Dealing With a Child Who Is Lying

Today I had a very interesting incident with my almost 5 year old daughter. I had sent her to go brush her teeth in my bathroom and she was in there for a few minutes and I heard her say “What is that smell in here?” I thought maybe someone forgot to flush or something. When I went into the bathroom I caught my daughter sitting on the sink with a funny look on her face and then I was hit with the strong smell of tea tree oil. Apparently she had opened the top to the small bottle I had on my shelf and spilled some.

I asked her if she had opened the bottle and she immediately said “NO” with wide eyes. I of course KNEW she was lying to me, so I asked her again and told her to please tell me the truth. I really thought that she would say yes and admit to it and then I would give her a quick reprimand about touching my things and then move on to putting everyone to bed. Well, that was not the case. She just kept saying “no” each time I asked her. I then told her that she was going to be punished for lying to me and that she would not be able to have dessert after dinner tomorrow. Dessert lately (since Halloween) has been 1 small piece of candy. The kids look forward to this very much. But she still did not budge.

I had to put my other kids to bed and I really felt like just letting it go and having her go to bed – after all I had punished her so should be ok to let it go. But I felt very strongly about following through with the situation, so I told her to stay in the bathroom and wait for me while I put her brothers to bed. She was crying when I went back into the bathroom.

I sat on the floor in front of her and asked her again “Are you lying to me? Did you open my little bottle?” She just stared at me and didn’t answer. Then all of a sudden she blurted out that her little brother had done it. I was pretty shocked because I already knew she was lying and now she lied AGAIN. Isn’t it crazy how lying can actually cause blame and MORE lying? This happens with adults too! Gotta love the sin nature we have right?

Well, I went through the whole shpeal about how I knew she was lying and how it is very important to tell the truth to mommy. I told her that there are consequences for lying. I told her that if she just tells the truth that she would not be in as much trouble, etc, etc. Then she quietly said “I’m scared”. I suppose she thought she would get in a huge amount of trouble for spilling the bottle and thought lying would help her to NOT get in trouble. I did more explaining and continued to ask her if she had opened the bottle. I wanted to stay consistent and not give up and just put her to bed without her admitting that she was lying. I thought that it was very important for her to come out and tell the truth to me. I spoke to her as lovingly as I could throughout our conversation.

I asked her one final time and she FINALLY shook her head yes that she had opened the bottle. Tears welled up in her big brown eyes. I told her that I was proud of her for telling the truth and I told her to come into my open arms for a hug. She melted on me and cried. I teared up as well and and asked her “what do you say to mama for lying?” And she sheepishly said “I’m sorry”. And I hugged her tight and told her that I forgave her and told her how much I loved her and reiterated the importance of always telling the truth.

I could’ve let the situation go and just punished her. I often do that with little things that happen such as fights between the kids or bad attitudes. I reprimand and punish and move on. But there is just something about lying that I think is soooo important to really be consistent in following through and helping a child to admit they are wrong. I did this with my oldest son a few years ago. He is now 6 and he has not openly lied to me since then. When I ask him to tell me the truth, he usually does the first time around. He learned that lesson through me taking the time to sit down with him during the first major lying episode, and doing the same with my daughter will hopefully prove to be a valuable lesson for her as well. I know some kids take more time to get things just because of their personalities, but the whole point is to be consistent with discipline and take the time out to talk to your child right away when things like this happen because it really pays off in the end.

How about you? Have you dealt with lying with your child? What did you do?

About the Author

My name is Dawn Papandrea-Khan. I am a mother of 4 small children under the age of 5. I am also mom blogger for I love writing about everyday life issues including parenting, organizational tips, inspiration, product reviews, and much more. I own 3 small businesses, a New York based Decorative Painting Business, an online Virtual Assistant Business, and a Graphic Design Business. I have a passion for many things, but I most enjoy being a mom! :)


5 Responses to “Dealing With a Child Who Is Lying”

  1. I do want to quickly mention that since writing this post, I have had to deal with my daughter on a couple more occasions concerning the lying. She is a tough cookie, unlike my son who got it at the first try. But consistency is key!

