17 answers

5 Year Old Lying

my daughter has been telling little lies and we catch her all the time when we ask her what happened she will automatically tell me she does not know or she will blame it on her sister, (when her sister is nowhere in sight). we have talked to her and told her she needs to tell the truth for everything and she has this blank look on her face and says "why?" I then have to explain it to her and I still don't think she understands. at what age do they start to understand this and what can I say to her to make her understand telling the truth is what we are supposed to do? any suggestions would help

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My 6 year old has been doing that for a while. We tried and tried to explain that we were more frustrated with her when she lied than when she told the truth about something she shouldn't have done. It didn't work well.

I found better luck in Parenting with Love & Logic. They made the statement "We have a problem. I don't believe you. Now if I don't believe you and you are telling the truth, that's sad, but if I don't believe you and you are lying, that's double sad". It allows the child to think about what they are doing. It has worked very well for out daughter because you are making the statement "I don't believe you". She can't contest that like she can "no you didn't", "yes I did"...

Good luck.

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My 6 year old has been doing that for a while. We tried and tried to explain that we were more frustrated with her when she lied than when she told the truth about something she shouldn't have done. It didn't work well.

I found better luck in Parenting with Love & Logic. They made the statement "We have a problem. I don't believe you. Now if I don't believe you and you are telling the truth, that's sad, but if I don't believe you and you are lying, that's double sad". It allows the child to think about what they are doing. It has worked very well for out daughter because you are making the statement "I don't believe you". She can't contest that like she can "no you didn't", "yes I did"...

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

First off, if it is becoming an issue with punishing too much (or you feel like that) take the opportunity to lie away. When you walk into a room and see her sitting in front of a dumped over plant, instead of asking what happened (which is a very big question for a 5 year old, with many many avenues of answers) I would ask her something along the lines of "did you knock the plant over with a toy?" therefore eliminating the many paths and directing her to the correct one. Just assess the situation and direct and control the conversation towards the truth and the easiest way for her to get there.

I would also ALWAYS be consistent about punishments for lies. In our home, a lie is ALWAYS big trouble, but you don't know for sure if your mistake was...so instead of guaranteeing a big punishment and whatever punishment might be happening, we always remind that they don't know what will happen by owning up to the offense but they DO know what will happen when they lie. Plus, it will usually add to the punishment for the mistake because instead of being happy they were honest and dealing with it outright, we have to finagle and argue about the truth which just irritates us more. This logic works a bit better when they understand the concept first--simplify for the younger ones. Good luck!!!

A.

we have a kind of unofficial family tradition in my family. whenever one of the kids starts lying, we sit down and tell them the story of "the little boy who cried wolf". and talk to them about why you don't lie. This has happened through three generations of our family now. as the others have said, kids just seem to go through this stage and it's not your fault as a parent. hang in there and good luck! :)

I've read in a lot of places that it's normal for this age to lie. Just reinforce that it's not ok. Some kids do it because they have a good imagination, so you have to help them word it in a different way, like, Oh, you wish this would happen, but it didn't really happen right? or that would be a fun thing to pretend, good imagination, or they're just trying to get attention and see how far you'll let it go. I was a preschool teacher and most of my 4 and 5 year olds went through this phase. There's a lot of resources available online to see how to handle this.

Dear L.,
It is very normal and even healthy for children between the ages of four and six to lie. I am a licensed clinical social worker and I have worked with families and have taught parenting skills for approx 10 years.
Children under than 6 (and most 7 year olds) do not have the cognitive ability to distinguish between reality and fiction. That is why it is so easy for them to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc. Even if you do not promote those beliefs in your home or your child is intellectually gifted she still has limited insight and judgement because she has the life experiences of a five year old. She also has the limited brain development of a five year old. The fact that she lies and then denies it means she is right where she needs to be developmentally. Instead of convincing her she should tell the truth, cut to the chase and say something like, "I know you are lying, lying is against the rules in this house and your punishment(or "consequence"/put your own word in) is such and such." (whatever you use as a consequence). Do not get caught up in arguing about whether or not she did or did not lie. In her mind she did not, but she also knows she is not telling things the way they really are. She has yet to understand how "not telling things the way they really are" equals lying.
Just because it is appropriate for her to lie does not mean she should be allowed to do so. She needs to hear from you(her moral "authorities") that it is wrong to lie. Eventually, when she is able to discern between reality and fiction she will have the correct moral compass and be motivated to tell the truth. In the mean time, help her to identify each lie that she makes by marking it with a consquence and wait this period out. If you are wondering about consequenting her even though it appears she "cannot help it" think of it this way. Young children do not share well either but we encourage or make them anyway. Young children frequently make loud and inaproppriate remarks about strangers in public, and we tell them "sshh!" even though they have no idea why. Young children don't understand bedtimes, why they have to each yucky food like vegetables and wear coats in the winter but we enforce these rules anyway. With a "no lying" rule, you are just enforcing another rule along with all of the rest of them that they do not understand. Eventually she will catch on. Try to enjoy the explanations she creates, she will be a little genious (not a sociopath) during this time period and her inplausable excuses will suddenly become funny once you understand the reasons behind them. Just try not to let her see you laugh.

