18 answers

Help for a Lying 10 Year Old.....

My son has had an ongoing issue with lying. It started several years ago and we have exhausted ourselves with every solution thrown our way. He lies over everything. At first it was "storytelling", about other children misbehaving, or grandiose events that he had taken a part of. Now it is everything, and it has gotten to the point that I cannot believe anything that he tells me. He will continue with the lie when he is obviously busted, until I over and over let him know I am aware he is lying. The lies range from homework, completing chores, the whole way to "did you drink the rest of the juice?"- no mom, wasn't me (sporting a juice mustache). When he gets caught in a lie, I make him aware that he is being punished for lying not just the action. We have taken away video games, TV, music, free time.....I have even made him wear a scarlet "L" to Sunday school, hoping that humility would help. Anyone have any suggestions? Please Help Me!!!

What can I do next?

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Stop believing everything he says. Even when you know he's telling the truth. Make him prove everything. But first, sit him down and tell him that since he lies about everything that you can no longer trust him and that he will have to prove the truth of everything to you. And since you can't trust him, you will be calling his friends parents to find out if he got there, and what is going on over there. Using the love and logic approach, the logical consequence for such extensive lying is no trust for him at all. Did he do his homework? Make him show you it and he has to have a note from his teachers telling what the homework is (hopefully the teachers will work with you on this). He might be a little old for this, but make a chart where he gets to earn back priveleges and trust for each time he tells the truth. If he lies, he loses points on the chart big time. It might be a good way for him to learn that even one lie (in real life) cost trust way more than telling the truth one time helps to build it back. Good luck to you!

C.,

We had/have the same thing. He doesn't do it as much anymore, but sometimes.....I found that when I just tuned him out when he started with 'grandiose' storytelling and treated him as if I already knew the answer to the question (homework) it helped. The more I emphasized it the more he did it, the less I did, the less he did. It will affect them socially, too. Friends just 'disappear' if they don't like behaviors I've noticed. Hang in there!

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One suggestion I remember (from child development courses) is to not give him a chance to lie, as much as possible. So, if you can see he's got a juice mustache, dont ask if he's the one who finished the juice. State "oh, you drank the last of the juice," and then, if there's something wrong with that (like you were saving it for breakfast) tell him why you are unhappy about it. If there's nothing wrong with it, leave it at that. (If he denies it, tell him "I know you did" and then the conversation is over). Instead of asking if his homework is done, tell him it's time to do homework. If he says he has none, check his backpack. In fact, I check all my kids backpacks because they tend to forget to give me notes and stuff (my oldest is 11 and in 5th grade. I'll probably keep doing it even when they're in high school, just so they know they can't slip anything past me). And maybe talk to his teacher, if homework doesn't come back he can spend the first half of recess doing it at school - that's what our school does.

Also, let him know that you're more angry about the lying that the misdeed. For example, if he drank the last of the juice, and denies it, tell him that he wouldn't have been in trouble for the juice but he is now for lying. A lot of kids lie to get out of trouble or to make themselves feel or seem more important. So when he is honest and confesses, praise him (tell him "Thank you for telling the truth, I really appreciate that") then implement a mor mild consequence for the behavior because he told you the truth. And make sure you tell him how spcial and wonderful he is, at times when he isn't telling a story or when you see him doing something good.

1 mom found this helpful

C.,

Have you thought about rewarding your son for telling the trueth? We have a rule in our family, as long as you tell the trueth you will not be punished. This has worked very well for me. My daughter 15, and son 5, tell the trueth sometimes when I think gosh I wish I wouldn't have to deal with this one. Just a thought, give it a try what have you got to lose?

1 mom found this helpful

First off, lying is triggered by something underlying. No pun intended.

Sometimes it's just an intensely active imagination, sometimes it's the child's way of controlling (or trying to) his environment, and sometimes it's due to something more involved.

You know your child, and you probably know all the reasons he comes up with lies. Sometimes, though, because we are so close to our children, we can't see the forest for the trees (or the trees in the forest, in some cases).

My guess is your son is continuing the lying for attention and recognition. And he gets it. Some children seem to thrive on negative/reactive attention more than positive/proactive attention, no matter what you do, but this may be an angle to at least look through.

