"A Sneaky 6Yr Old"

Updated on November 01, 2008
A.J. asks from Tacoma, WA
12 answers

Hello everyone, most of you may know I am a mother of 2 boys ages 6 and 2. Well my six year old has decided to start lying to me and other family memebers, either to stay out of trouble or just to make conversation. I mean he can see something on t.v. and make up a similar situation " which would be a flat out lie". He also walks past his little brother and picks at him thinking no ones watching and when you catch him he'll say I didn't do anything even though you've seen it with you own eyes. I am just about at my wits end with him. I understand 6 year olds have an over active imagination but, I truly think this is a habit he's picked up from watching friends at school. He was never this way before, and I've been struggling with this for about 2 weeks now. Any suggestions????

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answers from Portland on

Lots of great advice here.Awesome to read this site and see so many thoughtful moms.

I go a pretty nonpunitive/no rewards route with the children in my life. Recently, one was passing through a phase such as the one your son appears to be experiencing. Most of the balderdash was competitive and was a response to another child joining care with us. The child who was telling stories was very obviously cementing their place in my esteem and I heard some great ones. Once this child even claimed their father had suddenly become a professional baseball player and was teammates with a now-retired famous player! Hilarious. Because I was feeling frisky that afternoon, I casually said "Oh, I'll have to ask mom about that." to which the child replied "I don't think she knows---but she's gonna be so impressed!"

It is what it is-- an attempt to boost their little egos and make themselves feel important. I often just give it a little "hmm.." and go on with my business, especially when the stories are harmless. If they are violent, I point out which actions are inappropriate and could really hurt other people's bodies or feelings. Kids use stories to experiment with being rude, doing gross things, and doing things outside the rules their families have set. I try not to judge the child in question or blame them, but calmly state the consequences of these actions in real life. This gives them a chance to learn some values (kindness, respect for others, etc.) without actually taking the risk of doing something hurtful.

I have made some boundaries on the storytelling, letting the kids know that it's fun to tell stories, even ones that sound like real life, but that when it comes to safety issues or someone getting hurt, we need to tell the truth so the grownups know how to fix whatever the problem is. This seems to have sunk in.

I did find that paying no mind to the outlandish claims and giving the kids play people and props for dramatic play helped them voice their fantasies. Although sometimes I did have to leave the room when all the dolls were "barfing on each other". Ha ha.

And yes, definitely call a hurtful action as you saw it. When we ask a child "Did you do that?" we give them another opportunity to lie. "Why did you do that?" or a flat-out statement "I don't like when you do that" eliminates the temptation for dishonesty. And at this age, once that door is opened, it's hard for a kid not to walk right in.

One more thing: I have found "How to Talk so Kids will Listen...And How to Listen So Kids Will Talk" to be a great tool for working with verbally communicative children. Your son is at a prime age where this book would really be helpful in keeping your relationship with your son mutually respectful and strong. This book changed how I felt about my job as a child care provider and I find the work far more rewarding. As a whole, we have much less conflict, and our time together is far more pleasant. My relationships with the children have thrived and the children feel heard, which is so very important.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

The reason is more likely that he is beginning to grasp the idea that you are not all-knowing and all-seeing. He is learning that lying pays off and can keep him out of trouble. It is a totally normal stage. While you shouldn't get too worked up about it, you do have to teach him that it is not okay in order to keep it from becoming a habit. Think of it like potty training. Focus on praise for the times he tells the truth even when it was difficult, and don't totally over react to the slip-ups. Also, it may help to give less punishment for telling the truth, and more for telling a lie. For example, it he would normally get 6 minutes in time out for hitting, give 5 for being honest about it, but if he lie, he gets 6 for hitting and 6 for lying. Be sure he understand that lying gets him in more trouble. Also, emphasize in totally random moments in conversation that you can't trust him because he lies sometimes, and you can't trust him that he is being honest. It is especially effective when he is trying to tell you about something amazing because it will bother him that you don't believe him.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

When you know it's a lie nail him on it. When you can't prove it, let it go. For example: if you see him do something and he says he didn't do anything, you ask him point blank, Did you just say ....to your brother? He'll either admit it, or deny it. If he admits it then tell him thank you for being truthful and then talk to him about how he would feel if the tables were turned. If he ball face lies, then he has a stiff punishment for the lie. When we went through this I had to work on telling them if you tell me the truth you won't get in trouble, but if you lie to me I lose trust in you. My kids got the message when eventually I didn't believe them, even if they were telling the truth. Hard lesson to teach, hard lesson to learn. Also it's time to go into the difference between truth and lies. I also have some story tellers, and as they begin to exagerate I ask them "Ok did this really happen or is this a story" then they admit it's a story. I don't consider that then a lie. I say, OK, as long as I know it's a story! If however they tell me it's the truth and it isn't, then I instill a punishment when I find out the truth. And...I usually DO. I have paid spys LOL. My other kids come to me in private and tell on each other sometimes, and I just keep the info in my mind for reference later should I need to. Got to start thinking like them I guess....Super Spy Mom. Be careful that you don't blame his behavior on other kids though. Our kids are PRETTY smart and it may be easier to think someone taught him, but in all honesty, he is responsible for his choices.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I have grown up with "liars." This is what I have learned. They are bright and creative. They use this socially destructive, trust negating, behavior in order to "feel good about who they are." Sounds nuts...but it is what it is.

