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I'm so sick of my 7 yr old son lying to me. What to do??

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My son, Alex, is my oldest so this is all new to me. Honestly, I didn't think that 7 year olds lie.

He doesn't lie about big things, he just seems to lie about little things.

For example a couple of months ago he took a shower and he got the inside of the shower dirty and then when I asked him about it he lied to me and told me that he didn't do. I know I didn't do it. My SO didn't do it because he knows better than to do that and if he does, he cleans it up. 

Anyways, this morning he put colored spiker hair in this morning before school and he got some on his forehead.

I asked him if he knew there was colored spiker on his forehead and he replied yes.

I asked him if he WASHED it off and he said yes.

I knew he lied. And I told him and then I asked why he lied and he said "I don't know"  So I told him that he was grounded from playing with his friends for a week on top of not being able to watch tv or play on his cell phone for a week.

So I went into the bathroom and I seen a dry washcloth hanging over the bathroom sink.

I asked him if he used it and he said yes.

WTH!! I just don't get it. If he didn't lie, then why is it when I asked him he said I don't know? why didn't he just explain to me that he tried to wash it off with a washcloth but didn't use water??

I just don't understand.

I swear my son's favorite saying is, "I don't know."

he says it for everything.

How do i teach him to communciate with me?

How do i get it through to him that telling me i don't know doesn't solve anything?

i keep telling him not to tell me i don't know and both my SO and I have explained to him when the apprepriate time to use i don't know and when it's not.

i just don't know how to get through to him.

I feel bad now because he didn't lie but he did lie. because he didn't WASH his forehead because the cloth was dry so he WIPED his forehead.

i just don't know what to do anymore.

he is lying to the point where i feel that i can't trust him.

little lies turn into big lies.

a couple of months ago he went to his fathers house and took his half sisters toy cell phone without asking and then lied about it.

WHAT DO I DO???? I need help!!

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by on Feb. 4, 2013 at 2:37 PM
Replies (21-26):
by Member on Feb. 6, 2013 at 1:51 PM
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Most parents will tell you that their children lie. In many ways, lying is a normal part of a child’s development. Children may lie for a multitude of reasons, some of them even acceptable. However, lying does still concern parents, and sometimes it should. Problem lying may cause difficulties for children at school and with their friends, as well as disrupt family life and lay the groundwork for further problems in adulthood. Some children will develop a greater propensity to lie than others. Children and adolescents who live in environments where they often witness others lie, or where they feel they must lie to protect themselves from harm, are more likely to lie than other children. Lying may also be affected to some degree by personality. Finally, age has a lot to do with the types of lies that a child or adolescent may tell.

Lying is not usually a serious problem unless it becomes habitual or compulsive. Like many problems, addressing lying early may be the most effective way of preventing it from becoming a more serious concern.

Children lie for different reasons at different ages. Very young children may not yet be able to always distinguish fantasy from reality. Three-year-old Mikey’s fantastic story about the toy that flies around his room is not actually an attempt to deceive. More likely, Mikey has a very active imagination and cannot always tell the difference between what he imagined and what really happened. Children this age may also appear to lie because they have honestly forgotten things. When a 2 year-old is accused of putting a roll of toilet paper in the toilet and she claims she didn’t do it, she may simply not remember doing it, especially if it wasn’t discovered for several hours.

Around the age of 5 or 6 children start to develop a more consistent understanding of the difference between fantasy and reality and are less likely to insist on the truth of their imaginings. Around this age, a child begins to develop a conscience and understand that certain behaviors may disappoint his or her parents. He or she may also begin to experience feelings of guilt associated with misdeeds. For the first time, the child may construct a lie in an attempt to avoid punishment and/or disapproval. Children this age may also tell fibs or exaggerate extensively in order to get their parents’ attention.

By the age of 7 or 8, most children have learned to tell the difference between fantasy and reality and can usually be counted on to tell the truth. The most common reasons for children to lie at this age are to avoid being punished, or to avoid doing something unpleasant like emptying the trash. Children may also begin to grasp the concept of polite social lying around this age. They may pretend to like the knitted socks that Grandma gave them for their birthday, or compliment a friend’s new haircut even though they think it looks ridiculous. Altruistic lies to protect others from harm may be told as well. Lies at this age may also be a cry for help. Children who are very fearful of disappointing their parents and are feeling overwhelmed by school or some other area of their lives, may lie in an attempt to deal with this pressure.