If it's that prolific, I personally would not use any tactic that brings more attention to it, and if anything, ignore it. If he realizes that your respect for him is there because he's a person, not because he's a good boy, he will likely drop the habit on his own. Ignore it, and maybe let him know that if he's going to lie, you don't wish to talk with him at that time. Also, let him know that since he lies, you don't know when he is telling the truth, so he has to rebuild your trust in by deciding on his own that he wants you to be able to believe him, and therefore (he) decide when he isn't going to lie anymore.

We have first hand experience with this in a child of similar age (relative in our care). Message me privately if you'd like to talk about it.

1 mom found this helpful

Dear C.,
You might try this. Stop asking for the truth when you already know the answer. Instead, state something as a fact, i.e. you drank the last of the juice and put the empty carton back in the refrigerator. Or, you haven't finished all of your homework. Then it is up to him to prove he did. There may be some pathology here as one person suggested. I understand your concern and applaud your efforts to deal with this problem. Hang in there!

1 mom found this helpful

I had a similar situation, just not that severe and the way I resolved it was that I started telling very obvious lies to him. He'd ask a question and I would lie to him. Is it rainning mom? It would be but I'd say no, it's beautiful and sunny. Would you buy something for me from the store?
Sure but I wouldn't. I became very unreliable in his eyes and then I told him I was treating him the way he treated me and if he wanted me to change towards him, he would have to change himself first. It was a few days later that he came to me and told me he wouldn't lie to me anymore. He had to prove himself to me but he did it. Overall took about 2 months. Good Luck, It's a tough one.

1 mom found this helpful

I haven't tried it, and it may be harder to do than it's worth, but my sis-in-law told her kids that if they lie she never knows what to believe. Once she knows they've been lying, she won't believe anything they say the rest of the day.

Example after kid has lied that day:
"Want some cookies for a snack?"
"Sure Mom"
"Oh, I don't believe you. I'll just eat them myself then"

Now maybe she would be selective about what she believed, and when they figure it out and lie to be believed, I'm sure she just went with what she figured she should... but it teaches the lesson that people never know when to trust someone that has not proven themselves trustworthy.

Good luck!!!

1 mom found this helpful

I heard an interesting concept once in a parenting class, that kids lie at a younger age to avoid trouble, but if they lie when they are older it is often more of a reflection of the relationship. That is not to say that somehow you are lacking as a mom , but it might be worth looking over how you guys communicate, and how much he trusts you. Is he trying to really pull away and therefore putting up a barrier, etc. Of course, that is a theory that doesn't necessarily cover every situation, either. Merely one thing to consider. You also mentioned he has been doing it for years. It seems he must be getting SOME kind of pay-off for it, or perhaps he did at some point and now it's just a habit. I would be willing to bet he doesn't feel very good about this deep down inside, though. I hope you can find a way to have a really open conversation with him about it, and see if he can give you his take on why he is doing this. Probably best to try this when he hasn't just told a lie, but a time when things are peaceful and you just casually invite him to talk. I hope you can find out what is really at the heart of this.

1 mom found this helpful

Hello darling! I am SO SORRY, how freaking frustrating! But funny too. You have a bright kid who knows the power of keeping himself out of trouble. It takes, as you know, a good deal of intelligence to do it. Small comfort I'm sure.

I'd check out some books on pathological lying. Get a background on the why's, markers and concerns you should have. Crazy though it may sound, you might try a psychiatrist. I had to take my daughter to one for ADHD diagnosis, and nothing was harder for me than to overcome the idea that I had to go to one. Those are for CRAZY PEOPLE! I was raised in the Mid-West, and only loony people did that! Turns out, I got to take my kids problem to someone who had better tools to deal with it than I did.

Finding a child psychiatrist takes awhile in some parts. Took me 3 months. Check with your insurance to see what you're covered for. Get a little background on what you are addressing, and we'll see if we can't turn this little issue into a million-dollar best selling author. :D Hang in there babe!

