughter (also 5) will say some of the craziest stuff and sometimes I'll even ask her if she is being "for real" or pretend. They have a hard time breaking the difference right now. My opinion is that it is not a discipline or character problem, it is just a transition period for them until they have play world and real world more figured out. Best of luck! K.

Hi T.,

As you can see everyone will tell you this is age appropriate behavior. I have rarely had trouble with this issue with my children as mine are perfect. LOL

I find that keeping things very lighthearted and appearing more as a peer than a parent has always been great. If I had known it would be next to impossible to operate the snap on her pants I would have asked her when she came out if she had trouble with the snap when she came out. I have always found that my kids have extremely active imaginations and lieing is sometimes just an extention of the imagination.

Sometimes the lies are out of fear as well. If they are fearful of your reaction then they will answer you with the what they think you want to hear or what will keep them out of trouble. I spent much time assuring them that nothing they could do would make me angry with them and I practiced responding in a calm voice if they said something shocking. If you spend time reasoning with them and asking them questions you already know the answer too in a light and calm way they will feel more at ease letting you know they are less than perfect. I don't know if this is the problem with your child or not. I often found my daughters were much more insecure in their actions than my son. Build her self esteem and chances are she will grow out of this attention seeking and evasive behavior quickly.

My 5 yr old son does "lies" all the time. He will do something and when we discover it he blames it on his 8 yr old sister or says "It wasn't me", or "I didn't do it". I have told him that lying is bad and children who lie won't get treats, get their toys taken away, and even get time out. He thinks for a minute and then says, "OK, it was me". I have come to the resolution that it is a cry for attention. He is transistioning from Toddler to Child. Very confusing for them. My daughter did the same things and when I punished her, and now punishing my son, they realize how serious a lie is. From time outs to takenm away stuff that means alot to them, it will resolve. Good Luck

Hi T.,

When my child was 5, she began conducting births with her stuffed animals. I bought Arnold Gesell's book, The Child from Five to Ten, and was relieved to find out this was "normal" for her age. I think you'll be interested to know that lying is also a developmental stage. Good luck! J.

Have you read her the story of The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf? Tell her if she lies all the time, no one will believe her when she tells the truth. Then try it out on her. Wait until she tells you something and pretend you don't believe her. Or show her what it is like...maybe she doesn't quite understand what lying is. Whatever you do, ALWAYS call her on it. Do not allow her to think she is getting away with it.

Hi. Not sure what to do sounds like you do it all just stick to one way and be persistent each time. If you find a full proof way please let us know, our 4 yr old has started doing the same thing. I think it also has to do with their imaginations and my girl has a very active one and she makes up some good stories all the time. Good luck to the both of us. K. K

I read a really nice idea in a parenting mag about explaing how that might be what she wished or imagined had happened, but now she can tell you what really happened. It acknowledges her imagination and creativity but recognises that there is still the truth to be told. In specific intstances, like the potty, you can alwsys talk about how hard it can be when mummy asks you to do something that is really tricky to do on your own, and that you would like to help her so that one day she really will be able to do what she has already imagined she could do - go potty by herself, even with difficult snaps. I think it was also talked about in discipline without spanking. Good luck, with two year old twins, I'm sure this will come my way soon enough!

Actually it is normal at this age. I forget the exact reason. It may be because they still want to please you but also exert their own independence and they have found that this method fits the bill.They also have really good imaginatiions and may want it to be true and convince themselves. It passes with some kids easier than others & I never thought it was a good idea to let it go unaddressed. I found this method in a book years ago.Don't have it anymore though it was called "When Your Child Drives You Crazy"

What I did was make my daughter write sentences. At 5 she may not be able to do so without some difficulty, on the other hand not only does it drive the the message home & helps her remember( sometimes they do forget!), it takes effort on her part, which is time away form other things, & it has the added benefit of having her practice her hand writing. You have to stick with it and oversee that she does it.

