It's essential to teach your child the difference between telling a story and lying.

How to Get a Child to Stop Telling Tall Tales

by Sara Ipatenco

Telling tall tales is a nice way of saying that your child is lying. While spinning a fantastical story is part of your child's normal development, there is a difference between telling a story and telling a lie. If you've caught your child telling tall tales that are clearly more lie than story, it's time to put a stop to that behavior. Though it's normal for children under the age of 6 to have a hard time distinguishing between truth and fiction, older children can understand and need to know that telling tall tales isn't allowed.

Teach your child the difference between a tall tale and a fictional story. Remind your child that making up a story that's clearly fantasy is acceptable, but telling tall tales and trying to pass them off as fact is not allowed.

Listen to your child tell her tall tale. Once she's done, ask her what parts of the story are true and what parts she made up. If she's unwilling to admit that parts were made up, point them out for her. For example, if she's telling a story about going shopping with Grandma, point out that part as being true, but remind her that Grandma's car didn't fly between stores. Knowing the difference between fact and fiction can help your child decrease her tall tale telling.

Call your child out when she's clearly telling a tall tale. Listen to her story and than gently point out parts that aren't true, and express your disappointment that she isn't telling you the truth. Give your child another chance to tell the truth. Your disappointment that she's not telling the truth is often motivation to change her story and only tell the truth, the experts at the Ask Dr. Sears website note.

Make a rule that lying is not allowed in your home. Tell your child that you expect her to always tell the truth and promise to do the same. Along the same lines, model appropriate behavior by always telling the truth yourself.

Encourage your child to put her creativity to good use. Give her a notebook or journal and encourage her to write down her thoughts and stories. Having an outlet to use her imagination might reduce the tall tale telling because she will always have a way to get her thoughts out.


  • If your child is a habitual liar and your efforts to make her stop don't work, make an appointment with her pediatrician, who can write a referral to a counselor. A counselor will help your child identify what makes her tell tall tales so she can change her behavior.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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