Separating fantasy from "our 'real' reality" must be taught to these kids, over and over, forever. BUT...be aware also that making up stories is creative. Writers do that...play writers do that...it is a gift!

It you and your Mom can help the boy to distinguish between when it is appropriate to make up stories and when it is not, you may be able to help to turn this defensive habit into a growing talent.

Attempting to manipulate people or escape consequences is not an appropriate use of the "gift."

Insecure, frightened kids lie. These kids lie so that they can feel more in control of an insecure life. They are deeply uncertain and frightened. They are born that way. We are all born insecure. Life may intensify the insecurity; but they (we) were born that way. "High strung" was the old fashioned name for it this type of child.

Many of these kids need help to become emotionally literate. They feel deeply but don't know how to put words to what they are feeling, so that they can then cope with their feelings. If they never learn the language of emotion they are likely to "compartmentalize" or shut off the feeling part of them. We need to be able to put labels to things/feelings so that we can deal with them...know how to store them.

So if you can turn into his deep fright, help him to learn how to channel his talent and be on top of his need to manipulate in order to save face and his need to avoid emotional pain, you will be on your way.

My heart goes out to you. I hope that your health improves and I hope that you can have time and the energy to give to this lovely little man.

If you must...ask for help from the experts. Help is available, even if you must go through a few "experts" to find the correct fit.

Chris RN

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

It is very important to make sure he knows that lying is wrong. I would start with the actions that you do catch him in and give punishment for the lying. After he agrees that he was wrong,(however long that takes) then have him appologize to little brother for picking on him or whatever fits the situation. He may be searching out more attention and knows this is a good way to get that. When you know he is lying, refuse to listen to him and give him your attention only when it is something positive. If he brings in a lie, stop playing with him. Try to be consistent on this and see if there is some change. Don't forget lying is different than the offense so you need to address both.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I have 2 boys, ages 7 and 4, and my oldest went through this same thing. Not really making up stories for conversation but lying to stay out of trouble. Also, walking by and hitting, pinching, pushing, saying something mean, whatever, to make his little brother cry and then say "I didnt do anything!". He will also wait for me to turn my back and then do it.
He seems to be figuring out that lying doesn't work and is doing it much less. but I think it started when he was 6 and I just wanted to say that as annoying as it is, I think it is normal for them to go through this stage.
I dont have any great advice for how to deal with it. We usually ask him to sit by himself until he's ready to apologize. We also try to explain why lying is not acceptable. The older he gets, the more challenging I find my job as a parent!
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Your 6 yr old is reacting to his new world, you being ill, Dad being gone, and living at Grandma's. At his age he's aware of the consequences for misdeeds, and he doesn't want to get it trouble, so if he can come up with a different version or reason for what happened, he will. It is human nature. "Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies"... so when you know what has happened, tell him up front I saw you do __________; or I heard you say ______________. Then make sure that the consequence fits the behavior. The story telling for conversation sake, your little boy is begging, crying for attention and interaction. And as with the lying to get out of trouble, even bad attention is attention. Take, no make the time to do something with him every day, something he can count on and look forward to regardless of his behavior. Whether it's reading him a story, getting down on the floor and playing legos, going for a walk in the neighborhood.. he gets you to do something with him. Talk with his teacher at school, let her/him know about your illness, your living situation, the absent Dad and the behaviors you're experiencing. School will be able to offer some assistance and counseling for him. Your 2 yr old is taking it all in right now. He can't reason yet, but he will soon enough. Start talking with him, doing things. I'm sorry for your illness. But you need some family counseling, including the boys' father to get thru these difficult times. No matter what, Dad should have time to interact with the boys and support them. See your lawyer to ask about his lack of visitation/interaction. It will help this situation greatly.



answers from Spokane on

It is a very normal thing for kids to do at this age (but that doesn't make it right). I agree with some of the other ladies that you should try to channel his imagination into a positive activity. When he tells you a story, remind him that it's something he imagined, not real. Maybe you could have him write his stories down. My guess is that there is some sort of competition going on among the kids at school (my life is cooler than your's because...), and writing stories might help him differentiate between real life and what he wishes was real.
As far as the other lying goes, I would suggest an immediate consequence (like a time out), but also give him appropriate trust-related consequences later. For example, if he wants to go outside and ride his bike, let him know that you can't trust him to follow the rules so he can't go until he's earned your trust back (by telling you the truth for a couple days).
And, you should definitely talk to his teacher. This is probably happening there, too, and a coordinated effort will be far more effective than each of you working alone.