I would try to make the sentences positive such as, "I will use the potty when told to" or "I will tell the truth". Short if they are young
You have to be consistent with this method. I also had to get tougher as we went along. For instance the first few times I had her write just 5 times, but then increased it to 10. She didn't like that. So I told her that from now on when she lied, she would have to do more and more sentences, taking up more and more play time. She really didn't like that, but understood that she was responsible for not only telling the truth but the consequences increasing if she didn't.

I kept all the sentences in a note book so I could keep track of what number she was on( also years later it is kind of fun to see what she did) but now it definitely isn't.

Once I had her draw a picture of what she did wrong. She put a lot of effort into that masterpiece and never stole gum again or lied about it. We still have the picture! This system worked pretty quickly to squelch the lying which had gotten to be a rather large problem.

Just remember after the lying dies down, occasionally you will have to go back to writing and probably it will be a very large number. Don't give in. We did between 50-100 on the last time it was necessary, but it worked. She is a very honest 20 year old. Hope this helps.
B. K. studio4moms.com

Dear T.:
As a mother of four, and now grandmother of two, let me set your heart at ease: this is normal. When you have your easy one first (and I did, too) this just comes as a shock. You're doing the right things, you just have to keep on doing them. She will also have to give up her privacy to a certain extent if she can't be trusted to go potty by herself. You can, of course, turn your back, but make it plain to her that if she can't be trusted not to lie about whether she's done her job, you will have to go in and make sure she sits down. Also, when you set time limits on how long the t.v. is taken away or toys are taken away STICK TO IT. I know that it gets inconvenient for you for her to be whiney and upset because she can't be plopped down in front of the t.v. or a Veggie Tales or Sponge Bob video (believe me, it was bad "back in the day", too!) but the lesson you teach her that what Mommy says really means exactly whats she's says is priceless.
Hope this helps. Chin up! God bless you for raising good childred.

T. I think all kids go thru that stage.I finally got my kid s to stop lying when they saw (Pinochino)I hope that is the right spelling of it(lol).I told them that their nose will start to grow everytime they told a lie and all the kids at school will laugh at them when they see thier nose is so long.Try that and see if it will work.B. F.

have you tried lying to her to show her what it feels like? she is old enough to know the difference between truth and lie so make a plan with the whole family to tell her a big fat lie, like ...that you are all going somewhere really fun that she will get excited about! have the whole family lead in on it and make a big deal out of it, give her enough time to really get her heart set on it (maybe a whole day!). then together as a family, let her know that you were all in on it to show her what it feels like to be lied to. yes she will be upset and probably cry that she does not get to go to (???) and that you all lied to her, but that's really the point isn't it? let her know about the trust factor and how you need to be able to take her at her word and that you will never lie to her again if she never lies to you again! and no you can't give in and take her to that place once she understands, because then it wasn't a lie was it>? but you could take her there several weeks after this lesson, if she has not told any lies during that time. A little mean? maybe, a bit tricky? definitly! will it work? most likely! good luck!

This may seem wierd but i spent a day lying to my little girl when she would ask for something i would say yes and then not get it or tell her we were going to mc donalds and not go when she got upset i explained that is houw i felt when she lied to me
sahm 12 girl 10-7-5 boy's
Good luck

Hi Terri,

I think that what your going through right now is just an age thing. I don't think that she is lying just to lie. Lying about anything is wrong I totally agree with you about that. If the Bible says it it is truth, but when they are small and learning, they just say things sometimes I think. It is our job to teach them right from wrong and I think you are doing the right thing by calling her on it. She needs to know fibbing is not ok. At the same time I think you need to remember she is a kid, and kids mess up, push boundaries, and say things that aren't true. That is their learning process. I hope this helped or shed a different light on a frustrating thing. Have a blessed day!!