Scarlet "L," you are a riot Hester. :D

I would get him into therapy quickly, hoping that a professional who has dealt with this issue repeatedly has some good answers. I would consider this a very, very serious issue and a precursor to a lifelong pattern unless the behavior can be interrupted somehow by a well-informed professional. (I wouldn't take this to a pastor or a low-level therapist, nor to someone new at the profession -- I'd go to a very experienced child psychiatrist. You might get a referral from your doctor or from Children's Hospital)

I'm sorry if I sound overly concerned, but I'm under the impression that this is a serious problem, and I just want to convey the seriousness of it. Okay? I will pray for you to find good resources to solve this problem.

p.s. Recently Dr. Laura suggested family therapy for this exact same problem, because, from her point of view, the dynamics of the family were such that the boy didn't feel important enough, so he lied to make himself sound more interesting, exciting, grandiose, accomplished, etc. Please consider that as well. His problem could have stemmed from receiving no attention from busy parents, to receiving too much attention with high expectations of his behavior/accomplishments.

Wow, I really feel for you. This is such a difficult habit to break. Have you tried to have an open discussion with him about the fact that he lies so much, one that does not include your (completely natural) feeling of anger and disappointment? This may be nearly impossible, but if you can manage to do this without making him feel judged, maybe he will tell you his reason for lying. I don't think I could take my own advice, so maybe you and your spouse can document every lie he tells for a period of time (Maybe one or two weeks), and document the proof that he is lying as well, then have someone who can be neutral (perhaps your pastor)that you all trust talk to him,with the documentation in hand,in great length. It sounds as if he does it now without even thinking, as if this is his "normal" state in life. It may be that a professional is required, a pediatric psychoogist for example, may need to intervene. Good luck to you! I will be saying prayers for you, your son, and all that are impacted by his lying.

I read some great advice recently: B doesn't happen until A is completed. If he's not telling the truth (A=telling the truth) he doesn't get privileges (B). If he's lying about homework, go to school & sit in class w/him for a period or two. Tell the teacher-in front of him-that you're not hearing the truth about homework so you wanted to see for yourself. Most teachers will welcome the support! Chores-watch him do not only that chore, but an extra one on top of that. Inconvenient for you that you've got to follow him around but he'll get the message-don't do the chore & then lie about it & you get extra chores. I caught my 13 year old in a lie (several actually) & made him write the definition of "lie" that pertained to the situation & then give me 5 examples of how lies hurt relationships with others (5 relationships, 5 ways lies break that relationship). Lies about food-"I didn't get snack", respond with "I can see that you are lying to me, would you like a chance to tell the truth?" If he continues to lie, he loses snack for the next few days (a day or two to start so you can work up the punishment if he continues)
Don't "over & over let him know"-say it once, let him know that his lies make it hard for you to trust him when he IS telling the truth & tell him you need to go sit quietly by yourself to get over the hurt of him lying to you. Tell him you're too upset to be around him-maybe losing time with others will help him to realize that his lies affect others & they're not just getting him in trouble, they're hurting his relationships with other people.
Always give him a chance to tell the truth, once you let him know you're aware he's lying to you. If he tells the truth, punish for the action (sneaking food, not doing homework) but not for the lie. You just told him that if he tells the truth, that will make up for the lie (not make up for it really, but he's now telling the truth which should be rewarded-then he'll want to tell the truth next time).
Good luck!

C.,

We had/have the same thing. He doesn't do it as much anymore, but sometimes.....I found that when I just tuned him out when he started with 'grandiose' storytelling and treated him as if I already knew the answer to the question (homework) it helped. The more I emphasized it the more he did it, the less I did, the less he did. It will affect them socially, too. Friends just 'disappear' if they don't like behaviors I've noticed. Hang in there!

Explain why being honest and trustworthy is important to you and to your relationship and your family. It's your job to protect him - you can't do that if you can't trust him. Later it'll become even more important. etc etc. Explain why it's better to not lie because right now lying without getting caught seems like the way to go.

THEN
Make punishments worse when he lied. "What you did was wrong. Lying about it was worse. We're very disappointed. We were going to ground you from the TV/computer for 1 day...because you lied, we're grounding you from the TV/Computer for 4 days."

THEN
Don't put him in a situation where it's easy for him to lie. Don't ask questions where it would be easy for him to lie in response.

instead of "is your homework done?" say "I'm going to come look over your homework soon. You might want to go double check it to make sure everything is done."