The first thing you can do is to teach honesty in the home and be aware of your own standards for lying. In some homes polite social lies are more acceptable than in others. Some parents may inadvertently promote lying by asking their children to lie about their age, or tell a caller that Mom or Dad isn’t home. Be aware that children will have a very difficult time seeing the difference between these types of lies and lies they may tell to you. Modeling honest behavior in the home as well as setting up an environment in which it is easy to be truthful may be two of the strongest lie prevention strategies.

Here are a few tips:

  • Whenever possible, keep your word. Always explain and apologize if you must break a promise.
  • If you do find yourself lying in front of your child, be sure to talk about it with him or her and explain your reasons and values surrounding the lie. If you made a mistake by telling a lie, admit it.
  • Do not expect young children to understand the subtle differences between "white lies" and more serious lies.
  • Do not tell your children lies to promote compliance (e.g., telling them that shots won’t hurt or that going to the dentist will be fun).
  • Praise truth-telling, especially when it was likely difficult to do.
  • Assume family members are telling the truth unless you have reason to suspect otherwise.
  • Don’t overburden your child with too many rules and expectations. The more rules there are, the more likely they are to get broken, and the more likely the child may feel the need to lie to avoid punishment.
  • Involve your children in developing the rules. It is easier to abide by a rule that you had some role in developing.
Even children raised in the most truthful and honest of households will still lie on occasion. When this happens, it is important to remain calm and remember that the lie is not a personal attack, so don’t take it as such or give into anger. Review the reasons why a child might lie at any given age and respond accordingly.
  • Try to discover the reason why the child is lying. What a child is trying to hide by lying may be much more important than the lie itself.
  • Tell your child that you love her, even when she lies. She's not a bad child; rather, it's just her behavior that's unacceptable.
  • Make sure any consequences for lying are kept separate from the consequences for whatever the lie was designed to conceal. And be careful not to overreact. Remember that Do not tell your children lies to promote compliance (e.g., telling them that shots won’thurt or that going to the dentist will be fun).
  • Praise truth-telling, especially when it was likely difficult to do.
  • Assume family members are telling the truth unless you have reason to suspect otherwise.
  • Don’t overburden your child with too many rules and expectations. The more rules there are, the more likely they are to get broken, and the more likely the child may feel the need to lie to avoid punishment.
  • Involve your children in developing the rules. It is easier to abide by a rule that you had some role in developing.
  • Make sure any consequences for lying are kept separate from the consequences for whatever the lie was designed to conceal. And be careful not to overreact. Remember that children may lie to avoid punishment. Excessive or irrational punishments may backfire. The greater the fear of punishment, the less likely your child is going to "fess up" the next time.
  • Make it very easy for your child to tell the truth and give him a chance to confess. Don’t stage a courtroom drama and try to force a confession.
  • If your child tells tall tales or lies to get your attention, don’t accuse the child of being a liar, but don’t pretend like you’re not aware of it, either. Make it clear that you don’t believe that he ran a mile in less than three minutes, but that you love him anyway. If your child tells a tall tale to someone else and you witness it, don’t point it out in front of the other person. Wait until you are alone with your child to discuss it.
  • Don’t accuse. "I wonder how this milk got spilled -- I wish someone would clean it up," is more likely to get an honest response than "Sarah, did you spill this milk?"
  • Don’t try to set your child or adolescent up to tell you a lie when you have discovered the truth. Asking "Where were you Friday night?" when you know Susie was at a party you had forbidden her to attend is a form of dishonesty and deceit – just the thing you are trying to avoid! It also encourages Susie to lie, giving her more practice at the very thing you don’t want. Further, this tactic places the emphasis on the lie as opposed to the behavior, which may be the more serious problem. If Susie hadn’t gone to the party in the first place, there would be no need to lie.
  • Help the child explore the effects that lying has on others and on the child’s relationships.
  • Fables are a great way to teach values to younger children. The Boy Who Cried "Wolf" may be especially effective.

As mentioned above, doling out punishment for lying can be risky business. Remember that one of the main motivators for lying is fear of punishment. A lie may feel like the lesser of two evils, and it may improve the chances that the child will get away with whatever transgression they have committed. (And, face it, sometimes they will!) Punishment for lying may reinforce the fear of punishment and increase the likelihood of future lying rather than decrease it. Additionally, while the parent may be trying to give the message “You are being punished because you lied”, the child is more likely thinking “I’m being punished because I got caught.” The child resolves to get better at lying to avoid being caught in the future.

Instead of punishment, consider promoting the natural and/or logical consequences of dishonest behavior. For example, it may be appropriate that a child who has repeatedly lied about getting her homework done be required to bring a note home from her teacher on a daily basis until trust is restored. This consequence makes sense to the child in light of the behavior you are trying to change. Additionally, promoting the natural or logical consequences of dishonest behavior requires the child to take responsibility for his own behavior. Punishment is rarely related to the actual act of lying and is designed to give the message to the child that he or she is bad. Logical or natural consequences are directly related to the problem behavior and do not carry a moral judgment about the child.