D. Mattern
The MOM Team
Raising your income and your rugrats at the same time!
"The only thing that counts if faith, expressing itself through love." Galatians 5:6

here's my advice...first, pray! you need wisdom to handle this and that only comes from God. second,
explain why you don't tolerat lying and have her explain it back in her own words to make sure she understands. lying opens the door for the devil to get a foothold and shouldn't be tolerated ever even if it is a stage they inevitably go through. after you think she understands that, then let her help come up with punishments. when you know she is lying, give her a chance to tell the truth and if she doesn't make the punishment swift. consistency is key. a wise friend one told me "consistency is the only form of sincerity". it's a quote by a rabbi i think, but i never understood it completely until i had kids. it's so hard!
good luck and i'll be praying for you.

My 6 year old daughter has had a bit of a problem telling the truth for about the past year, although most of it is imagination related stuff.. Like my mom will ask me things that my daughter told her she did and was doing.. Strange stuff! I would ask her about it and she would just smile like it was a funny joke. I explained to her that she needed to tell the truth because it was confusing her Grandmother! She has lied about everyday things, too and I have to pry the truth out of her. She has often blamed it on other siblings as well. I asked a friend who is a psychologist (I usually don't like their advice but he is a friend from church) and he said from about 4-6yrs old there are a lot of changes going on and they will grow out of most stuff. It also might be that she just figured out that she can control the activities in her life somewhat by altering the truth or passing the blame. My daughter has gotten a lot better... She mainly just makes up stuff from her vivid imagination now.. I think the best thing you can do is talk to her, reaffirm the importance of telling the truth and wait for it to pass. Good luck!


I dont think she means to lie, you are placing high and unreasonable expectations that force her to behave this way. For example, you asked her to go to the potty, she returns and says she's done. You know she didnt potty because you know for a fact that she couldnt unsnap those pants. You set her up for failure. If you expected her to do it, you should have assisted her and unsnapped her pants, then snapped the pants back once she returned from potting. If its your goal to have her do things independently then communicate and assist her to suceed.

Do not compare her to her brother. Even though she's very young, dont think she cant sense your comparisons. She knows that she is expected to behave as well as her brother, therefore, she is forced to compete for your attention and lies in order to please you. Siblings will not act alike or do things the same manner. Her thought process and development will be very different from that of her brothers.

My 2 boys learned their potting right away, my daughter didnt. I had to take a little time in order to show her the difference in the personal mechanics of how men and women potty and take care of themselves.

I come from a home of 8 women, and although reaised by the same two parents we act nothing alike. We share characteristics from both our parents and thats were it ends. Our likes, thoughts, and the way we live are very different. With such varience, we've had to learn to accept and respect those differences.

Give her a chance to be herself, and let her know that she is special and different from her brother. In that, she will know your acceptance of her and will likely not lie to you anymore.

This is a tough one. I used to be a family counselor with teens. One thing that started young was lying. My advice is to find punishments that fit the crime. For instance, she lied about going to the bathroom. Well from now on, she has to have you or your husband in there with her so you know she is using it. It may sound harsh but she will get tired of it.
Also, she is old enough to draw/color. I would have her sit down each time you catch her in a lie and make her journal why she lied. She can draw her answer out or if she can write some, let her express it however she is feeling. This way, you have something concrete to work with and from when you punish her for the bahavior. I know it sounds silly but when someone puts their thoughts on paper, whether in words or in drawings, they understand it better. I pray for you all as you deal with this tough issue.
Finally, I would have her think about appropriate punishments for her behavior. Okay..one more thing....Write up scenarios of situations where she could tell the truth or lie. Ask her what she would do and why. This may get the ball rolling and be a little game you can play in the car or wherever.
I was also a youth minister for years and did the scenario thing with my students many times. It was funny becasue they would go home and share with their parents what we had talked about. It really worked for me with them. take time and make it on her level. You are the mom and you can do it!!!!!

I have 2 children...10 & 7. When I know they're not telling the truth about something, I will ask them the question again to give them one more time to tell the truth. Usually that will work, because I've told/explained to them that it makes me very disappointed and hurts my feelings when the don't tell the truth. And, by telling the truth, they will not be in, or at least not as much trouble (depending on the situation) as if they would just tell the truth. They hate for me to be disappointed/hurt, especially the 7 yr. old.

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