Instead of asking "Is your room clean?" say "Your room needs to be clean before you can go play. Are you sure it's clean? Why don't you go double check. I'm going to go look at your room in a few minutes to see if it's clean. Why don't you just go double check and make sure you didn't miss anything."

or instead of saying "did you wash your hands" say "I'm going to come over and smell your hands to see if they're clean. Do you want to go wash them again before I do or can I come smell them now?"

This gives him lots of chances to make the right choice (not lying) and lets him choose avoid punishments. Be sure to never "catch on" to the fact that he didn't do it right the first time.

This lets him practice being honest. I think kids need to practice - esp if they've been lying.

Hi C.,

I have a 6 1/2 year old son and 4 1/2 year old daughter and they have both been testing out the whole idea of lying (or "tricking" as my daughter calls it - she obviously knows that "lying" is bad but she wants to push the boundaries!). I don't really have any advice for your situation but I just read a VERY interesting article about kids and lying on NPR's web site that is based on academic research and provides some helpful ideas about what kids want/need to hear from their parents in order to stop lying. Here's the link to the story:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1122...

Good luck and I look forward to reading what other moms have to say about this.

L.

P.S. I just read the reply from Mary Frances and have to say that my biggest disappointment as a child was when my parents told me that they would never punish me for telling the truth AND THEN THEY DID! Of course, in a child's mind, that was a huge lie and honestly it took a lot of time and work as I grew up and became an adult to re-program myself into telling the truth and not being afraid of the consequences. I know in my case, I lied out of fear.

Stop believing everything he says. Even when you know he's telling the truth. Make him prove everything. But first, sit him down and tell him that since he lies about everything that you can no longer trust him and that he will have to prove the truth of everything to you. And since you can't trust him, you will be calling his friends parents to find out if he got there, and what is going on over there. Using the love and logic approach, the logical consequence for such extensive lying is no trust for him at all. Did he do his homework? Make him show you it and he has to have a note from his teachers telling what the homework is (hopefully the teachers will work with you on this). He might be a little old for this, but make a chart where he gets to earn back priveleges and trust for each time he tells the truth. If he lies, he loses points on the chart big time. It might be a good way for him to learn that even one lie (in real life) cost trust way more than telling the truth one time helps to build it back. Good luck to you!

C.,

This might be part of the problem. I suggest you look into it to rule this out. It is his memory. I have lots of children who come to me who are doing poorly in school(reading, writing, spelling, memorizing.)

I notice that some children who do not remember very much lie. They may make stories up about the day, add on details about what they just read or had read to them.

Just to rule it out, do a little test with him. Pick a short article that has facts, names and numbers(history, animal facts, state, country blurbs). Have him read 5-6 lines out loud and 5-6 lines quietly. Prep him before that you are going to ask questions about it.

Ask him to recall anything and everything he remembers. How much can he remember on his own? Then ask him questions. Notice if he makes things up, if he only has a few facts or none at all or only remembers what is read out loud or visa versa. (Be positive abt. what he does get right.)

If any of the above show up then he has memory troubles.
If he remembers a lot, then great! it is not a memory issue.

I do Integrative Brain Therapy. It is a short series of sessions that permanently change the brain's functions so that learning and remembering are easy.

Best of luck!
A. Lovejoy
lovejoybit.com

I don't have any advice for you, but I sure will read other responses! My 9 year old step son is the same way. He lies about EVERYTHING. Things that there's no need to lie about. If he gets caught doing something wrong- like, I SEE him doing it, he'll turn around and tell me, "No, that's not what I was doing." And he'll scream and yell that I misunderstood. I CATCH him lying and he'll deny, deny, deny. I overheard him telling his grandma, "M. says I lie all the time and I NEVER lie!" OMG! Really? One one hand, I hope it's just the age, but on the other hand, I've got 3 younger boys that I SURE hope I don't have to go through this with.

A friend of mine has a son the same age with a stealing problem. Takes a few dollars here and there to buy junk he doesn't need. One day she came over just beside herself, and asked if i knew any police. I said yes our neighbors - the wife works with delinquent kids. Can we go now? she asked. So we did. I explained the situation to my neighbor, and she asked if she could talk to the boy alone. It took about 20 minutes. I don't know what she said to this boy, but my friend says he hasn't stolen anything since.

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