Here are few more things to consider when deciding how to deal with a child who has lied:

  • Punnishing lies that are based on behavior learned by watching significant others is not likely to be effective. You may want to consider trying to change the behavior of the person modeling the dishonest acts.
  • It is often more effective to tell children how you really feel about their lie than to punish them for it. An honest statement like “I’m really hurt that you lied to me” is likely to have more impact on future lying than a week without television. Further, emphasizing the effect of the lie on others promotes the development of an internalized sense of morality.
  • Don’t make a decision about the consequences of a lie in the heat of the moment. You can let you child know that you are very upset, but that you need time to think about what the consequences should be. However, don’t make your child wait for days in dreaded anticipation as you make your "decision". This is just another form of dishonesty and will not do anything to strengthen the shaken bond of trust between you and your child.
  • Make sure that the consequences for lying don’t drag out for so long that your child forgets what brought the consequence on in the first place. A child needs another chance. Be sure that she knows she will get one. However, if the lying is repeated often, it may make sense to extend the length of time before the child is allowed to try again.


1. How young do children learn to lie? Research suggests that some children are capable of lying in a deliberate attempt to deceive by age four, and perhaps even earlier. However, lying at this age is not likely to be a problem. Talk with your child about the consequences of dishonesty when you realize that he or she has learned to lie.

2. How can I tell if my child is lying? There are no sure-fire ways to know if someone is lying just by observing them. There may be a few behavioral clues that suggest deceit. Sometimes a clue can be found in what  the person says (e.g., the story is too farfetched or inconsistent). Other times you may find a clue in what is not said (e.g., a look of guilt or fear, too much excitement in the telling of the story, or an overly calm telling of what should be an emotional event). However, as children get older they get better at disguising these little signs. Further,research indicates that most people are fooled by most lies. It is unlikely that parents will consistently know that their child is lying just by watching him or her closely. You can only be absolutely certain that your child is lying if he or she tells you so, or you happen to discover the truth on your own.

3. If my child lies now, will he or she grow up to be dishonest? In most cases, lying in childhood does not lead to a life of deception. Since all children lie from time to time, and few grow up to be dishonest adults, the odds are pretty good that your child will be fine. However, this does not mean that lying should be brushed off as just a passing stage. Discussing with your child the consequences of lying and dishonesty will help him or to grow into an honest adult.

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by on Feb. 6, 2013 at 5:52 PM
My 6 yr old has become a pathalogical liar! It's about everything! I remember doing the very same thing at her age. My reasons were i didn't want to get in trouble also i wanted everyone to like me and i was a "know it all." She is exactly like me. The little fibs i take lightly and have explained the importance of telling the truth. I know it's a phase that will pass. I choose my battles.
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by on Feb. 6, 2013 at 9:32 PM
DD is almost 7 and we are having the same issue with her. When/ if you figure it out let me know! We have tried time out tried taking stuff away even tried sentences. Still nothing gets past the blank look and "I don't know"!
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by on Feb. 7, 2013 at 6:55 AM

My 2 sons used to do that to me as well. When they did something and I knew it it was the same answer or they blamed each other. than i finally had to tell them that if they kept lying that when something really happens or if they are blamed for something that they really didint do that i would have to believe what other people tell me. sure enough something did happen and my oldest son told me and to prove my point i went to the other parent and was told the same thing as my son told me. he was upset that i didint believe him at first but as i told him you lied to me before so i have to make sure that you are telling me the truth. he was 5 yrs old. i have not had any more problems out of him or out of my younger son. my oldest is now 21 and my baby 15

by on Feb. 7, 2013 at 7:18 AM

Maybe you should change how you ask him questions that risk leading him into a lie? I.e. instead of asking him if he washed his face, tell him he knows where his clean wash cloth is, and say you expect he will use it properly. Then ask if he wants to run up and do it now, or after he eats his breakfast? Kids in early school age are learning what is the truth compared to the way they want things/situations to be. Try not to punish so much, instead reward good behavior and use positive reinforcement. I.e. your sister can't find her cellphone, I need you to go help find it. And hugs when it is "found". Not that you are rewarding the stealing, but you are helping him see benefit in honor. A teenager knows stealing is wrong, a child is just learning. And they learn best by example.

by on Feb. 7, 2013 at 9:28 PM

Just consistancy is all I can reccomend. Whatever discpline you decided to use be consistant with it.

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