We had discussions with our 5-yo about lying when she was about 4. We would give examples and ask if it was a lie or not. For instance, I would say "I ate all my vegetables" when I clearly had some on my plate, and we'd ask her if I was lying. Then I'd say "I'm wearing a blue shirt" when I WAS wearing a blue shirt and ask her if I was lying. We would do this periodically and make a game out of it.

And we had to explain the difference between lying that is mean and just being silly. For example, we'd say "Daddy has a green egg on his head" and we'd have her say if that was being silly or lying. (We'd give real examples too, where we'd take something away from someone and say "I didn't take that")

We also explained to her why we shouldn't lie. We'd give her scenarios and ask how that would make her feel-- like if someone took her pencil and then said they didn't take it. I think applying it to their life and asking how it would make them feel really drives it home for them. My daughter is 5 now, and she seems to understand what lying is and that she shouldn't do it. Each child is different, but I would say that if you make a game of it with your daughter (probably at times when she has not just been lying would be best), she should be able to understand.

As a parent, you may be interested in a university study about how kids think about other people's thinking. We will ask you to watch with your child three brief, online videos of puppet actors and then to record your child's answers to questions about what the puppets are thinking. We will also ask you some general questions about yourself, your child, and your household. Participation would take less than 15 minutes, and it's a great way for you and your child to contribute to our knowledge of how children think. For more details go to the following address:
http://www.milestoneshome.org/current/thinking/

Best wishes,

Kimberly

I read somewhere (Parents magazine, maybe?) that that is very normal. Children that age don't understand that they are lying per se. Just continue to explain it at this point. Once she does understand (and you'll be able to tell), you can offer consequences.

I think kids are all different, but all I can say is that my son is 5 and totally understands what a lie is. My 3 1/2 year old has no clue.

I read somewhere that when kids begin to lie, they are beginning to realize that they are separate from their parents, and their thoughts are their own. It is, therefore, a normal stage of development.

That being said, I would first come at it from her perspective. Maybe make some guesses, out loud, about why she might have lied. "Were you worried you would get in trouble? Were you scared mommy would get mad? Were you angry that your sister did such and such?" This gets kids attention because you find the cause for the behavior, and then are able to give them alternative choices to help solve their dilemma. "Next time, tell me that you spilled the milk so that we can clean it up together. Next time, tell me your sister took your toy, so that I can talk to her about it."

I think there is usually a reason behind the behavior, and reassuring her that you can help her if she chooses a different way might help her to understand.

Ah, a little politician in the making! That's what we jokingly said about our son who we caught lying about all sorts of things from the time he was 3. (He is now almost twenty, a sophomore in college, and guess his major--political science!)

I would suggest finding some good stories that will address the problem indirectly. Storyelling is extremely effective in changing behavior, in a gentle way. The story of the boy who cried wolf is a good one. When you tell the story, you don't need to expound on the "moral"--just tell the story, and your daughter will get the message without your pointing it out to her. Ask in the children's section of your public library for other story suggestions. You can also make up your own stories--make up a character (can be an animal) who tells little white lies, thinking it won't matter, but something happens that is a result of the lie, and the character learns the importance of telling the truth.
J. W.

For some reason, kids just do this. Not sure why. We still have a few problems with our daughter who is 9. The rule at our house is if you lie you get double the punishment. We have a "consequence box" that has slips of paper with icky chores (like scrubbing woodwork, cleaning the dog pen, picking up sticks in the yard, cleaning cat litter boxes) and if they do something they know they aren't supposed to, they have to draw a consequence. If they lie about the misdeed, they draw two consequences. You would be amazed at how much easier it is to keep your kids on track and not lying!! And you don't have to stress or try to come up with a punishment. If they have to go get the consequence box and draw, it puts the responsibility on them and not you.