answers from Anchorage on

It's a phase that needs "nipping in the bud". My son is sort of growing out of it at 8 years old. Just keep reminding him of the truth when you know he is lying. Remind him that honesty is earned..and prove it. Start checking up on him for everything for a couple of days after he lies. And when he looks frustrated tell him that you have to because since he lied to you you don't know what the truth is unless you see it with your own eyes. When he gets tired of being disbelieved...he'll start to go back to normal. Also remind him that he is getting old enough to understand that it is even against the law to lie to certain people like police officers. We also talked about the "Boy who Cried Wolf" and that where we live (Alaska) it can be life threatening to "cry wolf" as we have real wolves, bears etc up here and a human encounter is not uncommon. Also tell him that there are certain things like boy scouts that require honesty as a rule and you take an oath (or make a promise) to always be honest. If you are Christian you can go from that perspective but don't scare the kid. Also try to make him understand it is hurtful to lie..to you or anyone and very disrespectful. He won't get that part right away but you have to demonstrate hurt, not anger as they don't understand the why's yet I don't think as "I don't know" was always standard when answering questions about lying. They are still learning empathy so that takes longer :)Good Luck. I do think taking away priveleges, or time out or whatever is appropriate every time he lies. He's old enough to understand the truth is important enough that he has to suffer a little if he lies about anything.



answers from Portland on

Hi A.~

It is a phase that a lot of kids go through. However it is a phase that will become a lifestyle if you don't attempt to nip in the bud.
Kids assosciate lying with attention - note that he does it to make conversation. In those cases help him to understand that he needs to make it clear that he is telling a story - my mom did this with me and I became a somewhat famous story teller at all our outings and with all my friends. I learned to say "oh I made up this story!" and then would tell it - my friends starting begging for them rather than thinking I was nothing but a liar.
As for outright lying about situations perhaps a two part attack would work. Veggietales has "The Fib From Outer Space" about why not to lie. Most libraries carry all sorts of books and videos on why we don't lie. I don't know if Little Bill is on DVD but they had a really great episode on it too. Then back it up with discipline - show him the movies and books at a non-lying time and make it clear that to help him you need to show him not to lie now that he knows it is wrong. Have him tell you why he shouldn't lie. Ask him directed questions like "Why did Junior get in trouble for lying?" "What happened when Little Bill told his parents a lie for the third time?" If you get him to tell you and acknowledge that consequences are coming if he does it then maybe it will start to lighten up!
I've also heard that reward charts are good - putting all his chores on a chart as well as bad thing, and at the end of the week/month whatever you decide he receives a prize. Make each sticker/point count towards a total - chores get more and things like lying take away. This might further motivate him.
Anyhow I hope you find a solution. My mom washed our mouths out with soap as the consequence and I don't know how much that motivated me except to try not to get caught. Timeouts were better because I could only get up if I told her what I did wrong and what I was going to do from now on.
Best of luck!!



answers from Seattle on

I have recently read that many people consider this a "phase" and that kids grow out of it. However, if it is not addressed it could get worse. He is experimenting with lying. He needs to be taught that there are consequences if he is not honest. Like the "boy who cried wolf", he needs to understand that lying can cause him difficulty in the future if he can't be trusted.
My (5yo) daughter knows that if she lies first, she will be sent to timeout SIGNIFICANTLY longer than if she just tells me the truth to begin with. Also, I have expressed to her "I don't believe you" when she is telling the truth (or when I don't know) and ask her how I can believe her because she had lied in the past. I believe all these conversations and not letting her "get away with it" will help her formulate the correct (hopefully) view of dishonesty...eventually. ...If I did nothing, I believe that would give her the view that it is OK.


answers from Seattle on

I'm not so sure it's school - it seems like 5-6 is an age where they are figuring out that they can fabricate. It's a new experience for them. My daughter started with the storytelling a few months ago - like relaying to us something that happened to her, or a TV program she saw, but adding her own take on the real version! She has also been lying to us here and there, which my 4 year old is picking up on.

When you know it's a flat out lie, then you need to have a standard punishment that you give him every time. If you really don't know (even if you are pretty sure, but can't prove it) have a talk about how essential it is that you can always trust what he is saying to you. I have punished my daughter twice for lying and then later found out that she wasn't. I apologized to her and asked her to forgive me, and she did, and then we talked about how terrible it feels when you are telling the truth and no one believes you. It was a terrible feeling for me, but ended up being a good illustration to her of why she needs to always tell me the truth and have that trust between us.

Also - If my daughter hurt her little sister and she admits it to me when I ask she gets a talking to and has to apologize. If she doesn't admit it/lies/tries to pass it off or blame, then she is punished. I think it's good to keep the distinction so that they have a "no fault reporting" of sorts and know they can come to us to admit a wrongdoing.


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