10 Year Old Increase in Lying - I Am at a Loss....

Updated on October 03, 2011
L.N. asks from Nashville, TN
19 answers

I have a wonderful, sweet 10 year old boy, who, until recently has given me so few problems I kind of wondered what all the fuss was about with parenting boys. May be a little stretch there - but, he is a really good kid :o)

Anyway, recently, as in the past few months, we have noticed a steep increase in lying. The majority of them are downright stupid, really little, don't matter much in the scheme of things kind of lies; and I just don't understand why he is lying in the first place. So, we have come up with a punishment; for each lie you get caught in, you earn three days of oatmeal for breakfast. The point is, lying isn't right, no matter what "size" lie it is, lying is not to be excused or condoned.

Here's a for instance: last weekend he gets caught in a pretty big deal lie. He was lying about something, stupid, to get his sister in trouble, which is NOT okay. There were several lies in the midst of trying to convince of this, so he actually ended up grounded for the week - no tv, no ipod, no friends over, oatmeal for breakfast; with the condition that if he got caught lying while under restriction he would earn another week. For the most part this week has actually been enjoyable! He hasn't bothered us about TV or Ipod, he has read and played more; it has been okay, a lot less painful than we anticipated.
Fast forward to this morning. He has, literally, two hours until the restrictions are lifted. I have not been feelings well, so I slept in this morning. Around 10 I go out to the kitchen and ask him if he has eaten breakfast, he says "yes". I asked him what he had (really this is all just morning chatter). He says, "oatmeal". Immediately, my flags go up, he NEVER makes his own oatmeal, he hates the stuff.... I wandered over to the cupboard, without saying anything to him, to look into the box of oatmeal packets, I see that there are none missing. "umm....N? What kind did you have?" "Cinnamon roll" I hold the box out, I look in the trash, "then how come there are no packets in the trash." Silence....... "Did you just lie to me? Silence.......... "Why would you lie about something like this?" "because I am not hungry and I wasn't planning on eating this morning."

Ok, ladies - seriously?!?!?! What a stupid lie? And only a couple of hours away from being ungrounded?? This is the kind of cycle he has gotten himself into and I don't feel like anything we do really makes a difference. And this morning I am just at a loss. I don't know what to do. Lying is something my husband and I won't tolerate, but he just seems to have no regard for that. And, like I said, almost always it is stupid, little, not worth lying about, stuff.

Suggestions? Thoughts?

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So What Happened?

When I ask for advice, I don't ask to have my parenting choices called idiotic or stupid - I am just a parent, like the rest of you, trying to do the best thing I can for my kids, in ways that I see fit. I am open to change and creativity - hence the reason I posted here.

I had hoped for some help, not to end up feeling like the world's worst mother - thanks moms. :o(

Addendum: For those of you who took the time to give me some constructive criticism and helpful ideas, in a respectful manner; thank you. I feel like I brought away some pretty good ideas, as well as books and articles to read.
Obviously, the reason I came here is because I want to use the resources available to me to become a better parent. I chatted with my son about this thread of conversations and was able to use some of you as an example to my son as to how NOT to treat people as well, so, in the end, I guess you were all useful in one way or another.

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answers from Chicago on

Kids lie because they think it's a better choice than the truth. There is always something to be gained by lying.

My daughter is also 10 and I've found that immeditate punishments work better than ones that take place the next day. I would get a little more creative if I were you. For example, if he lied to get his sister in trouble, then his punishment would be to do something nice for his sister. Maybe he has to vacuum her room or do one of her chores.

Once he's done his punishment, ask him if the lie was worth it. Sometimes I have to ask my daughter that. It just reinforces what I'm trying to teach her.

If I were you I'd try to make him either do above and beyond what he lied about or the opposite. So if he lies about taking out the trash, then he should have to take out the trash plus another chore. If he lies about cleaning his room then he should have to clean his room plus another one. If he lies to get his sister in trouble, he should do something nice for her. Make it immediate. That always works best for us.

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Ah... Tough.

I haven't gone through the other responses yet, so forgive me if I repeat anything.

What I would do is give him a second chance every time you catch him lying. I am not saying lying is wrong AT ALL, because it is not. He seems scared to tell the truth for whatever reason. So, when he said he had oatmeal for breakfast and you knew he did not, maybe give him one more time to tell the truth. Like "Want to try that one again?" That way, he will know that telling the truth will not get him in trouble, and lying will. He will probably learn to trust you {and learn that moms ALWAYS know what is going on!! =) }

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answers from Austin on

Your son feels like he does not have control. He does not have a voice and is not safe telling you the wrong answer. Meaning the answer you want to hear.

