Need Help with 5 and 6 Year Old Children Lying

Updated on March 03, 2008
L.B. asks from Manchester, NH
10 answers

I have a 5 year old daughter who likes to lie. We have been going through this with her for about a year. we have taken everything away and also done time outs but nothing seems to faze her. My 6 year old son was doing pretty good at telling the truth but lately seems to be getting caught up in the lying like his sister. Sometimes we don't know who is telling the truth but we obviously know someone is not. Then sometimes we are not sure if he or she is lying about something when it has nothing to do with the other just some random situation. Need help!!!!!!!!Cannot do this anymore.

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So What Happened?

Thanks to you all who had such great ideas. I am currently using most of the techniques. So far it's been working like a charm. The behavior chart is great and also we have a "House Rules" poster that we put up so they are clear on what they are and aren't supposed to do. Thanks again, L.

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answers from Boston on

When my older son was little (about 6 or 7), he did the lying thing too... and he was sooo good at it! He was just not smart enough to destroy evidence, etc. He would leave pop tart wrappers under his pillow and tell me he didn't do it. I told him if he was hungry, she should just ask for a snack and there was no need to hide wanting something to eat but he needed to be punished for lying. I treated them as two separate problems, and he realized I understood why he did some things, but never accepted the lying. It stopped after a while, you just need to keep talking to them and let them know you are there.

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answers from Boston on

Personally, I wouldn't lie to the child to teach them not to lie, any more than I would hit them to teach them not to hit. It may vent your frustration, but I think it's a poor example to set and that there are more creative ways to alter a child's behavior.

I would have both children help you make behavior charts for them. I would choose a couple of specific behaviors, including the lying, to target for improvement. Each time they tell the truth when questioned (and/or share, use their manners, etc) they get a mark/sticker etc on their chart. Anytime they lie (hit, refuse to share etc) the get a disappointed mark/sticker and, depending on the offense, time-out.

I would set up the rewards daily at first and slowly extend them for a week's behavior. With my daughter, the first day's goal was to get more positive marks than negetive marks, even if this meant giving her credit for planned "good deeds" (such as dramatically choosing a toy to "share" with her brother). If she acheived the goal then, at the end of the day, she could pick a reward from the bag (a bunch of inexpensive toys from the dollar store that they loved). By the second or third day (depending on progress) the goal would be only positive marks for the day--any "sad faces" and there would be no reward at the end of the day. Soon we were up to special weekend treats for a week's worth of smiles on her chart and we'd stopped having to use timeouts almost altogether (where we had been using them several to many times a day). This is all just a suggestion about how we did our charts, but the structure of your plan is less important than being consistant implementing it.

The point of all this is to say that sometimes kids get more attention for misbehaving than they do for behaving. It's so easy when we're busy to only recognize *bad* behavior and to ignor all the good things. I quickly learned that when I only intervened to reprimand my kids without noticing when they played nicely they stopped caring if they got time-outs or lost priveleges. When I thought about it I understood this at some level, having worked for bosses who only commented on my work if I made a mistake yet never seemed to notice or care when I went the extra mile. Eventually, I stopped caring about going the extra mile since it was never recognized. So had my kids.

With kids, a chart is a good, concrete way to recognize good behavior. It forces you (the parent) to pay more attention when they do well, and it rewards the kids for their good effort. When they were having a good day I also made a point of telling someone (my mother, husband etc) what a good job the child was doing on their chart *within earshot of the kids* so that they had one more reason to be proud of their efforts.

At this point the mere suggestion that a certain behavior will earn a sad face on their chart is generally more than enough incentive to stop or avoid a behavior. And I've gotten into a habbit of noticing and verbally rewarding good behaviors, too, which makes everyone happier! It doesn't mean that they're perfect, but they're certainly much more motivated to please now. And FWIW, we haven't made a propper chart in months and have substituted occasional marks on the calendar. Rewards only return if there's a new specific behavior that we need to address. Mostly, it's helped us all to get into a healthier habit and phased itself out!

Good luck!



answers from New London on

there is an article about kids and lying in the New York Magazine from a few weeks ago. It is a good article, full of innfo and insights. J.



answers from Hartford on

Forgive me for not having children & offering advice.

Yes, we always think we know what we are talking about!

I remember reading once...
that how the question is asked...
may be the solution to the lying problem.

