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Boy telling lies, blaming broken lamp on a sibling
Illustration courtesy Lauren Rebbeck

What to Do When Your Child Lies

Psychotherapist Eli Harwood shares tips to help parents stop the little lies, before they turn into a big problem.

The Problem:

My child is always lying about small things that don’t matter, as well as larger issues. Why is this happening and how can I change it?

The Expert:

Eli Harwood, psychotherapist,

The Solution:

When looking at a problematic behavior, we always want to start by believing that our children are doing the best they know how to do at a given point in time. This stands true even with lying, stealing, and cheating—some of the hardest behaviors to accept. As a parent, it’s natural to move from the what (My kid is lying!) to the what I want instead (My kid to be honest!) without taking the time to understand the why, and what they need from us.

Kids lie for myriad reasons. Some lies are about protecting ourselves from pain or consequences; some are for protecting others; some are little lies for feeding self-esteem; and some lies are just plain fun—like playing pretend.

Consider the following to help solve the problem:

Remember that our greatest teachers were not the ones who punished us the most. They were the ones who saw us through loving eyes, believed in our goodness, and offered us instruction on how to move forward.

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