He is telling you the things he THINKS you want to hear.

This morning if he had told you, "No I did not eat anything".. would that have been ok? How about if all of this last week, he just refused to eat any breakfast rather than eat oatmeal.. would you have allowed it?

The deal with his sister, needed to be a conversation privately with you and dad and son, so he could explain, "what lead up to wanting sister to get in trouble?"

What motivated all of this effort? Is he frustrated? Is he angry, jealous? He may not even know, but you all can talk about it so he can mull this over.

In our family my mother made us a promise.. "If you will tell me the truth, no matter what it is, I will not get mad. I may be hurt or disappointed, but I will not be mad.". To this day she has kept her promise.

Your son actually sounds like a "pleaser." He hates making mistakes or bad decisions and upsetting you.. Your disappointment is the worst punishment, but it does seem to give him attention.. Must be a turmoil for him..

What has changed this year (maybe since school started) or in the family.. to each of the children? How old is sister? What has she been up to?

This is a communication and control situation. Give your son some control. Is he in 4th grade? That is a huge turning point in his elementary education. More responsibility, More actual studying. All of the skills he has been learning all of these years are now expected to be pretty much mastered.. This can take a toll on some kids that feel like they may not be successful or are having a hard time admitting they are needing help.

Again.. they do not want to disappoint their parents.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

How frustrating! I knew someone who said sometimes it's just easier to lie and he would lie about stupid things like this. He had very few friends, who wants to be around someone who lies? People assume that if you lie about little things you'll lie about the big things. (I tend to preach to the choir, sorry)

You may have tried this but I would have him "practice" saying the truth. The situations you write about could be an example...... Have him to say, "No Mom I haven't eaten, I'm not hungry and wasn't planning on eating this morning" Three times. Then you take the conversation from there and talk about eating the oatmeal later if it is still under the timeframe of when he had to eat it or the expectation for the day. Check to make sure he's not getting sick that sort of thing.

I get the feel from your post the lying is a control issue and agree with Laurie A. Have to admit I dont' have a lot of ideas on this other than the above, having him practice the truth to help it become a habit? To help that I think when he DOES tell the truth and you practice it it MIGHT be a good idea to compromise a little more on your side than you might otherwise to get through to him telling the truth is actually the easier path.

About the post regarding kids eating things they don't like....I'm not sure I would choose this as punishment for my kid but sometimes as parents we have to search for what will hit home with our child. I worry about the emotional issues regarding food that could arise too. My husband talks about his older kids....one you could take a toy away from for a period of time, the other just didn't care about much and would move on to the next so understand if oatmeal may very well be the only thing you've found so far. This may be something you should get help from a Marriage Family Therapist about, even if it's one visit to get advice and ideas on how to deal with this individually. I haven't tried, but did you google it? I don't know if this was addressed in two of the books recommended a lot on this site "Love and Logic" and "123 Magic" I've read parts of both but admit I read what I need to know and not the whole thing.

All the best and hope you get some ideas here or things start to fall into place. Looking at your What Happened...Sorry you feel this way, just take the advice you can use and ignore the rest (even if that is me ;-).

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Okay well I think they get this from their friends at school at this age.
Why do I think this? Because I did it as a kid (I watched & learned) and
because my SD started doing it at this age.
I can see why he lied about the oatmeal. I can't stomach the stuff to this
day. I don't think punishment should be food. I see why he lied about
that one (no offense). I would take that punishment away. Keep it
away from food & keep it to no tf, ipod like you did. You know things he
likes. That's what my parents did & it worked. I was afraid of getting in
trouble but not because they were mean parents or doled out scary/bad
or mean punishements but BECAUSE THEY HAD FOLLOW THROUGH. I truly wanted to be a good kid and wanted their praise/positive attention, not their negative attention (ie. trouble, anger,
punishmet). It worked wonders.
*Also, make sure your punishment "fits the crime" No month long punishment for a little white lie
*Punishment shouldn't be too long at this age. Too young.
*My parents talked things through to explain why I was expected to behave a certain way and it went a loooonnng way.
*If he wasn't hungry can't he have something other than oatmeal later?
Sounds like he might not like the stuff and/or is tired of it would rather opt out of it while you sleep than be made to it yet again. Do YOU eat oatmeal every morning?
*My parents were strict but not abusive & I turned out pretty good w/very few problems throghout my growing years & am a good adult and contributing citizen.
*Try a differnet approach. He's learning, growing, stretching his wings, testing his own limits. Be a positive role model. You'll get great results. Hang in there! It will happen! :)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Rapid City on

