Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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Figure out why your child is lying.

What you can do

When you catch your child in a lie, it’s important to figure out why she did it. Did she plan to lie or was it the result of a momentary panic? Did she lie because she was scared of being punished? Or did she make something up to impress her peers?

Understanding your child’s motivation will help you tailor your response to the lie. Keep in mind that tweens and teens with learning and attention issues often find themselves in situations where they can’t seem to find a solution. At times they resort to lies, hoping that will make the problem go away or keep them from getting into trouble.

Help your child understand that lying can have lots of consequences. But try to focus on finding a solution to whatever caused her to lie. Work on building an open relationship so your child feels comfortable talking to you about anything.

What you can say

“Sofia, I spoke with your teacher today. She told me you didn’t hand in your assignment even though you told me you did. Can you walk me through what happened?”

“OK, I hear you. If you’re having difficulty getting your work done on time, this is something we can work on together. We can look for new strategies, talk to your teacher and, depending on what’s going on, maybe we can even get you a bit more time to turn in your assignments.”

“But you and I both need to feel that we can trust each other. The best way for me to be able to help you is for you to tell me the whole story. I need a complete picture.”

“Here’s another really good reason not to lie. When you lie, it usually means you’ll have to remember what you said and keep lying to protect the lie. This can be very stressful. Lying might seem like a quick fix, but you might get tangled up in it for a very long time.”

“I also want to make sure you hear me loud and clear on a very important point. While I am concerned that you’re not getting your work in on schedule, I will always admire you when you tell the truth and take responsibility for you actions.”

Why this will help

Tweens and teens need to understand that lying does not make a difficult situation go away. Lying often makes things worse. Talking about lying will help your child realize that most lies are eventually found out and this hurts relationships. Working on alternate strategies together and expressing your love and support will help your child tell the truth.

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