If you know your child did something...
rather than give them the option to lie...
ask them WHY
they did... or didn't... do something.

There is also the problem of rewards & punishment.

If telling the lie has a better reward
than telling the truth...

Sometimes kids lie to get attention.
If they can't get attention in positive ways...
they do it in negative ways.

Think about setting aside
15 minutes per child... per day...
one on one... undivided attention.

You may hear things you don't want to.
They may just need to verbalize their feelings...
and once spoken... their bad feelings go away.
If your daughter says she HATES her brother...
don't freak. More than likely...
she will be an angel afterwards...
she just needed to get her feelings out.
Once they are out... she no longer hates him.
That is just an example...
obviously I don't know your kids.

Anyway... I hope this helps,

- C. Brine



answers from Boston on

Dear L.,
I specialized in Behavior Modification for children, consequently, I have experience with a wide range a behaviorial problems, mostly with older children. My first thought is, what changes have taken place since this lying problem began. See if you can track it back to something. Please understand that I am not a psychologist, but a am a teacher who cares about children and whohas had a lot of experience. You might continue to ask your children to draw a picture of a child telling the truth about for example something that your child has experienced. Talk about the picture and what it makes her feel . Then ask her to draw a picture of a child telling a a story that "isn't true" Ask her to describe that picture and if it was a little friend telling a lie, how would she feel. Try to talk about feelings and perhaps she will reveal her truth. Just a might want to see if it helps her open up. Do no judge her thoughts and expressions, just listen to her, ask her questions and then get her to be led into truth without scolding. Make sense? Hope it helps if you chose to try it.
Your 6 year old may be imitating his little sister. Play act with you being like his age and show him what a lie is and what it makes others feel, when they are not told the truth.



answers from Boston on

My 6 year old daughter was also lying. I asked a therapist about it and she said that children this age lie b/c it is one of the few thngs they have control over. It is a sign of her growing independence - not such a bad thing. Anyway, here is how we handled it. Everytime I suspected my daughter of lying I would ask if she was just telling a story or if she was telling the truth. This gave her a way out without making it a power struggle. The lying subsided in about a week. We also ended up with some pretty outlandish stories!



answers from Hartford on

Lying at her age is pretty normal. It is a power play and yes they learn it at an early age(my two are teenagers now but I've been there and done that) She is using it to get more attention from you, even if it is negative attention. She is probably feeling a bit of sibling rivalry and finds that this diverts some of your attention back to her. Just ignore the behavior and praise her when she is truthful about something. The older one is just copying her. Also, don't feel that you aren't already giving them enough attention, because I am sure you are. It is about their developmental stage, not your parenting. Good luck



answers from Boston on

When my kids went through this, I found the best thing was to tell them how their lying affected me and our relationship. For example, "Jane, when you tell me things that I know aren't true I have a hard time trusting you. I'd like to be able to trust what you say/do, but for now I don't feel like I can. You can earn back my trust by being truthful. When I feel like I can trust you again, then I'll let you xxxx, or you can have xxxx back". Getting into an argument with them about if what they said was true or not, isn't worth it. If you don't believe them, you don't believe them. You can say,-in a neutral tone, if possible-"I'm sorry, but I don't believe you're telling me the truth right now about eating your beets(or, "I know that what you're saying isn't the truth; i.e. I see the beets under your napkin"), so you won't be getting any dessert. You can have some dessert tomorrow if you eat your vegetables". Good luck! It doesn't seem to last forever, but it's surely a tough time.



answers from Boston on

Tell them that you are all going for ice cream. Get in the car, then stop at a store(not the ice cream place), then go home.

If they ask for something out of reach, give them something different then what they ask for.

Make this a habit for a few days and they will be a bit thrown off because you are telling them things that throw them off.

They should get the idea.



answers from Boston on

My sister, I think had the most fabulous way of breaking the lying cycle. Her daughter Abby when she was little,(not sure of the age) was caught in a lie. Anyways, not sure of the lie, but my sister let a couple of days go by and one day when she was out driving, she said to Abby, "Let's go get sundaes at McDonald's." Anyways, my sister ordered the sundaes and just as she was coming up to the drive thru window, she drove right past. Of course any child would be devastated, so my sister said, "see, nobody likes being lied to, now you know how it feels!" My sister said that the lying stopped immediately after that. I plan on doing something similar when my 2 1/2 yr old daughter gets to the lying stage. Hope it works!!!

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