Forget these rude moms below. They just have a stick up their butts. :P

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

While I understand your idea for the oatmeal....my kids would be so sad, they don't like it either....I don't know if that's such a great idea. Ingenious, but maybe it's not gonna work.
Why do kids lie about stupid stuff? Who knows!? But, I would probably say, "Bob, if you lie to me you will be doing chores. You will pull weeds for 20 minutes every time you lie. When all the weeds are pulled you will clean toilets, you will mow the lawn, you will do the dishes...." Whatever you decide. I have read this book, Wild Things The art of Nurturing Boys, and it actually advocates giving children (boys especially) chores instead of taking things away. Physical things that the child can do.
It's an idea.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

It's probably just a phase. Kid's lips can move much faster than their brains can sometimes.
Call him on the "dumbness" of his weird fibs. Try to make some of them more "funny" than "bad".
"Hmm, so you say you had cinnamon flavor oats this morning yet I do not see the remnants of the fixings.... where might they be?" He knows at that point his lie is caught. I'm not sure I'd do a bunch of punishing for it.... I think it's easier to call him on it and make him realize he really isn't fooling anyone with his crazy prevaricating.
Tell him a story about the wolf in sheeps clothing, and how crying wolf will not have a good outcome.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I am sorry some people are being rude and judgemental. (I didn't read all the answers but just read your other post.) I don't think making him eat oatmeal instead of his favorite cereal is a big deal. People getting their panties in a twist over it are being ridiculous. CPS?? Come on!!

If your son is still lying after dealing with a consequence for a week, then obviously the consequence wasn't effective. That doesn't mean you are bad parents. Good parents try to figure out new approaches when one thing doesn't work and seeking advice from other moms and dads is exactly the point of this site. Lying is tough because unfortunately, it becomes a habit for some kids. We don't have serious issues with it with our own kids but we deal with it occasionally. One thing that I have done with our kids and with students is when I get a sense that they aren't being completely honest, I give them a chance to change their answer. I tell them that I don't feel like they are being honest and I need to hear the truth. If they change their answer, I praise them for being honest and express my disappointment that they didn't tell the truth initially. I then explain that next time, I expect him/her to tell me the truth the first time. I don't always give a consequence for lying if they change their answer if it is something stupid or small. However, if he/she was caught in another lie just recently or if it is a big deal, then there is definitely an immediate consequence. Cheerful M.'s advice on consequences makes sense to me.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You guys are getting into some bad habits that need to be broken. Never set him up to lie, look in the oatmeal box and say "I see you did NOT eat oatmeal today." rather than "did you eat oatmeal?" when you know he didnt.
Why did you do this.....? rather than did you do this? When did you do this , what were you feeling thinking when you did this? are more important right now.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Oh I like Stitches idea of having him practice the truth. Remind him that you will get less mad if you tell the truth, than to tell the lie. ie: "No mom. I didn't eat oatmeal. I wasn't hungry." would make me less upset, son, than for you to flat out lie to me and say that you did eat the oatmeal. Do you understand, son?

As for the punishment itself - I do agree with Cheryl that using a food as a punishment isn't quite the way to go. I hope you don't assume this kid will ever eat oatmeal (maybe not even oatmeal cookies?) in his adult life if it's used as a punishment now. Granted I don't have a ten year old (mine's 3.5), I take away what's most vauable to him - toys, time at the playground, time in front of the tv, time with his friends, etc. If he were older and i'd give him a punishment, it'd something like picking up trash outside or moving rocks or some other sort of boring/sweaty job. But you gotta do whatyou gotta do. You're the mom. I personally don't like oatmeal and would HATE having to eat it as well. But that would just make me try to be sneakier with my lies so I don't get caught. I'd be too mad at you to let you get your way. I'd want to keep lying. A better punishment with food, imo would be something boring, like plain toast. It's not gross, but it's boring.

Good luck.