    And thanks Stephanie for allowing my post to be featured on your site!


    • Stefanie Zucker sazucker says:

      We LOVE having you as a guest blogger…it is an absolute pleasure to feature your posts! Thanks so much for sharing them with us 🙂

      • Suzanne Hantke says:

        Hi Dawn,
        I loved your story… Your patience was amazing. And I loved the tight squeeze at the end for telling the truth…because it seems the conflict was no longer about the action… but the lie. So to me it seems that the hug was really the most important part.
        I see many replies are short and sweet, and I apologize in advance it this is too long (cliff’s notes and I are not very close). I do not have any children yet, so I can only relate this based on my own personal experience, but perhaps I can offer a different viewpoint on it.
        What stood out the most for me was when you mentioned she said, “I’m scared.”
        The reason this stood out for me, was because very rarely was admitting I did something wrong about consequences, or “getting in trouble”, (I guess depending on the scenario.) But, more so, about shame… and worrying that my accuser would believe that I was just plain bad. I didn’t know back then that there was a difference between doing something bad, and actually being bad’.
        When Stefanie mentions we hated each other growing up, more often than not, her reasons for hating me were quite valid, mine however were really a defense…or an act…to save face.
        The best example I can give, is something my family and I laugh about now, but was definitely not funny back then…and I am not even sure to this day if the real reason I did what I did was ever even discussed.
        I think I was around 14, which made Stefanie about 16.
        She had many friends; I had none.
        She carried around this pocketbook at all times, and it was always stuffed full. She named it; “sink” because she said everything was in there except the kitchen sink. (Don’t ask me why I remember that detail).
        Well, I saw many kids in my classes pass notes back and forth and after they were read, they were shoved in pocketbooks. Since I had never gotten any… I was dying to know what kinds of things were written.
        One day while she was in the shower, I noticed she had left it on the couch. I grabbed it and ran down to the basement. I had intended to just open it, read some of the notes, (I was just so sure that’s what made her bag so full) and then put it back before she got downstairs. But she came down before I had the chance to put it back.
        She ran upstairs yelling to my Mom that it was missing. I quickly thought to take that chance to stash it somewhere else, so I could help “find it” and she’d think she just misplaced it… but my Mom came down quickly with her, and they did their search sequentially… covering every area of every room from there up. I was stuck!
        I absolutely would not admit it! Your daughter took a few hours… I held onto it for years, and even when it was found, I denied it
        But how could I explain I did it because I was so lonely? I would have been so ashamed and humiliated! And I don’t think had a clue how to express those feelings back then, or to even identify them.
        And when I finally admitted it, I still did not talk about those feelings. I let everyone chalk it up to “one more time Suzanne was being spiteful, taking something she knew was important to someone, for the sake of being hateful.”
        Ironically, I know the exact moment I first understood that my lies were based on how people would view me…..
        It was August, 1999… and I was in the movie theater watching the 6th sense. And they were lines that probably meant absolutely nothing to most, but everything to me, and it was said a few times; The boy asked the Mother, “Are you thinking bad things about me?” Something I was always afraid of, but never thought to just ask! And realizations came flying in…one after the next, the biggest one being a conversation with the principal, agreeing to go back to school only if my parents agreed to step back and not get involved – I suddenly understood it was because I didn’t want them to know back than how stupid I really was! (My ADHD was not diagnosed yet).Let them think I was lazy! Much better than them knowing I tried and was just too dumb to do it!
        I will end this by saying I read many of the posts, but sometimes I feel very compelled to respond… in this case because, again, when I read you wrote she said, “I’m scared”, I had to wonder – was she scared of getting in trouble, or more scared of how you’d view her… because as adults, we all know your feelings about her wouldn’t change because she opened a silly bottle… but does a child know that? I have no clue.

  2. Becky says:

    Thanks for sharing how you dealt with your child. I don’t have children but do work with children and many times I just send them to time out or ignore situations. I have yet to deal with lying and seeing how following through and being consistent worked for you, I think that is best and will try that. Sounds like the best approach.


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