Telling a lie is knowingly making an untrue statement, either by reversing the truth, blaming someone else for something you did, exaggerating, telling a story that never happened, or telling a story which is partly true and partly false. Preschool children often confuse reality with fantasy, and tell innocent lies. School-age children, however, usually tell deliberate lies to avoid punishment or embarrassment, demean others, feel better about themselves, or gain peer approval.


  1. Avoid punishments which are unduly harsh; which may predispose children toward lying just to get out of them.
  2. Help children build up their self-images by making a habit of praising their accomplishments, so they can better face up to their mistakes.
  3. Discuss with children the significance of giving their “word.” Explain how lying makes people think their word isn’t worth anything, and gradually people stop listening to them. A good allegory is “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”
  4. With younger child talk about the differences between a true and a made-up story, using examples from real-life and stories they read.


  1. For cover-up lies, children must be held responsible for both the lie and the misdeed they lied about. You can reward children for telling the truth by being more lenient with them if they admit to their misdeeds.
  2. If a child continually lies, but you never accumulate enough evidence to say, “I know you’re lying,” point out to him the widening credibility gap and explain how this is making it harder for you to trust him.
  3. For a child who likes making up stories, ask him to write out the most fantastic story he can think of. When he’s finished ask him if he would believe anyone telling him that story. Let him know you and other people perceive his stories the same way.


  1. Turn the tables by doing something the child knows is wrong, like taking a pen out of his desk. When he confronts you, pretend you don’t know what he’s talking about. After the child experiences a moderate degree of frustration, ask him how he felt when you out-and-out lied to him. Ask him if other people might feel the same way toward him when he lies to them.


    9. Forcing a confession from a child. It is better to gather your information from other sources, and then talk openly with the child about what you know.