ADDED: Just read some other responses. Laurie A - love ya gal. You have great insight. I am trying to keep that promise with my 3.5 yr old too - I will not get mad if you tell me the truth..... He's pretty good. Sometimes I remind him that lying will get him a punishment. Honesty won't.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I feel your pain. Our son (7) has just started with the little stupid lies. Lies like yes i used shampoo, or yes I brushed my teeth. My theory is he got away w it a couple of times and so he thinks it will work. Now we are on to him and the lies are continuing. It's very frustrating. We gave him a big talk on how it's very bad to lie bc then people do not trust you and in our family we tell the truth to each other. Now we give him a consequence when he lies (go to room or video games taken away are the 2 we've done so far. I don't know if this will work but boy I hope so.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

Hi L.: While I firmly believe in some kind of punishment or losing priviledges like taking away things kids enjoy or like (never liked grounded but that's just me), one of the more important things (and TRUST me, this is hard) is to praise him for when he does the behavior that is correct-like telling the truth and being honest. Praise him for telling the truth and being honest and amazingly enough, I bet the lying about small and large things will start to decrease or cease altogether. As parents, we all tend to focus on what kids do wrong or give them the MOST attention when they do something wrong-when we should be giving them the most attention for the things they do right. We have to switch our brains into that way of thinking but it def works. I've tried it with our 12 yr old, 8 yr old and 7 yr old. I learned this in a parenting class or I promise, I would still be doing the same ole' same ole' wondering why nothing was changing. Also, when the child isn't in the heat of a situation/the wrong behavior, you need to talk about them about what is expected and what will happen if they do the wrong thing. I think it actually surprises our kids when we praise them to but it really boost their self esteeem and promotes more positive behavior. All the best...

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answers from Chicago on

Dear L., it seems that your son is growing up....that's all. Did anybody tell you that boys do not always stay sweet, nice and lovely. They turn into adult males and how many of those are fluffy and lovely?
I think that you cannot punish the same for all lies. Some fabrications require discussions and some do deserve a life lesson. I like the cleaning chores best for big lies. Small lies I try to figure out why the lie was told and the case is usually to get me off his back or trying to do something his way.
All kids try to lie. Why! Is what you need to figure and see if you can set THAT straight. Good luck.

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answers from Washington DC on

Kids lie...
They are stupid.
They need to be caught.
He got caught. I have to admit that lying about oatmeal is just plain stupid.
I'd extend his punishment another day and move on.
I'd ask a question and then I'd remind him that every time he lies, he gets more punishment... I'd do that every time I ask a question of that child. He'll get so sick of hearing the reminder that he'll tell the truth just to stop hearing the reminder...

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answers from Boston on

My sister lied through her teeth just to see how far she could take it - she got caught a few times but probably got away with a lot we never knew about. She is super smart and for her it was just a game. I know of others who "embellish" stories to make them more interesting. Instead of punishing him for every little thing maybe sit him down to talk about why he needed to lie about this instead of saying he was not hungry and did not eat breakfast?

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answers from Dallas on

I haven't read all the answers, so this might have been mentioned, but we always make sure to give 2 consequences; one for the misbehavior and one for lying. If there was no real misbehavior then we emphasize that the punishment is for lying and if they had told the truth in the first place there would be no punishment at all.

If O tells me P hit him for no reason and I find out he hit her first - grounded from friends for hitting his sister and loses his xbox for x days for lying about it.

In your scenario about breakfast he would have been grounded for the lying AFTER I explained that he wouldn't have gotten in any trouble for not eating breakfast, he just might have been hungry later.

I've also found that having the punishment closely fit the crime helps a lot. He lied to get his sister in trouble; oatmeal for breakfast for a week might be a great punishment but it doesn't tie in to the lying. I would have said since I can't trust you to play nicely with your sister you won't play with friends until you show me you know how to play nicely. Just my opinion, but I think you might have gone a little overboard on the initial punishment. If he's that good of a kid sit him down and talk to him about it, why does he lie? Then brainstorm with him what a good consequence for lying would be in the future.

Oh - and ignore the rude posts, I'm sure they'll fall off their high horses someday soon.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Joplin on

Food should not be used as punishment, especially not when we want to instill healthy eating habits in children.
I understand the necessity for consequences, however I think you should re-think the consequences. Have you heard the punishment should fit the crime?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Take a look at the book Nurture Shock by Po Bronson. There is an excerpt and interview at PBS - it's really fascinating. Apparently all kids lie - those parents who don't believe it just have kids who are good at it. And punishing them makes it worse - not better. Here's a link:

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