If we got caught lying as children we got to sit in the corner for 5 minutes. It had to be somewhere that my mom could see us but where we couldn't see the T.V. or get into anything. We learned very quickly the difference between lying and make-believe. I think at this age standing or sitting in a corner for 5 minutes is the best punishment because to them 5 minutes seems like an eternity when they could be doing something fun. They remember after that when they tell a lie they are going to have to miss out on something. That's at least something they understand, sometimes they don't understand hurting peoples feelings or why it is important to tell the truth, this is something they learn as they get older.

My 5 yr old daughter does the same thing for no reason. She'll make something up about someone at school and I'll know she's lying so I'l say "really, that's terrible..I'll talk to them tomorrow about that" and she'll say "no-no" and I know she's lying and we have a serious discussion about that.

I think they just want to talk or be inconversation so they just make stuff up. I think it's normal..but still disturbing. i'm sure it's harmless, I just keep reassuring my 5 yrs it's horrible to lie and if she wants to talk she doesn't need to make stuff up!

My son is only 1, but I have seen this happen with my babysitter's son, who is 4. He will climb up on the kitchen counters and open the cabinets and blame it on my son. One of the things she will do is to explain that telling a lie hurts people's feelings. She tells him that it hurts God's feelings, her feelings, and my son's feelings because he's lying about something he did. It seems to stick with him for a while, but it isn't anything permanent. Maybe that's something you can try with your daughter.

L.

5 years old must mean she has exposure to other children in preschool, day care etc right?

Usually kids begin to "lie" because of fear - of getting into trouble, being punished physically, restricted from fun etc what ever the negative in a 5 y/o life is the 'fear factor' is there.

Try talking to her when there is NOTHING going on at the time to see what her concept of a lie is.

I have found that the adults name the game so to speak. I know you did not teach her how to lie so at 5 years old how did she learn 'it' - We call it a lie what do kids call it? Find out what she knows before you attempt to correct it - usually the answer is there in what she learned.

Here is an example of a conversation I had with my 5 y/o grandson who actually tells lies to mom about me (lol little bugger lol)

"Hey there Tom, I have a question.....when you told mommy that you and sissy took a bath together the other night I was confused" "Sissy was playing with sam in the kitchen" so can you explain to me - how you thought she was taking a bath with you?"

"I know I didn't mean sissy I meant Lindsey she used to take baths with me when I was little"

"Oh so you remembered it and said 'sissy' instead of 'lindsey'?

"yeah, I get confused sometimes"

"huh, that's cool so do I" "Thanks I just wanted to know how it got mixed up" "So what did mom say (smiling)?

"She said I was too big to be taking baths with girls and I was not to do that"

"She's right- I totally agree, maybe next time you could tell her you meant "lindsey" instead of 'sissy' and she won't worry - how bout that?"

"yeah I just got my names mixed up"

"it happens, don't worry about it"

We continued to play with the playdoh and knowing that he was simply 'incorrect' but that his mom's reaction was a bit stronger than the situation merited - I had a talk with her and explained that sometimes we hear more than what is actually said or emphasize it.

Explore what the child is saying in what setting and why - then ask if kids in his class get things mixed up to and how does that happen?

Kids have basically got to be taught what is 'correct story' and incorrect story - the concept of lieing is too vague for their cognitive abilities - we assign the 'lie' to the task and then the consequences but we are not usually age appropriate in our doing so. We expect a more abstract ability when they are only capable of concrete thinking.

There is different levels of maturing in their develpment according to Piaget there are:

Preoperational
Concrete
Abstract

It is facinating reading and helps a lot when you teach understanding what level the childs is at.

Good luck

J

We had this same problem with my 4 year old step-daughter. I tried explaining to her several times she needed to tell the truth because it was the "right thing to do"..but like you, I got nothing back but a blank stare. Eventually I got the idea to get her the book "The Boy who Cried Wolf" and surprisingly it worked! She now understands that she needs to tell the truth otherwise people will not believe her when she really is! This may be silly advice, but it worked for us. Hopefully it helps!

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