Three Year Old & Lying...

Updated on October 26, 2007
H.D. asks from Dodgeville, WI
10 answers

My son will be four at the end of February. Over the last few weeks he has been lying more and more. I know he's testing boundaries and that most kids go through this (I hope!). I just am not sure what the best way to handle it is. The other day he lied to me 3 times. We talked about it and I told him I wanted to talk to Daddy too so we could decide together how best to handle it. The decision was that he could not watch TV that evening or at all the next day. (He typically only watches about 1/2 hour in the AM, maybe a movie while sister is napping in the afternoon, and 1/2 hour with us before bed). We had no problems yesterday, but now again today he lied to me. I told him he had to stay in his own room while his sister took a nap today. He couldn't watch a movie, etc. He was SO upset. Sobbing and saying I'm sorry Mommy. I asked him what he was sorry about and after a bit he did say he was sorry for lying to me.

This is such a tough concept to explain to a little guy! I want to be sure he understands, but I'm just not sure realistically how much he can comprehend it.
It about broke my heart that he was so upset, but I didn't back down and he is now sleeping in his bed (he wore himself out, I think).

What has anyone else done with kids this age and the issue of lying? Thanks!

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answers from Salt Lake City on

this normal for his age. Both my boys went through this. he doesnt really understand the concept and so he doesnt really understand the punishment. What my boys understood was that it made me sad when they would tell me lies. and it makes me happy when they tell the truth. You have to confirm that they will never get in trouble for the truth. My sons tend to tattle on themselves now but they are at least not lying about it

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answers from Denver on

He is not old enough to understand deception yet. He is not lying to deceive you. He is telling you what he thinks you want to hear. Obviously it's not a behavior you want to encourage, but you want to watch how you correct it. He doesn't understand why he is in trouble. My son is 3, will be 4 Nov. 3, and I keep questioning him about something if I think he is lying. For example, if he blames his little sister for something he did, I keep asking him about it, or I say something like, "I don't think that's what really happened. Can you tell me about it again?" Eventually I get the truth. Just make sure you keep explaining very simply about truth and lies. But try not to punish him. It's frustrating, but he just has no grasp of the concept of deception yet. When he gets closer to 5, then he's lying to keep himself out of trouble or whatever.



answers from Benton Harbor on

I think you are doing an awesome job. You have set up a consequence for his actions. And by sticking to them, your son knows you mean business and eventually he will stop lying because he doesn't want to lose his things. LOL. Consistency is the key!!



answers from Grand Rapids on

Hi H.,
It sounds like what you are doing is what I would do. If he knew he was punished for lying it sounds like he knows it is wrong. My son hasn't had this problem yet but I always tell him how proud of him I am when he tells me the truth. Every once and awile he tries to blame his brother for things and I tell him that it isn't ok to lie. So when he tells me the truth I tell him I am not happy about what he did but I am proud of him for telling me the truth. Hope that this helps.



answers from Boise on

I really don't "punish" for lying, it is self preservation, a natural instinct in all people not just children. What I do do is let them know that I don't like to be lied to, and that lying will only get them into more trouble then the truth will. I then decide how bad the lie is is it a white lie or a major lie and you have to decide for yourself what that might be. for major lies It is an automatic time out were they have to think about why they are in the time out (and they don't get out until they are done screaming) once it is over we sit down and talk about it I start this from thier first lie. It is an ongoing process and never really ends. But I have 7 kids from 16 years to 1 years old and as far as I know I have never been lied to by my older ones, I may not always like what they say but they have almost always been truthful. When my then 13 year old got called into the school office for stealing a $.75 cent candy bar, can you believe that, he immediately addmited he did it, shocked the hell out of the school, I guess the point is to be patient with it and in time it will work itself out. They are young and learning, don't accept it just have patience be consistant in the "I don't like being lied to" and when they do confess don't over react. I don't know if that helped any but good luck!



answers from Casper on

I got this advise about 3 years ago from a mice older lady. It worked for me. Maybe it could work for you. My daughter would lie all the time about anything and everything. One day I told her after lunch we was going to go down to the bowling alley and bowl. She LOVES to bowl. She got so excited ate all her lunch was really good. Got herself all dressed up and ready to go. We walked out the door got into the car. But I didnt start it and she asked why we wasnt moving. I turned around and told her I lied that we was not going bowling. The look on her face just about broke my heart and she started to cry. I pulled her in my lap and asked her how she felt. She of course was sad. Then I made her look me in the eye and told her thats how mommy feels every time she lies to me. I can honestly say we havent had that problem since. All kids are different but maybe it will help you.



answers from Omaha on

I am just on the tail end of this with my 6 year old. He was lying to us and to his teacher. He still does it on occassion but not as much and about smaller things. We talked with him a lot about this and even stopped the little white lies that parents themselves tell. It was perfect timing with the whole Michael Vick thing. He loves watching sports with his daddy and it was a great oppurtunity to show him how lies impact other people. At school he lied to the teacher and said that a friend of his wrote on the bookcase and not him. So we talked about how our friends may not like us when we lie and blame them for our actions. They get into trouble for something they never did and then to find out that it was your friend that said it was you?! My friend recently had problems with her 10 year old and she did the trust thing. She pointed out many times that she wasn't sure if she could trust her because she had told several lies. Of course her daughter was older...way older. You just need to look at every event and see a learning experience in it. We also add to the punishment of the act if there was a lie attached to it. If my son hits his brother then he is in trouble but if he then lies about doing it...the punishment increases.



answers from Omaha on

there is a childrens book called Lying. ( a whole group actually- lying, teasing, cheating- etc) My 6 year old lies as well- (late bloomer) So we lay down and read the book- he tends to get angry adn tells me he knows not to lie, but still does. The consequence is good. My son now understands that if he lies to me I will not be able to believe him when he tells the truth. Good luck



answers from Davenport on

At this age kids dont' understand what a lie is. My daughter turned 3 in June and she is doing the same thing. I spoke with MANY people about it and the concensus was that children at this age dont know the different between reality and fantasy (like believing in the boogy monster). They don't know they are lying to you, and while they understand that they are getting in trouble for something, they're not quite sure what. Truth and lies are a huge concept for a child, and at this point all you can do is be patient and explain(trust me, over and over and over and over) what they said that was not true and why it wasn't true, etc. Hope this helps.



answers from Grand Junction on

Totally normal for his age. Keep explaining to him about lying. Praise, praise, praise him for when he tells the truth. At his age, I would not focus on punishing him for lying, unless it means that someone else has to suffer the consequences of his lies.

Congratulations, you have a normal child!

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